Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

Book - 2011
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Lady Fiona Carnarvon became the chatelaine of Highclere Castle - the setting of the hit series Downton Abbey - eight years ago. In that time she's become fascinated by the rich history of Highclere, and by the extraordinary people who lived there over the centuries.

One person particularly captured Fiona's imagination - Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

Almina was the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild. She was his only daughter and he doted on her. She married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, at 19, with an enormous dowry.

At first, life at Highclere was a dizzying mix of sumptuous banquets for 500 and even the occasional royal visitor. Almina oversaw 80 members of staff - many of whom came from families who had worked at Highclere for generations.

But when the First World War broke out, life at Highclere changed forever.

History intervened and Almina and the staff of Highclere were thrown into one of the most turbulent times of the last century. Almina was forced to draw on her deepest reserves of courage in order to ensure her family, the staff and the castle survived.

This is the remarkable story of a lost time. But Highclere remains and in this book, Fiona weaves Almina's journey and those of her family into the heritage and history of one of England's most exquisite Victorian castles.
Publisher: London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2011.
ISBN: 9781444730838
Branch Call Number: 942.271082 Car
Characteristics: x, 310 pages : illustrations


From the critics

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Oct 08, 2017

Sophisticated literature! Loved it. : )

Jul 30, 2016

Interesting reading for any Downton Abbey fan. I enjoyed reading about the real story taking place during World War II.

Jul 19, 2016

Fascinating reading for fans of Downton Abbey. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

Dec 07, 2015

A fan of the Downton Abbey series, I'm thoroughly enjoying this book. Similar to the series, the real residents had similar experiences. If you are interested in history there's a focus on WW 1, people's experiences, and politics at the time. Almina is a whirlwind of energy, improving nursing and hospital processes in WW1, using her own money and influence. They are the very same Carnavon's who found Tutankhamen's tomb. A good read.

Jan 23, 2015

More suitable for social historians than DA fans. Yes, it is the same building, but the book's focus is WWI and name dropping. The book reads as if the current Countess has looked at the guest books, the household accounts, a few letters, and the surviving journals, then made up a plausible story from them--sort of like a Great Aunt recounting her glory days while thumbing through her diary. Several history teachers I know would really like the name dropping and hospital parts.

Nov 28, 2014

Thoroughly enjoyed this true story that has many similarities with Downton Abbey. I loved that this was written by the current Countess of Carnarvon, about one of the past Countesses. I found the Countess's voice very easy to read, and she made what could've been a dry story interesting and engaging. I will definitely read the next book in the series, about Lady Catherine one of the subsequent countesses.

Sep 06, 2013

January 2014

Mar 18, 2013

Good read. Well researched book about the life of a privileged wealthy woman in the first half of the twentieth century. There was just too much detail about the Second World War. The constant lists of battles and who fought in them got to me. I skipped a couple of chapters to the end of the war. The rest was good.

Mar 13, 2013

The fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy the real history of Highclere Castle. Added bonus is learning the role Earl Of Carnavon played in excavating Tutankhamun's tomb. It's set me on a quest for other books about King Tut. Enjoy!

Feb 07, 2013

I can see where Julian Fellowes got his inspiration for story ideas for his Downton Abbey TV series after reading this short biography of Lady Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon. She lived in Downton Abbey during the early 1900's to 1922 with her husband, the famous Earl of Carnavon who financed Howard Carter's Egyptian discoveries. Unfortunately, her life story in this book stops after the death of her husband in 1922 when her son became the next Earl of Carnarvon and she thus had to move out of Downton Abbey, the family home. I took the book out because I was curious to see why Alfred Rothchild's daughter was chosen as a bride by the Earl of Carnarvon and how she would be accepted by his peers. There is a great deal of name dropping and descriptions of the parties given and gone to and monies spent on these entertainments as well as other endeavors such her work in hospitals during WWI. The photos add interest to the story but really are as informative as looking at one's own pics of relatives of that time period and wondering who they were. I found myself scanning over the paragraphs with descriptions of the war effort but read those which described her family members' involvement. I found the book informative. Now I am interested in visiting Downton Abbey just see what 1900 silk on the walls looks like 110 years later!

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