Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon
Kindle edition purchased from amazon.com
Description from Goodreads:
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.
was the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild.
She was his only daughter and he doted on her. She married George, the
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.
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 into the heritage and history of one of England's most
exquisite Victorian castles.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is one of those books everyone is suggesting to those of us who love the show Downton Abbey. I do love Downton Abbey. This isn't a new thing though, because I have always loved the historical periods portrayed in Downton Abbey. Naturally, when I saw this book on several reading lists for Downton, I had to read it.
The book is not exactly history, not quite biography, but kind of a combination of both. The book is mostly the story of Almina Wombwell Herbert, the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothchild and begins when she marries George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. It is also the story of the castle itself, the Herbert family who lives upstairs and the staff who live downstairs and on the estate.
This was an enjoyable book. I enjoyed reading about life in the castle and the parallels between actual events and people and the characters and plot lines in Downton Abbey. There is extensive information about how World War I affected those living and working at Carnarvon.
I wasn't aware before reading the book that it was Almina's husband, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who was the financial backer of Howard Carver and the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb.
This is a quick read and if you are at all interested in this time period and in the lifestyle of the wealthy aristocratic family, you should enjoy reading Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey.