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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The…

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere…

by The Countess of Carnarvon

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8805210,071 (3.5)58
  1. 30
    Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon (Taphophile13)
    Taphophile13: Almina Wombwell and Catherine Wendell both married into the Herbert family and each in turn became Countess of Carnarvon and mistress of Highclere Castle.
  2. 20
    Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney (BookshelfMonstrosity)

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As a publicized tie-in to DOWNTON ABBEY, this book was styled as providing a historical account of Highclere Castle (setting of DOWNTON ABBEY), its inhabitants, and the style of the Edwardian era. Written by the current Countess of Carnarvon, LADY ALMINA gives an insiders view into a world seldomly seen, but thanks to Julian Fellowes, is now becoming a rich area history of interest.

Written in a chatty and breezy tone, the book concentrates heavily on Lady Almina, her works and family and less on inner workings of HIghclere itself. While the book blurbs surely did not stray from the fact this was more of a biography of a person rather then the period, the title does indicate it's about the "Real Downton Abbey," which seems sort of misleading since we learn less of about the castle and more about all of Lady Almina's BFFs. Much of the burgeoning interest in Highclere castle and other grand country homes of the period, has more to do with the world of the time (upstairs/downstairs, class differences, etc) rather then a specific person or family. Edwardian history is a fascinating precisely because it is literally the turning point of the modern age. Electricity, motor cars, airplanes, home phones, radio (in 1920) make huge changes to how we live/work/play and the current Countess of Carnarvon writes more of a society page update rather then a historical account.

It's not necessarily a bad book, for thanks to Lady Almina and her ways, holistic nursing, egyptology, and treatment of servants all took huge leaps forward. But I grew bored with the social register name check and who's who from Burke's Peerage and I felt given the tile of the book, more would be spent on history of the castle and less on who ate/slept where and when.

[As Countess of Carnarvon mentions several times Highclere has an archivist, which is fantastic (who would have thunk a future career possibility is librarian/archivist for a country house?) but a shame as there could have been more depth then fluff to the work. Given the history of the castle, the area, and the people, now THAT would make a fascinating book.]
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  byshieldmaiden | Jan 17, 2017 |
This book had a lot of interesting things to say. It just said them in that pretentious writing style that takes twice as long to read. I loved reading about Almina and all he adventures. Her story almost makes the Downton abbey tv show into a boring story. But I liked even more reading about her husband, Lord Carnarvon, and his adventures in Egypt with Howard Carter. I knew lots of Carter's story from reading about King Tut's tomb when I was in elementary school, and it was enlightening to read about the man who financed those excavations as well as had a great passion for Egypt himself. This book spent way too many pages on WWI. I get it, it's important, and even more important to the British than for Americans, but really, people aren't reading this book to hear about conditions in the trenches, we want to hear feel-good stories about the grand old houses of the English countryside. So, this book has a lot of interesting things, and really gives you a feel for the context that Downton Abbey takes place in. However, it does it with pretentious writing and a bit too much WWI for my taste. ( )
  jlharmon | Nov 3, 2016 |
Interesting reading for any Downton Abbey fan. I enjoyed reading about the real story taking place during World War II. ( )
  brangwinn | Jul 30, 2016 |
This was the January book club selection for our neighborhood book group. With the start of the new Downton Abbey season I thought it would be fun to learn a little history of the famed location and the real owners.

Lady Almina is the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, she was the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild. He never married Almina's mother, but he doted on Almina. She had quite an allowance from her father. Her dowry provided what was needed to keep Highclere and Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home going for generations.

She did open the doors of the Castle during WWI to the care for the wounded. She helped to establish a similar hospital in London to take the strain off of the staff of Highclere.

Even though she lived within a society that it was important not to do the "wrong thing," it did not stop ALmina from doing what she thought was the right thing. It did help to have the connections and a wealthy father to whom she could count on to make the right introductions. Highclere was not short on important visitors the Prince of Wales and future King was a guest a number of times to the Estate.

The descriptions of the Great War and the sacrifices of those in every social set where great. Many families lost all their sons with no one to carry the family name forward. Highclere was not with-out sacrifice.

I was not aware that the Earl of Carnarvon was responsible for funding Howard Carter's excavations in Egypt which led to the finding of King Tut's Tomb.

Well worth the read and I plan on checking out the next book about Lady Catherine, who married Lady Almina's son Porchy.

( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
After watching every episode of Downton Abbey and seeing one special about Highclere Castle, I thought this book would give me an additional glimpse of a world that is quite foreign to me. Written by the current Countess Carnarvon, this book was all I had hoped it would be. I enjoyed reading about those who had lived in this stately home and how their lives were. Inevitably, I found myself comparing it to the show, finding more similarities than I had expected to find. There was a lot of history that at times I felt distracted from the purpose of the book, but it didn't hurt to be reminded of world history from an English perspective and to help me understand how these events affected the English people. If you are interested in reading of stately English manor homes, this is a good resource. ( )
  hobbitprincess | Mar 12, 2016 |
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For my husband and son, who I adore, and my beloved sisters
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On Wednesday 26 June 1895, Miss Almina Victoria Marie Alexandra Wombwell, a startlingly pretty nineteen-year-old of somewhat dubious social standing, married George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, at St Margaret's, Westminster.
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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and the basis of the fictional character Lady Cora Crawley. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.

Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home. Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.

This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.

[retrieved 9/27/2012 from Amazon.com]
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Tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS show, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

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