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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle...Review

About the book:
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.

Like many people, I adore the television show, Downton Abbey.  I watch very little television and we don't have cable or satellite, but Downton Abbey is one of 4 shows I will make time for.  (The others are Doctor Who, Castle and Bones.)  The grandeur and lifestyle of the time is fascinating and so very foreign to me.  I have loved that the show is inspired by real life people and a real life castle, so reading a biography by the current Countess of Carnarvon sounded great.

The book is rather austere and very much a biography.  It's fascinating in some places and dry in others.  I wished for more detail about the staff and running of Highclere. I wished for more detail about Almina, because once the Earl dies, there is little more said about her, even though she was only in her late 40s and internet searches say that she lived to be 92.

Still, we get a glimpse into life in a great house and it is very easy to see similarities between the real family at Highclere Castle and the television family of Downton Abbey.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/13

* * *
3/5 Stars


  1. I also love Downton Abbey, and need to get caught up. I have the second season on disc, but haven't watched it, nor the third. Though this book does at times seem dry, it sounds like something that I could learn a lot from, and ultimately really enjoy. Thanks for your honest and captivating review. I am going to look and see if my library carries it.

  2. Got this for my aunt for Christmas who loves 'Downton' so hopefully she'll enjoy reading it. :)

  3. I have this book sitting on my shelf but have heard mixed things about it so I've put off reading it. I'm glad you enjoyed it even though some parts were a little dry.

  4. When I saw that you were reading this I was hoping you'd be more excited about it.

  5. I've got a copy of this one. I was also hoping you'd like it better, but a little peek into the reality is better than none, I suppose. :)