I love reading books about royal-esque women (Queens, Princesses, Empresses, Duchesses, Countesses etc) and I also love reading books about a certain time.
You know what combines these 2 things with a healthy dose of Downton Abbey love? Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle.
You’re up for more Downton reads right? What with the 3rd season getting started in North America. We’re hungry for more. I think that Lady Almina will fit the bill.
Obviously the first draw to this book was the connection to Downton Abbey. How many more times do you think I can fit “Downton Abbey” into this post? Highclere Castle is where they actually film the show. But the story of the 5th Countess of Carnarvon (and the Earl for that matter) is a remarkable one.
For one thing, Lady Almina was basically illegitimate and she married an Earl. That just did not happen. Her mother was married (to a brutal alcoholic) but Almina was the fruit of a dalliance with one Alfred de Rothschild. If his name sounds familiar, it should. The family were kind of a big deal in banking. Had more money than they could ever know what to do it. Alfred acknowledged his daughter and actually, spoiled her rotten. She married an Earl, actually loved him and was totally accepted into society.
I fear I’m giving away too much. Lady Almina lived a glamourous life. She was basically given free rein to do what she wanted. Luckily she felt a huge sense of responsibility to those that depended on her family for a livelihood, and during the Great War, to those young men giving their lives for Britain. She sounds like a really incredible person.
The book was full of that’s who that is? moments. Do you know what I mean by that? OK here’s one. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon? The guy who owned the real Downton Abbey at the time? He discovered King Tut’s tomb.
So the book is full of that – Lady Almina was very well connected through her father and her husband, even hosting the future King Edward VII for a weekend at the house (her father was best buds with him).
On the other side of things, the current Countess of Carnarvon doesn’t shy away from the less glamourous descriptions of life at the time. Life downstairs and on the estate (which had its own farm, dairy and brewery) is fully described as are major battles in the Great War. And the injuries that millions of soldiers suffered. Sometimes it was a bit hard to read because of it. I think we have a tendency to forget what that must have been like – the first time tanks and lethal gas were used in warfare.
Another tidbit for you – the current Earl of Carnarvon? Queen Elizabeth is his godmother.
What’s your favourite Downton read?