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

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

4.0 99
by The Countess of Carnarvon

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The real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere


The real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

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 Cora Crawley, 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Almina was a woman of great charm and courage.”
New York Times Book Review

“The more interesting and entertaining book is Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle. Written by the castle's current countess, Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the Eighth Countess of Carnarvon and great-granddaughter-in-law of Lady Almina, the book is a fascinating look at the woman of the house who turned her castle into a hospital for wounded British soldiers returning from World War I. (It corresponds perfectly with this season's war story line on Downton Abbey.)”
USA Today

“Gives the juicy backstory behind last year's Emmy-winning 'Masterpiece Theater' drama.”
New York Times

“If you can’t wait for the new season of ‘Downton Abbey’...this one’s for you....a revealing portrait of the changing times.”
New York Post
“[A] fascinating insight into how the seriously rich once lived.”
Newsweek Daily Beast
“The present Lady Carnarvon, who tapped the family archives for her comprehensive research, dramatically captures the estate during the pre-war and war years, and paints a compelling...portrait of Lady Almina.”
Newark Star-Ledger

Library Journal
The Countess of Carnarvon, who lives at Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey is filmed), capitalizes on her home's fame as the author of biographies of notable women of Highclere. Lady Almina, the subject of her first book, is similar to Cora Crawley—the daughter of a wealthy American industrialist who makes a surprisingly successful match with an English noble and whose wealth maintains the historic home. Carnarvon's second book, Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey, follows another American who married into the family, focusing on the 1920s and 1930s.

ITV and PBS's Downton Abbey is one of the most watched, acclaimed, and awarded television shows in the world, but story of its real-life inspiration is just as captivating as the British period drama. In fact, as the present Countess of Cararvon tells it, the saga of Highclere Castle's Lady Almina reads like a full-bodied prospectus for a Masterpiece Theatre series. Lady Fiona Cararvon uses diaries, family letters, and photographs to illuminate the eventful life of a Rothschild daughter who rose above her class with brave and selfless action.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
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Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.94(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Gives the juicy back story behind last year's Emmy-winning Masterpiece Theater drama." —-The New York Times

Meet the Author

FIONA, New York Times bestselling author and the 8th Countness of CARNARVON, married Geordie, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, in 1999, and aceded to Highclere ten years ago upon the death of Geordie's father. Highclere has become one of the most famous houses in England as the location for the PBS series Downton Abbey. She is also the author of the companion piece, Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey.

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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
Marcie77 More than 1 year ago
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is an interesting biography about the residents of Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey. This book follows the life of Lady Almina, an extraordinary woman who lived a very full life. Lady Almina had a scandalous parentage that people in the Edwardian period frowned upon but her large dowry made them overlook it. She caught the eye of Earl of Carnarvon and married young. She made Highclere her home and entertained everyone from royalty to famous authors. During World War I she opened the doors to Highclere and made this luxurious house into a hospital. Lady Almina found her calling in nursing. She spent countless hours tending to the wounded, writing to their families and offering words of comfort to the soldiers. The Earl of Carnarvon is most famous for the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb along with Howard Carter. Although the discovery came late in his life, the Earl had a lifelong appreciation for history. Lady Almina supported him in his ventures and often accompanied him on various trips to Egypt. There are many similarities to the show Downton Abbey and the life at Highclere Castle. The contents of this book are taken from journals, letters, and visitor accounts. The Countess of Carnarvon has included many photographs that help put names to faces. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is a great biography. It's really enjoyable to read. Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy getting the scoop on the factual events behind the show. Fans of history will enjoy getting a inside look of what it was to live in a fine house during the Edwardian era.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is the opinion of one reader, Will-Cross, that this biography of Lady Almina has been cleansed of some of the more unpleasent facts about the lives of this women and her family. Biographies are almost always about the very rich, powerful, famous, or infamous men and women of history. To regular readers of biographies and autobiographies, it comes as no surprise that not all is revealed within pages of books about historical or notable persons. Few of us would be naive enough to belive in the total objectivity on the part of authors of this genre. However this does not diminish the value of biographies for most of us. Lady Almina did some good in this world, and this book recognizes her good works. The book is not an apology, nor is it meant to be an apology, about how different and inequitable were the lives of those who lived above and below stairs. It does, however, make the reader pause and ponder how those class differences play against the background of the world in which the reader lives.
LinNC More than 1 year ago
Excellent read! I learned so much about the England of WWI, medical procedures advanced during that war (Highclere was converted to a hospital for wounded soldiers just as its fictional version was in Downton Abbey), the discovery of King Tut's tomb...this book is a very pleasant surprise in terms of the depth of the content and stories of some truly interesting people in history!  I read a few of the reviews posted here - particularly the one that is highly critical of the book due to what the reviewer felt as a sanitized view of the Carnarvons. I did not select the book with the intention of discovering the family's secrets - I am sure there are other ways to find out more about those. I wanted to learn more about life in an estate like Highclere during that period. The book delivered exactly that and more.    
hillillyoh More than 1 year ago
An easy read,excellent background for those interested in the Downton Abbey BBC series. Lady Almina was a women ahead of her times. The writing is easy to follow and makes you want to read just one more chapter.
Aussie2010 More than 1 year ago
Awesome story. I am catching up on my reviews. A very good read and couldn't put it down once I started. Recommend,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To read about the life of people in this period was very interesting. How selflessly they gave of resources and time to help their country both during war time and in discovering King Tut's tomb.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How facinating to learn the real background of the castle. Enriches the whole Downton Abbey experience
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this historical account of the people and events of Highclere Castle during the World War I era. So many things I did not remember (or perhaps never knew) regarding World War I, especially the family dynamics involving the heads of so many of the European countries who went to war against each other. Very, very readable book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to visit Highclere next year. I feel as if I got to know the Earl and Lady Carnarvon through this book. Really wonderful glimpse into life at Highclere.
Becky-Books More than 1 year ago
What a woman! Note: This is not a fictional novel, but a true account of the life and times of Lady Almina and those who lived in Highclere Castle. There are a few pages here and there that are not exciting, but overall I'm so glad I read the book. This gives you another look at the affects of the war, and the patients who needed treatment. Also the life and times of someone in her position, and the finding of King Tut's tomb. A very interesting book!
SallyPinkReviews More than 1 year ago
The current Countess of Carnarvon pens an engrossing story about Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon set against the backdrop of the early 20th Century.   Almina married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in 1895, a young 19-year-old. She was the daughter of Alfred de Rotheschild, a product of an affair. Alfred doted on his child.   Almina lived during a dynamic time when change and innovation happened rapidly. Candles were replaced with electricity. She was kind and caring, but what makes Almina such a charismatic character is her ability to change with the times. One of her greatest achievements is the establishment of hospitals and procedures of well care that enable soldiers to recover from World War I.   The cast of characters around Almina are also adaptable to chance and supportive of each other. Her husband shares the distinction of discovering King Tutankhamun's tomb with Howard Carter.   The author's writing style piques the reader's interest by telling personal stories of those involved in Highclere Castle. The Castle also doubles as the Castle seen in Downton Abbey. The current Countess of Carnarvon brings history alive with her tales of Almina, the 5th Earl, their children, the Earl's brother, Aubrey, and their servants.   If Downtown Abbey has drawn your interest, then the story of Lady Almina proves a nice, historical compliment to the series. "Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey," is a heartwarming read, as vivid as Downton Abbey, the series inspired by Highclere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked the book it became more interesting as it went along.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting look at the real people of Highclere, the setting for the show Downton Abbey.
Bunny13 More than 1 year ago
Excellent parallel of the fictional Downtown Abbey and the factual Highclere Castle. Very well written. Lady Almina was an amazing women. She and her husband contributed so much in their time. Fascinating read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not terribly well written, but the content is fascinating and it presents a fascinating view into the history of the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great background on the real "Downton Abbey". There also seemed to be several similarites between the real family and the tv show eg Lord Carnevon's money worries
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading the Free Nook sample. I will purchase the book because I enjoyed the sample and am enchanted. Of course I am a fan of the fictional BBC drama Downton Abbey. The television show is wonderful and I want to know more about the real story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We all know Downton is a fictitious place but the real life story is just as fun!
NonieJU More than 1 year ago
I loved it. The book was almost has good as watching the show. That world was so fascinating. The two worlds. So different and yet so much the same
Peanut61 More than 1 year ago
A very interesting insider's view of the comings and goings of the real family at Highclere Castle during the Edwardian era - which thanks to Downton Abbey series is no longer the forgotten era between the Victorians and WW1
Anonymous 11 months ago
Lady Almina was the most impressive woman to read about and her energy and intellect was awesome. Their story is amazing. I loved her and the Earl.
BookwormMama2014 More than 1 year ago
As a Downton Abbey enthusiast, I enjoyed this book immensely! Full of romance, sorrow and drama! Just like the beloved show, Downton Abbey. Only, these people, really lived! I admit without shame, that I am an avid Downton Abbey fan. Having been sucked into it by the time the third season aired, I have been in love ever since. As some of you may know I have an obsession with finding out the real history behind stories that I love. Whether the Dark Ages or Contemporary Fiction, I want to know what actually happened. What I found the most intriguing about this book, is that there are many, MANY, similarities between Downton Abbey and the true history of Highclere Castle. (I am pretty sure that was no accident on Julian Fellowes's part.) This was one of my first real experiences with an audiobook, and I honestly wish I had just read the book instead. I am much more of a visual learner, and it was hard for me to retain all the dates and names...Especially since I was always driving as well. I believe I am more suited for novels on audiobook, rather than history. Any fan of Downton Abbey, or of Edwardian history in general, will enjoy this book. It was so much fun to learn about the real people that lived at Highclere one hundred years ago.
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CluckLE More than 1 year ago
I have not seen the series Downton Abbey but I wanted to learn the story. This book is a wonderful way to be introduced to the real picture of their lives. I felt like I could walk into the scene at any point. I enjoyed the entire book. Now I would like to watch the series.