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

Countess Of Carnarvon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Sep 2011

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.

Almina was the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild. She was his only daughter and he doted on her. She married the 5th 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.

History 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 and those of her family into the heritage and history of one of England's most exquisite Victorian castles.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (29 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444730827
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444730821
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

bright, breezy and unpretentious in style. (Guardian)

Comfort reading for fans eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Downtown Abbey to appear on our TV screens. (Vogue (Australia)

A loving and faithful portrait of Almina and her world. (BBC Countryfile Magazine)

Book Description

The remarkable story behind the real Downton Abbey

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real Downton Abbey 8 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed the extraordinary stories of the real people, upstairs and downstairs, you couldn't make it up! What a woman Almina was. It is part of the attraction of Downton Abbey, the sense of family, the house which holds so many different lives together. I loved all being taken through the Frist World War through the eyes and experiences of real people. A great read.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lady Almina 23 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fascinating book. Well written. She was an incredible woman in the way she was able to organise her life particularly in the use of Highclere for treating wounded soldiers from the Great War. 300 pages with interesting photographs, it could have done with a family tree because I became a bit confused on who was related to whom and how in the early stages. Thoroughly recommended whether or not you are have been follower of Downton Abbey.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating people and period 2 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover
I have just finished reading what I think is a very well written account of the lives of the people that occupied Highclere Castle during the period from the late 19th century to around 1925. It is the story of Almina Countess of Carnarvon, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Highclere, during this pivotal period in history that saw in the first world war and the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.

In this sense is it is not so much a biography as telling of the events that had a great influence on the TV series Downton Abbey - this does not detract from the enjoyment in anyway for if you have seen the series you will recognise many of the events and characters that appear in the series. So don't buy the book if you are expecting an in depth biography of Almina, as there are other books that provide that, but see this book as a worthy complement to other books on her life.

The main attraction this volume offers is that it is written by the Countess of Carnarvon and as such there are anecdotes, photographs and events that only she and her family are privy to. I have read most of the books on Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovery of the the tomb of Tutankhamen but there are "behind the scenes" episodes in this book that have not been captured anywhere else. The story of the Earl's death in Cairo, is very well told and moving. The story of Highclere is also moving, when you think of the oppresive taxes that were levied on the landed classes after the war it is indeed a miracle that the house survived, and as Fiona observes, it was probably the longevity of the 6th Earl that preserved the house from attracting those ruinous inheritance taxes that were in place.

In summary a very well written and enjoyable read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this fabulous book as I loved watching Downton Abbey and love our English Heritage and these amazing castles.

The book is simply amazing and surpassed expectations. If you love the TV show Downton Abbey you will simply adore the book on Lady Almina and Highclere and want to know more about the Carnavon family and Highclere. I love the way it is written and easy to read with fabulous historical detail about the war, which I have to say, I did not know. I've also never been interested in historical accounts and am now considering finding something else along these lines (any suggestions welcome). I loved the facination Lord Carnavon had with Egypt and would have liked more detail, but I guess there is only so much you can put in one VERY VERY readable and thoroughly enjoyable book. I hope the Countess of Carnavon has read the reviews and taken the comments on board and might well be considering putting pen to paper again! Although I guess its very hard work! I just finished this book in time to watch the next series of Downton Abbey coming soon. Sept 2012.
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86 of 97 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Almina's Half Life and Only Half Told 5 Nov 2011
By William
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is slick and has many glossy images. But as a comprehensive biography of Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon it's lacking in substance, facts seem to fall from the wind. Among the nice pictures about a dozen images are repeated from a previous Highclere hack entited " Carnarvon and Carter". Sadly, several of the Almina images aren't of Almina at all.

What irks is that it hardly amounts to Almina's half-life - and much of it is only half- told. And as the cut off point in time is 1924, the rest of Almina's life, of almost fifty years is abandoned. Almina's financial skulduggery, her offences against her own children and her carnal affairs (outlined in another recently published biography of the Countess) are, of course, not mentioned. Her relationship with Lord Carnarvon in this portrait lacks any kind of sure grasp of either personality. Both were complicated human beings. The Highclere ghost writer obviously could find nothing to say, and could not expose the truth that the parties were not in love or lovers and that they simply despised each other. Their near thirty-year marriage was the ultimate sham marriage.

There are some good elements to praise, individual soldiers' stories from Almina's term as the matron of Highclere Military Hospital and 48 Bryanston Square, a Royal Flying Corps hospital, during the Great War. It was noteworthy to read the names of a few of the surgeons who operated at Highclere and Bryanston Square hospitals. Whilst it was interesting-ish to read of the endless exploits of Carnarvon's half-sibling Aubrey and his wife Mary and the Dowager Elsie and the Burghcleres (Almina despised them all, except Aubrey, whom she loved and wanted instead of being saddled with the Earl), this alas greatly overshadows Almina's own story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars DOWNTON
Extremely interesting a clear view of an age gone by and believable characters. A successful transition into our modern times
Published 23 days ago by pollyanna
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value for money
This was bought for a Downton fan, i've not read it myself but she was very happy with it. It arrived in good time, well packaged and, compared to other retailers, at a very good... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. Coates
5.0 out of 5 stars Good story and quality product
Bought this for my mother who loved it, no issues with supplier, just wish post office had not forced it through the post box as this damaged the edges of the book, perhaps needed... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Hayley O'Grady
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book.
Great service and great book. Kept me going right to the end and it incorporates family and history - and what an interesting history - would recommend it.
Published 2 months ago by Raven
5.0 out of 5 stars exaactly what my wife wanted
Bought for my wife - it is just what she wanted for a holiday read, while I just lie in the sun !
Published 2 months ago by dave w-d
5.0 out of 5 stars Lady Almina
A great review of the life in the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The book for Downton Abbey series lovers!
Published 2 months ago by Marcela Kovarova
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
A must for any downtown fan who is interested in English social history. The book brings it all to life
Published 2 months ago by Lj
5.0 out of 5 stars Lady Allmina and the Real Downton Abbey
I throughly enjoyed this book, It helped knowing it was a true story and very well written. In fact i Found it very interesting
Published 2 months ago by gillianWard
5.0 out of 5 stars class!
interresting and easy to read! highclere to me is so much more than downton abbey...i also went on to buy lady catherine which was also lovely... Read more
Published 2 months ago by jodie
5.0 out of 5 stars The hopes and fears of those in big houses.
An in depth view of life above and below stairs during a very turbulent time in our history, it was very interesting reading.
Published 2 months ago by mr h r e jacobs
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