I confess that I have never watched Downton Abbey. I know this may come as a surprise to Downton Abbey followers, which includes most of my family. It was not a planned oversight; it just happened. Every season, I thought that I would begin and then a project or event would intervene. It is a brilliant period drama television series that depicts the society of the post-Edwardian era during a time of enormous upheaval, especially for those who were accustomed to an unsustainable aristocratic lifestyle. The series covered, amongst other great events, the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the First World War, and the Spanish influenza pandemic. 2015 marks the final season of Downton Abbey, which will end in a marvelous Christmas celebration. Autumn is here, the days are shorter. This will be my Downton Abbey moment.
I always wondered about the genuine history behind Downton Abbey. Who were the “real” people who lived in that stately mansion? Dear reader (I do like those two words), I found the family and the marvellously intricate narratives that still breathe drama within the ornate rooms of Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey.
“Lady Almina and The Real Downton Abbey” chronicles the life of Lady Carnarvon, who married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. They lived at Highclere Castle in the age portrayed by Downton Abbey’s aristocratic Crawley family. Written by the current Lady Carnarvon (Fiona), the legacy of Highclere Castle during this era, comes alive with meticulous detail. With access to unlimited financial resources, Lady Almina used her creativity and organization abilities to turn Highclere Castle into a hospital to care for wounded soldiers returning from WWI. Her financial support of her husband’s archaeology expeditions in Egypt brought about the discovery of Tutankhamun in 1922. As with all families, there are times of great joy and celebration intertwined with grief and loss.
Lady Almina was an elegant read from beginning to end.