Lady Almina & the Real Downton Abbey

Lady Almina

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.

23 thoughts on “Lady Almina & the Real Downton Abbey

  1. How fun to read this book before watching the series (which I imagine you will one day watch). I started watching it but am dreadfully behind and need to catch up one of these days…..

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    • I know exactly what you mean – so many wonderful things to research, so very little time. I have become more selective in my reading these past few years. When I read one book, it opens the doors to other research ideas. When I tour these stately mansions, it is a reminder that wealth is fleeting and change is ever with us. I thought that you would appreciate the following, which spoke to the transitions that occurred in this era.

      The Seven Social Sins are:

      Wealth without work.
      Pleasure without conscience.
      Knowledge without character.
      Commerce without morality.
      Science without humanity.
      Worship without sacrifice.
      Politics without principle.

      From a sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925.”
      Frederick Lewis Donaldson

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  2. I listened to one account of this famous family on my I-pod, and enjoyed it very much but the video you have put on this part of your blog is outstanding. Thank you. What unusual, wealthy and caring people lived and still live among us. Thank you

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    • This is the audio-book that you listened to a couple of years ago. I am so glad that you enjoyed the video. There is another book that follows this one: Lady Catherine and The Real Downton Abbey. These books show the times from an aristocratic viewpoint. It would be interesting to follow from the servants quarters.

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  3. I have to admit, Rebecca, that I’ve never heard of the gorgeous Downton Abbey and it’s “real” people before this day. I must admit that I have some prejudices as far as these aristocratic people are concerned but Lady Almina seems to have done something important in opening a hospital for the wounded soldiers. As far as the Tutankhamun tomb is concerned, I always thought that Howard Carter had found it. I am quite sure that many surprising news come up in this novel. Many thanks for your tempting introduction.:)

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    • Thank you Cindy for your generosity – you bring warmth and compassion to our community. This book was a surprise. I had no idea that it was a woman’s financial support that made it possible to discover a Pharaoh’s treasure.

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