This December brings a great new book for Downton Abbey fans. The Downton Abbey series is an upstairs-downstairs portrait of the British aristocracy at the point of its imminent collapse. It is set at a pivotal point in history, right when modern advances are threatening an age-old social system. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey follows the remarkable life of a woman who inspired Downton Abbey’s Cora Crawley, written by Countess Carnarvon of Highclere Castle.
The first season of the PBS series Downton Abbey has drawn American viewers into the life of the Crawley family and the fate of their beloved home. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbeytells the story behind the real-life inspiration and setting for the show, 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 chatelaine of Highclere Castle, Lady Carnarvon, has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.
Much like her dramatic counterpart 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. Unlike Cora, however, Lady Almina was half-French, Jewish, and illegitimate. She would spend the whole of her life devoted to her husband, their home, and her country. 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.
Lady Fiona Carnarvon married the current Earl of Carnarvon in 1999, and they took over Highclere eight years ago.