|"Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle" by the Countess of Carnavaron|
With the rest of the world, I became enamored with the hit series “Downton Abbey.” As soon as I watched one episode, I caught up on the stream, never missed a follow up, and gave the DVDs to the three seasons to my Mom, who loved it. I think many of us find the lives of the rich intriguing, and in this kind of series, the way they interact with their employees of lower socioeconomic backgrounds puts the human element into a life many of us would consider a dream otherwise.
So, as soon as I finished watching the episodes and I wasn’t surprised by the end of the third season (forget it, I’m not spoiling it) I reached into amazon to find books about any actual families this series was based upon, since most fiction of this sort is fact based. (I understand my British virtual friends may know this story, so if I’ve made errors, please feel free to chime in).
I downloaded “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of the Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon.” I have no way of knowing if the series is really based on this family, but it made for some interesting reading. For starts, her husband, the Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tutankhamun. The Lady Almina was the daughter of a member of the Rothschild family and heir to a massive fortune. From the point of reference of an American raised in rural poverty, the lives of these people is really a dream.
The book focuses on the life of Lady Almina from the time of her marriage to the Earl to the time of the Earl’s early death following an inset bite just after the fantastic archaeological find in Egypt. Their heyday was during the Edwardian period of the early 1900s with much glamour and publicity about her wardrobe during her wedding and social events. The couple traveled frequently and collected incredible pieces of art to decorate their substantial home. Americans would call this behavior conspicuous consumption, but I suspect this was expected of the upper class during this time.
Lady Almina, along with other ladies of nobility is given credit for opening hospitals for the wounded during WWI. Another family member insisted on joining the military during the Great War, and after a series of events found himself at Gallipoli and played a role for a cease-fire. Following the death of the Earl, Lady Almina remarried and her life afterward is not discussed in the book.
While characters from “Downton Abbey” didn’t jump out of this book as I read it, I did enjoy the look into the past, a time that is difficult for me to imagine with people who are born into enormous wealth and privilege make a career out of assuming the roles they were born into.