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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon

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Hello again, everyone!  I recently finished Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, and I thought it would be a nice book to kick off Women’s History Month!  The book was a Christmas gift from Becca.  (We’re both Downton Abbey fans, although I haven’t seen season three yet.)  This book contains stories about the family that lived at Highclere Castle (where Downton is filmed) during the time period when the show is set.  Some of the characters in the show are loosely based on the historical people in this book.

The book focuses on Almina, the (5th) Countess of Carnarvon.  She was a wealthy young heiress and the illegitimate child and heir of Alfred de Rothschild.  Lord Carnarvon needed to marry a rich woman, and Almina needed a husband with high status to be considered “respectable” by British society at the time.  Fortunately, the two fell in love with each other, so their marriage was happy and successful, as well as advantageous.

I would describe this as a book of family history.  It focuses on a few key years that were eventful for the family, rather than covering everything in equal detail.  It focuses on World War I, when Highclere Castle was really turned into a hospital, similar to what was portrayed on the tv series.  The hospital was Lady Almina’s idea, and it was such a great success that they had to move to a larger location in London partway through the war.  It also focused on Lord Carnarvon’s archaeology work with Howard Carter in Egypt, particularly the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

I was really impressed by the way this book gave historical background information.  Although I love history, this is a time period that I am not very familiar with.  The author gave detailed, relevant background information without assuming that the reader was already familiar with the period.  She also managed to write it in such a way that it was easy to read and digest.  It is difficult to give readers a large amount of information all at once without getting boring or overwhelming, but this book definitely succeeded!

I am giving this book four stars.  It was an easy, enjoyable read and I have already offered to loan my copy to some family members who I think will enjoy it.  ★★★★

-Elizabeth

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2 responses »

  1. I love Downton Abbey! I think it would be quite interesting to read about the breathtaking castle where the show is filmed.

    I also enjoy learning about World War I and had no idea that Highclere Castle was actually turned into a hospital like in the show.

    Thanks for your review! I’ll have to check the book out.

    Reply
    • Great! Yes, the castle really did become a hospital, and the real Almina was much more involved than Lady Cora in Downton Abbey. It’s an interesting piece of history!

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