Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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

If you are interested in the Downton Abbey TV show, you may like this book. It is a history of the home and people they knew.  I watched the TV special on Highclere Castle so I had some knowledge about the Carnarvon family and their home. 
Lady Almina was the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild, a millionaire banker.  She lived in luxury for most of her life. She married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon in June of 1895.  It was a love match for her.  The Earl was glad for the money she brought into the marriage.  Her father paid off his debts and continued to fund their fabulous and very frivolous lifestyle.
The Earl and Howard Carter found King Tut's tomb.  It was only one of their finds in Egypt.  Lady Almina helped the WWI effort by establishing a hospital at Highclere and also in a house in London.  These efforts cost a lot of money, which they did not have.  They spent and spent.  When Mr. de Rothschild died he left almost everything to his daughter.  After WWI, the Bristish government started taxing the aristocracy to pay for the war.  Taxes on the Earl's estates went up and up.  He ended up selling off everything he had to pay his bills, except for Highclere, which would be passed to their son.
Lady Almina died a pauper.   Unfortunately the book does not tell us why.  She spent everything he father left her.  The 5th Earl left nothing but debts to his family.  They were also hit with incredible inheritance taxes.  I believe that is another reason why that way of life ended.

I felt a lot of the story was left out.  The author name drops through out the book.  But if you aren't up on WWI and Brit society at that time you are lost.

I am wondering if Julian Fellows only wrote Downton Abbey because he is friends with the 8th Earl.  Hoping that selling the TV series would financially benefit the Carnarvons, which it did!

Pages: 310

Here is a very interesting take on Lady Almina and the two books written about her.
I read this book to fulfill the genre of biography for the 2013 Genre Variety Challenge.

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