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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle (The Women of the Real Downton Abbey #1)

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  13,877 Ratings  ·  2,053 Reviews
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, 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, l ...more
Paperback, 310 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Broadway Books (first published 2011)
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Jan 03, 2013 Nicholas rated it it was ok
I'm of two minds here. On the one hand, as someone who not only likes Downton Abbey, but also really likes pretty much anything British and Victorian/Edwardian (think: Mitfords, Sackville-West, Waugh), this was a whole lot of fun. On the other, it was a little disconcerting just how much the author fawned over her subject. Perhaps this is because she's followed in her footsteps, is also the Countess of Carnarvon (married to the 8th Earl; Almina married the 5th), and is clearly using this book to ...more
Jason Koivu
Jun 12, 2013 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Yeah, I read this. Why? Because I'm a lady, you see. Please, pay me no heed.

This is the story of Highclere Castle at its prime. Specifically it focuses on Lady Almina, her husband Lord Carnarvon and their family.

As the subtitle suggests, Highclere is the impressive house better known to the world these days as Downton Abbey, and that is why this book exists.

There are marked similarities between what viewers of that hit television show will recognize and what actually happened at Highclere, esp
The Lit Bitch
Jan 23, 2012 The Lit Bitch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely riveting! I would call this one un-put-downable…it was a smashing read and I enjoyed every page! Books like this make me excited about history! Don’t we all wish we could wave our magic wands and become the Crawley family living the high life at Downton Abbey? For Lady Almina Carnarvon that dream was a reality!!
See my full review here
Feb 22, 2012 Bonnie rated it really liked it
Are you at a loss after viewing the Season 2 final episode of Downton Abbey wondering how you will make it until Season 3 airs??? Then pick up this book and snuggle in for a great read. I think you will enjoy reading about the "real" people and recognize those who have lived and loved beautiful Highclere. Almina inherits gobs of money from Albert Rothschild and becomes a real catch in the late 1890s Victorian/Edwardian society of London. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon picks her and they make a love m ...more
Feb 27, 2017 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, historic
I loved this book. LOVED it. If you read it looking for Downton you will be disappointed. If you read it as the story of the life of an amazing woman and an amazing time it is brilliant.

Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, was the illegitimate daughter of a Rothschild. She inhabited a world of luxery and convenience that even a modern woman will be awed by. Her marriage to the 5th Earl was to wash clean her background and to remove the debt from the family. Her dowry included Rothschild p
Aug 21, 2012 Dorothy rated it liked it
I was captivated by the Downton Abbey drama on PBS and so when I discovered this book on Highclere Abbey ( where it was filmed) and Almina, Countess of Caernarvon, I knew I wanted to read it and I was not disappointed. The book is written by the current Countess, Fiona Caernarvon, who became interested in researching the subject when the script for the TV series was being written. The result is a fascinating account of how a large Estate is organised and the activities of the family who owned it ...more
Will Cross
We should know our betters : know that toffs will not be transparent. They will only tell you what they want you to know and to minimise the scandal they will painfully minimise the accuracy. Despite pointing out the howlers in the captions on several photographs, and the historically flawed text in Highclere’s “ Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” ( after the hardback came out in the UK, last September ) the transformation of this book into it’s new “ First US Edition”, with the inners unch ...more
Feb 22, 2017 Teresa rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read!! I couldn't put it down.
Feb 19, 2012 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I thought this would be fluff, but it turned out to be the very opposite. Through photos and excerpts from family archives, the focus is primarily on Lady Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon after her marriage to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. Highclere Castle may be the setting for the popular TV series, Downton Abbey, and there are some similarities in events that took place in both the fictional family seat of the Crawleys and the Carnarvons, but this generation of the Carnarvons made contributions ...more
Rebecca Huston
A very entertaining look at the real Downton Abbey -- Highclere Castle -- and one of the countesses that lived there. Almina Wombwell was pretty, but also very wealthy. Where it gets unusual is who Almina's real father was -- Alfred de Rothschild, and his wealth is what got Almina accepted by England's aristocracy. She grew up wealthy, privileged, and would marry the Earl of Carnarvon. She bore children, supported her husband, modernized Highclere, and would help back the event that launched Car ...more
Jun 09, 2013 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
First of all, let's just address the fact that Downton Abbey (the awesome BBC series that has swept the nation) should carry the message "based on a true story" somewhere in each episode. Yes, the series is fiction, but I was truly surprised by the similarities between the show and what actually happened in history.

Even more amazing about reading this book is how incredibly strong and courageous the lady of the house proved herself to be. Lady Almina Carnarvon was a kind, generous force to be r
Si conocen la serie de televisión Downton Abbey entonces habrán visto la magnífica mansión que en realidad se llama Highclere Castle. Esta es la historia de sus habitantes, centrada principalmente en la vida de Almina, quinta condesa de Carnarvon.

La autora comienza diciendo que este libro no es una biografía exactamente, y después de haberlo leído me doy cuenta de que tiene razón. Sí, se narra la vida de Lady Almina Carnarvon con lujo de detalles, pero también se incluye una buena porción de la
Sally Wessely
Sep 03, 2012 Sally Wessely rated it it was ok
The book is interesting in many ways. It gave me great insight into the life and times of Lady Almina Carnarvon and the castle we all call Downton Abbey, but I also found the book lacking in many aspects. It is not written particularly well. In fact, I found a number of errors in the book that caused me to wonder if the author had an editor. I also found that I was sometimes confused about events and people that were discussed in the book. It seemed almost as if the author was looking at the gue ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Roberta rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I haven't watched Downton Abbey yet, though apparently I must. This biography of Almina, the 5th Countee of Carnarvon, written by Fiona, the 8th, is not brilliantly written. However, it is a time period I find interesting and I did learn a lot about the years leading up to WW1 and the war itself. How a country recovers from something like that is beyond me. How the survivors were able to carry on is also beyond me.

Hard to imagine the vast amounts of money and leisure some people had while others
Suzanne Mccandless
Jan 05, 2013 Suzanne Mccandless rated it really liked it
I was surprised by how much I learned from this book. I had expected a good deal of fluff about house parties and social events in the early 20th century. there was that but also a great deal about WWI and about the discovery of King Tut's tomb.
13/11 - You can really see Fellowes' inspiration for Downton Abbey in the true story of Lady Almina and Highclere Castle. I love that the book was written by the current Countess, and she is quite the writer, not in the way of writers whose words are described as 'lyrical' or 'beautiful', but in the way that you just want to keep reading. Her storytelling is accessible and she makes what could be dry facts into a compelling, and sometimes enthralling story. To be continued...

14/11 - There were a
Mar 06, 2013 Connie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Watchers of "Downton Abbey."
Shelves: books-i-ve-read
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, by The Countess of Carnarvon. Those of us who have claimed “Downton Abbey” as our most important hour of TV, EVER, will love this non-fiction history of Highclere Castle. Centered on the 1895-1925 era of wealth, fame, travel, extravagance beyond imagination and living in the highest of high styles, this story will keep visions of the TV story flashing in your mind as the real lives are interwoven in your mind with the fictional lives. There are names in th ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Cheryl rated it really liked it
During the Edwardian Age, many British aristocrats had titles and owned large estates, but had very little money. Marriages were often arranged in order to acquire wealth. Oftentimes, the marriages were not happy ones. Alfred de Rothschild adored his beautiful illegitimate daughter, Almina, and sought to arrange a marriage for her that would provide her with social acceptance as well as happiness. Her future husband would acquire untold wealth. When Almina married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, this ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Stacey rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Disappointing! While the setting for this book - England in the era leading up to and including WWI WWI - is one of my current favorites for non-fiction reading, the execution of the book left something to be desired.

I found the writing to be not horrible, but distracting. Overall, a professional writer (maybe ghosting the Countess) could have avoided some of the writing issues encountered in the book, including sentence construction, verb tenses, topic transitions, and repetitiveness. For exam
Mar 03, 2012 Dromeda rated it really liked it
Shelves: bios-true-life
Disclosure: Review copy received via Goodreads First Reads.

Even though "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey" is written with an eye towards fans of the ITV/PBS series, I believe even those who haven't watched the show will enjoy this history of the inhabitants of Highclere Castle. However, those fans hoping for plot-point by plot-point parallels between the show and the real history may be disappointed. That being said, it's easy to see where Julian Fellowes may have drawn inspiration from th
Como fã da série televisiva "Downton Abbey", tive bastante curiosidade quando este livro foi lançado em Portugal. E enganam-se se estão à espera de um romance pois trata-se de um relato de vida de Lady Almina baseado em factos históricos, mais centrada na vida do Castelo de Highclere.
É uma leitura interessante mas achei algumas partes muito descritivas e mais chatas, no entanto foi um bom retrato da época e onde pude conhecer mais das diferenças entre a classe dos "Senhores" e dos "Empregados".
Darlene Foster
Oct 25, 2012 Darlene Foster rated it really liked it
A wonderful history of Highclere Castle,the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon and his wife, Lady Almina. I love watching Downton Abbey (filmed at Highclere Castle), so reading about the history of the real place was insightful. Some of the events in the television show are based on real events at the time. The book is written by the current Countess of Carnarvon who has done extensive research. She often quotes from letters and the photographs included are fabulous. Just reading about a time and place put ...more
Donna LaValley
Mar 12, 2012 Donna LaValley rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m happy the author wrote this book because after enjoying the BBC series “Downtown Abbey” I wondered what the castle-like structure, which was the story’s location, had become in the 21st Century. It is Highclere Castle and still the private home of the current Earl of Carnarvon. [The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was famously -or infamously- one of the principals in the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.]

This is a work of non-fiction based on Lady Almina, 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Although she was the
Apr 02, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
Lady Almina of Carnarvon had a life worthy of a big-screen adaptation. She played numerous roles; active socialite, host to kings, pioneering caregiver, influential political activist (though she couldn't vote) and devoted wife and mother. She even had a scandalous past; her biological father was not her mother's husband! She was a conscientious, engaging woman who spared none of her considerable fortune in helping and pleasing others.

She also had a well-cast co-star in her husband, George Herbe
As a publicized tie-in to DOWNTON ABBEY, this book was styled as providing a historical account of Highclere Castle (setting of DOWNTON ABBEY), its inhabitants, and the style of the Edwardian era. Written by the current Countess of Carnarvon, LADY ALMINA gives an insiders view into a world seldomly seen, but thanks to Julian Fellowes, is now becoming a rich area history of interest.

Written in a chatty and breezy tone, the book concentrates heavily on Lady Almina, her works and family and less o
Feb 19, 2013 Alice rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Ehh...I guess I was expecting an interesting history or biography, but I wouldn't call this book either. In fact, toward the beginning it is stated that this is not an historical account or fiction...which leads one to wonder what it is. I think the author just stumbled upon some old ledgers and/or letters (based on the the lists of employees and gifts that she includes), did a tiny bit of research (to flesh things out, but you can tell she didn't dig too deep), and choose a time period that is ...more
Fans of Downton Abbey will almost certainly enjoy reading the current Countess' book. It is tailored to that audience, addressing the real life counterparts of the characters, the running of such an enormous estate, and the impact of world events. As well, the Earl and the Countess were exemplars of what people with essentially unlimited money and time and interest could get up to in those days. He is a bit Toad, of Toad Hall in his enthusiasm for engines, which is amusing, and the experience of ...more
Dec 29, 2015 CindySlowReader rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
There are enough little similarities between Highclere and Downton to make this an interesting read. Highclere as a hospital got a little dry but the discovery of Tut's tomb was cool.
Isabel  Almeida (Os Livros Nossos)
Crítica por: Isabel Alexandra Almeida / Blog Os Livros Nossos:

Lady Almina e a verdadeira Downton Abbey [O legado Perdido do Castelo de Highclere] traça-nos o fascinante retrato de uma mulher notável, bastante dinâmica e empreendedora, que deixou, sem dúvida, uma marca relevante na História de Inglaterra, entre finais do Século XIX e início do Século XX.

Sustentada em abundante pesquisa documental, Lady Fiona, a actual e 8ª Condessa de Carnarvon, dá-nos a conhecer Lady Almina - a 5ª Condessa de
Feb 12, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
This is a very fast, enjoyable read for anyone interested in Downton Abbey, or just in the British aristocracy and its lifestyle around the turn of the century. The book is clearly a love letter to Highclere and to one of its best-known inhabitants. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

As entertainment, it reads well, flows quickly and provides a great deal of information for those looking to learn more about the family/estate's history.

As history, it's a bit lacking. The author tends to se
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Why all the hate? 14 74 Aug 30, 2014 01:12PM  
What makes Downton Abbey so good? 22 422 Aug 07, 2014 01:43PM  
Goodreads Librari...: 1 author, 2 different names 3 37 Mar 10, 2013 12:09PM  
Ravelry Knitters: January 2013- Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey 20 133 Jan 23, 2013 04:40PM  
Laurie R. King Vi...: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey - VBC May 2012 25 64 Jun 04, 2012 01:04PM  
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  • Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant
  • Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor
  • Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"
  • The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy
  • The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm
  • A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy
  • Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey
  • Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household
  • In Triumph's Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory
  • The Churchills: In Love and War
  • The Glitter and the Gold
  • Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants
  • Upstairs & Downstairs: The Illustrated Guide to the Real Life of Masters and Their Servants from the Victorian Era to the Second World War
  • Life Below Stairs: in the Victorian and Edwardian Country House
  • Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire
Note: This is the Goodreads listing for the 8th Countess of Carnarvon.

A former auditor for Coopers & Lybrand, Lady Fiona Carnarvon is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Today, she manages affairs at Highclere Castle, home of the worldwide television drama Downton Abbey, including overseeing its grounds and gardens and many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition in the c
More about Fiona Carnarvon...

Other Books in the Series

The Women of the Real Downton Abbey (2 books)
  • Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey

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