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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
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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)

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  9,315 ratings  ·  1,610 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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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroThe House at Riverton by Kate MortonBrideshead Revisited by Evelyn WaughA Room with a View by E.M. ForsterHowards End by E.M. Forster
Downton Abbey-esque Books
9th out of 479 books — 772 voters
The American Heiress by Daisy GoodwinHabits of the House by Fay WeldonLady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona CarnarvonTo Marry an English Lord by Gail MacCollThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Books for Downton Abbey Fans
2nd out of 28 books — 31 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nick
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
Yeah, I read this. Why? Because... http://www.e-subversive.net/soundboar...

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, espe
...more
The Lit Bitch
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
Bonnie
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
Dot
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
Sarah
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
...more
Roberta
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
...more
Caroline
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
Sally Wessely
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
Leah
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
...more
Suzanne Mccandless
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.
Lau
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
...more
Dromeda
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
...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
Melody
So ..... I'm crazy about the Downton Abbey PBS series -and it is interesting to read about the REAL people the series is loosely based on. But I stayed just slightly queasy while reading about these privileged, pencil-necks who think they have a papal-like mandate to spend, spend, spend and trickle down their leftovers to the people downstairs. Somehow the tv series doesn't make me feel this way - but the book just seemed to carry a more haughty tone and less of a reason to excuse for the sake o ...more
Joseph
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
...more
Stacey
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
...more
Alice
Feb 19, 2013 Alice rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Donna LaValley
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
...more
Cheryl
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
Connie
Mar 06, 2013 Connie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Watchers of "Downton Abbey."
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
travelgirlut
Maybe 2.75 stars. I'm a Downton Abbey fan, and since I'm having to wait until January for season 3, I needed something else to do besides rewatch seasons 1 and 2 again. So I found this book and read it. It was fun to learn about the real people who lived in the manor house used in the show at the same time period covered. Who knew they were actually famous? The Earl of Carnarvon was partners with Howard Carter when they discovered King Tut's tomb! Pretty cool! Also, the house being turned into a ...more
Lisa
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
...more
Darlene Foster
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
Jess Michaelangelo
Being that I am highly obsessed with Downton Abbey, it is no surprise that I enjoyed this. I found that the story of Lady Almina and her time spent as the 5th Countess of Carnarvon was interesting, and I became surprisingly invested in it. Granted, there were some times while reading when I felt bogged down by details and the writing itself is nothing to rave about, but Lady Almina was a completely fascinating person to read about so overall I had a wonderful time getting lost in this story. If ...more
Terri Lynn
I confess- I am a "Downton Abbey" addict. I swooned over the first 3 seasons and am now breathlessly awaiting the 4th season to be shown in the USA beginning in January 2014. I know they are filming it now and they torment me daily on Facebook and on the PBS website with tantalizing tidbits of info and photos from the upcoming 4th season.

For those who love the series, you already know that they are filming it at Highclere Castle which is the home of the Earl of Carnarvon and Lady Fiona Carnarvon
...more
Pamela
The Countess of Carnarvon has produced a flattering and, perhaps as a consequence, rather flat portrait of her husband’s ancestors and ancestral home. It is biography rather than history and clearly aimed at fans of the TV show, of which, I confess, I'm one. The TV melodrama is more entertaining. That said I did appreciate this partial window into the lives of the rich and titled and am always heartened that such people put their wealth, and in the case of Lady Almina their skills, to good use f ...more
Carol
A good book for anyone craving more Downton Abbey. This has been put together by the current Countess of Carnarvon and details the life of Lady Almina, who was the Lady of the castle during the actual Downton timeframe. My mind couldn't quite grasp the amount of money spent to keep the house and the grounds and the parties going, or the fact that their casual acquaintances were people you read about in history books. Almina came to her position at just 19 years of age, and at least from this acc ...more
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
...more
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Laurie R. King Vi...: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey - VBC May 2012 25 63 Jun 04, 2012 01:04PM  
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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
More about Fiona Carnarvon...
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey Highclere Castle:The Home of the 8th Earl & Countess of Carnarvon The Women of the Real Downton Abbey: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey; Lady Catherine, the Earl and the Real Downton Abbey

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