Friday, 23 September 2011

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

Release date: 29th September 2011
Published by: Hodder and Stoughton 
ISBN No: 9781444730821

Lady Fiona Carnarvon became the chatelaine of Highclere Castle - the setting of the hit series Downton Abbey - eight years ago. In that time she's become fascinated by the rich history of Highclere, and by the extraordinary people who lived there over the centuries. One person particularly captured Fiona's imagination - Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Almina was the illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild. She was his only daughter and he doted on her. She married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, at 19, with an enormous dowry. At first, life at Highclere was a dizzying mix of sumptuous banquets for 500 and even the occasional royal visitor. Almina oversaw 80 members of staff - many of whom came from families who had worked at Highclere for generations. But when the First World War broke out, life at Highclere changed forever. History intervened and Almina and the staff of Highclere were thrown into one of the most turbulent times of the last century. Almina was forced to draw on her deepest reserves of courage in order to ensure her family, the staff and the castle survived. This is the remarkable story of a lost time. But Highclere remains and in this book, Fiona weaves Almina's journey and those of her family into the heritage and history of one of England's most exquisite Victorian castles.

Copyright: Waterstones Synopsis

1 comment:

  1. There are currently two biographies about the extraordinary Almina Carnarvon of the book title. The only full length biography that charts Almina's nine decades is " The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon". The two works are polls apart in sources used, in content and the years covered. The books stack up for integrity. One book was produced under the auspices of a worldwide kingdom of a major publishing house, whilst the other was compiled single-handed over three years, by William Cross, FSA Scot, an experienced British historical researcher, antiquarian and historian and a Fellow of the Antiquaries of Scotland for several decades.

    William Cross was refused access to Herbert family sources at it’s stately home at Highclere and the files hidden and forbidden that lie within the Archives of Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England a place now a veritable shrine, an iconic a structure that television has turned into a glorified biscuit- tin image in adverts and programme breaks.

    Cross’s book is one man’s painstakingly researched efforts culled from devouring everything almost ever written about Almina and her first husband, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the famed discoverer, with Howard Carter of Tutankahamun. Cross’s assault course has involved delving into numerous British, European and American Archives, The Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, the Rothschild archives, the National Archives at Kew and the British Library among them- as well as papers and diaries held in private hands. Testimonies have been gathered far and wide from many people who knew Almina, or knew about her. This was an epic process which began long before television, press or public made Highclere a universal phallus. Importantly, the one-man-band also draws for key personal testimony about Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon from her surviving godson, Anthony ( Tony ) Leadbetter who actually lived with her for almost thirty years of her very long, colourful life. Tony’s aunt Alice Butler and his mother, Anne Leadbetter, were Almina’s housekeepers from 1935 until 1969. If anyone knows what Almina was like it is Tony Leadbetter. There is no one in the Herbert family who has this experience of living for the same duration with Almina over a number of the decades of life, and recalling her voice, her memories and when she was finally free at last to speak out candidly and frankly about her life and those she knew, and loved and some she hated.

    A writer and a publisher should always strive for indisputable accuracy and objectivity. The unvarnished truth about Almina, 5th Countess of Carnarvon is much too big to be suppressed, and that’s why one of these books about her life, not a half life, half told, but her whole life, told with a sense for seeking the truth will endure, with integrity, as her definitive biography, to date, whilst the other will surely only be a minor accompaniment to a highly overrated television fiction.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.