‘Bright, breezy and unpretentious’ Guardian ‘A loving and faithful portrait of Almina and her world’ Countryfile magazine * * * * * * The story of the real Downton Abbey, told by Lady Fiona Carnarvon, chatelaine of Highclere Castle where the phenomentally successful TV series was filmed.
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.