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

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book # 5 in the War Through the Generations WWI reading challenge: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle.

I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to read this one. I knew it wouldn’t really have anything to do with Downton Abbey. What tipped the balance? This review on Amazon:

 … did not think the book would be 3/4 about war war war and her nursing abilities.

And I was all: Sold! Because that’s exactly what I wanted to read about. This is also why authors shouldn’t sweat the negative reviews. That being said, there’s controversy in some of the other reviews about how sanitized this version of Lady Almina’s life happens to be.

I suspect there might be some truth to this. The narrative is fairly scandal free, the author glossing over the fact Lady Almina remarries in the same year Lord Carnarvon dies and only briefly mentions the court case she becomes involved in (see Wikipedia for more info).

However, I did enjoy learning more about what went into running a private hospital during WWI and the problems encountered. Although in Lady Almina’s case, she solved a great many of these problems by throwing money at them–which seems to have been her SOP. Also fascinating was the time the narrative spent on the Earl’s interest (more like an obsession) in Egyptology. I hadn’t realized he was Howard Carter’s backer, and that together they discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Was the read worth it? From my point of view, yes. If you already know a bit about WWI, you won’t learn a lot here. And of course, the narrative doesn’t contain swoon-worthy scenes between Matthew and Mary or one liners delivered by Dame Maggie Smith. However, it is an interesting look at a certain strata of British society before, during, and after the war.

And just because the book doesn’t have any Maggie Smith doesn’t mean this blog post will go without. Enjoy.

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Reading, War Through The Generations

3 responses to “WWI Read: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

  1. Your review will be featured on War Through the Generations on Oct. 19. Thanks for participating!

  2. Oh, thanks. It’s more of a rambling than an actual review, but I appreciate the link.

  3. For the sake of ensuring that book lovers across the world are made aware of other titles about Almina, Countess of Carnarvon may I point out that there is a fuller account of the Countess’s story in The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon, by William Cross, FSA Scot. This full length biography draws on the personal testimony of Almina’s surviving godson, who actually lived with the Countess from 1943 until 1969 and whose late aunt and mother were Almina’s housekeepers, for well over 30 years.

    A further retrospective on Almina, the Nurse and hospital Matron is in Lady Carnarvon’s Nursing Homes: Nursing the Privileged in Wartime and Peace. This book contains an interview with a 95 year old lady who worked for Almina between 1937 and 1939.

    The same author’s latest offering Lordy! Tutankhamun’s Patron As A Young Man, also reveals to the world in this the 90th year of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb, that ( according to Almina, ) Lord Carnarvon did not die from blood poisoning following a bite from a mosquito.

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