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Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle | [The Countess of Carnarvon]

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

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 series, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants: Lady Almina, the fifth Countess of Carnarvon. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.
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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Nominee, Biography and Memoir, 2013

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 series, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants: Lady Almina, the fifth Countess of Carnarvon.

Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war. Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart Lady Cora Crawley, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home. Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.

This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.

©2011 Countess of Carnarvon (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Gives the juicy back story behind last year's Emmy-winning Masterpiece Theater drama." (The New York Times)

"If you can’t wait for the new season of Downton Abbey... this one's for you.... a revealing portrait of the changing times." (New York Post)

"The present Lady Carnarvon, who tapped the family archives for her comprehensive research, dramatically captures the estate during the pre-war and war years, and paints a compelling... portrait of Lady Almina." (Newark Star-Ledger)

"Wanda McCaddon invites listeners into the Countess of Carnarvon’s breezy book, which blends a wealth of archival letters, diaries, and photographs. McCaddon sweeps through the transitions between the downstairs servants and the socially elite, details of furniture and costumes, as well as the changes that come with WWI." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (284 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jennifer Dickinson Bay Area, CA United States 01-09-14
    Jennifer Dickinson Bay Area, CA United States 01-09-14 Member Since 2012

    yogini, knitter, quilter, sewist, stitcher, reader, cook, foodie, wine snob, francophile, wife, dog mom, SF Giants fan

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thoroughly Absorbing"
    If you could sum up Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey in three words, what would they be?

    history family service


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey?

    There are many, but one that struck me was how generous Lady Almina was to her secretary when she married, setting them up in a house, and lending them the Lake House at Highclere for their honeymoon.


    Which character – as performed by Wanda McCaddon – was your favorite?

    Again -- they were all so perfectly portrayed, but one of my favorites was Aubrey, the Earl's younger brother.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The sweep of history through the lens of one of Britain's great families. Or something like that. :)


    Any additional comments?

    I absolutely loved this book and wanted to listen in one sitting! Obviously, the war years are just shatteringly sad, but Lady Almina and her family's, friends' and colleagues' sacrifices are ultimately so hopeful. I also loved Wanda McCaddon's narration and have already added two more of hers to my library, one of which was written by the Countess of Carnarvon.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Lewiston, ME, United States 10-02-13
    Jim Lewiston, ME, United States 10-02-13 Member Since 2009
    ratings
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    5
    5
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    "The background Story"
    What made the experience of listening to Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey the most enjoyable?

    If you are a Downton Fan you will find the background informative and fun.


    What about Wanda McCaddon’s performance did you like?

    Good job!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-28-13
    Laura Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-28-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Good Companion Piece to Downton Abbey"
    If you could sum up Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting aristocratic history


    What other book might you compare Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey to and why?

    I would compare it to the Anne Perry Victorian mysteries in have very distinct characters and settings. I enjoyed the Englishness of the books.


    Which character – as performed by Wanda McCaddon – was your favorite?

    Since the book is about Lady Almina, she was my favorite . However, all the characters, even the minor ones were well written and interesting.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened to it while walking and while eating dinner. I finished the nook in three days.


    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommended if you like Downton Abbey. There is more insight into the upstairs/downstairs aspect of the story. Lady Almina was a fascinating woman and her life had lots of interesting episodes. One of the most enjoyable personal histories that I have listened to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    history buff louisiana 06-26-13
    history buff louisiana 06-26-13 Member Since 2008

    carol

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    "great story--wonderfully interesting woman"

    so interesting to read about the woman who made highclere what it was and how she did it. she was quite a character.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Johanna Turner Mayfield, KY 06-16-13
    Johanna Turner Mayfield, KY 06-16-13 Member Since 2012
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    "I bet it's better than the TV show"

    Historical books set in Great Britain, in particular early 20th century, are just my cup of tea. My son and his wife keep pushing me to watch Downton Abbey, but my husband and I just don't do much TV, so this book was an obvious choice. It did NOT disappoint.

    While I have read many books based around WWII events, this is the first that covered WWI and, I must say, it was surprising to me that I had not looked at this era in more depth - but now I intend to. Lady Almina was a remarkable woman, as were most of her "supporting characters", in particular her longsuffering husband, George, Earl of Carnarvon. The people in this era were so much more accomplished and diligent, to say nothing of educated, than we are today. It puts me to shame, but also encourages me to learn and do more.

    Wanda McCaddon is my favorite narrator of books in need of a British accent, and she was superb in the "Real Downton Abbey". I could hardly quit listening and was sorry when it ended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 04-18-13
    Susan 04-18-13
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    "Downton Abbey fans will appreciate this book"
    Any additional comments?

    I read this after "Rose: My Life in Service...", coincidentally. Turned out to be an interesting contrast.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Newark, DE, United States 03-25-13
    Thomas Newark, DE, United States 03-25-13 Member Since 2011

    tomsde

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    "A Family HIstory, Not a Scandal Sheet"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would reccomend this book to anyone who wanted to know the true history of Highclere Castle, although I wish that the family history had been followed through to the present day.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey?

    I discovery of King Tuts Tomb was probably the most memorable moments.


    Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I've not listened to any other McCaddon's performances, but I felt this was a very good one.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    A self determined woman makes a difference in her world.


    Any additional comments?

    If one is looking for a tintalating tale of family intrigues and scandals (like the TV Downton Abbey) this book is bound to dissapoint. At best the only resemblance between the Carnarvons and the fictional Downton Abbey family is that Lord Carnarvon married into money and the house played a part in rehabilitating soldiers during "The Great War"--but the resemblance ends there. Any provokative tales about life "below stairs" are effectively side stepped, probably owing to the fact that the ancestors are still employed at Highclere and people don't want their family scandals brought into public view. What this book is, is basically a time capsule of a period of time when the great families of England still held almost of fuedal rule over the common people, and people lived lives of opulence even against a changing world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Cole 02-04-13
    E. Cole 02-04-13

    Lisa Lamb

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    "Great insight into the real stories"

    This book not only told the story of the castle, those who lived there but also insight into some of the rules that ran that era.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    07-02-12
    07-02-12 Listener Since 2009
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    "Loved the story and long for a sequel!"
    Where does Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

    This story was very much near the top of the audiobooks I've listened to.


    What other book might you compare Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey to and why?

    I have enjoyed many of the English novelists. I can't really compare this one to others, but felt transported to the castle and its' people; almost as if I could imagine living in that era.


    Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes. I felt sad that there was an ending to the story. Please continue with the family's lives. As least to the point where you won't be sued!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Mountain View, AR, United States 06-25-12
    A. Mountain View, AR, United States 06-25-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Interesting story"
    What made the experience of listening to Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey the most enjoyable?

    Enjoyed this book as it compares to the Downton series, not exactly but close. The details of how people lived during this pre-WWI time is interesting.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The discovery of King Tut's tomb.


    Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No other.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Laugh.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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