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

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle - Fiona,  Countess of Carnarvon Not quite what I expected... but that doesn't make it a bad read. It's a rather in-depth look at Lady Almina, 5th Countess of Carnarvon. But it's almost overly impersonal, and I think that's my beef.Of course, the author daren't take too many liberties and try to give her real-life people thoughts or motives. So she almost overcompensates with details - like how much everything cost, the number of this or that... There's a lot of fascinating information inside, revealing quite a bit about what it must be like to be part of the aristocracy of that day. And I found it really amusing and amazing that Lady Almina was actually the illegitimate daughter of Alfred Rothschild and a French woman, who was of French aristocratic background but was shunned, not only because of her affair with Rothschild, but also because of her actual husband and his bad choices. Really brought home the double-standards of that day. Luckily for Almina, Rothschild didn't have a problem spoiling her, presenting the front to the world that he was her "godfather". He lavished both her mother and her with everything money could buy. And apparently, money could buy an English title.It SEEMS as if Almina was in love with her husband. The author states it many times, but it's tough to really know. In that day, aristocratic marriages were still made for money, power, and position. The Earl of Carnarvon needed money and heirs; Almina wanted the position and power of being an accepted part of the aristocracy, because marrying the earl gave her the legitimacy that had been denied her most of her life. Regardless of whether or not they were in love, they seemed to have a good life together; they seemed to have a good balance of talents and interests, and in many ways, they spent more time together than most married couples in the aristocracy of their day.The telling thing to me, however, is the number of house parties they hosted. It seems as if these two were never really alone, not even while traveling, since they mostly traveled with groups of friends or associates of the earl's. It made me wonder if they were ABLE to be together, just the two of them, for more than a few hours.Almina and the earl managed to have two children - the heir, Henry (called Porchy, his father's previous nickname for who knows what reason) and a daughter, Evelyn (Eve). Eve was very close to both her parents, and she often traveled with her father when her mother didn't or was unable to. Henry/Porchy didn't seem to have much of a relationship with his parents, especially his father, although if you know much about the English aristocracy, that wasn't all that unusual for the time. But it's sure a shame. Because these folks were so generous with their lives and houses and resources - they treated their servants very well, better than most; when they turned their house into a hospital for recovering WWI soldiers, the staff, wounded, and their families couldn't say enough good about them; the earl and Lady Almina contributed to many social causes and charities. So it seems very strange, indeed, that they couldn't seem to treat their son as well as their servants or strangers. Hmmmm...I also wasn't aware that the earl was one of those who funded and discovered the King Tut tomb discovery with Carter. The earl's death followed not long after, and the newspapers purported it to be a pharaoh's curse, starting a lot of speculation that lasts until this day. The press also made several interesting correlations between King Tut and the earl, although that seems really stretching it.All around, this is an interesting biography. And it does give a realistic insight into the world of Downton Abbey. It shows that, while the PBS mini-series is quite accurate in so many ways, it's definitely drama - a product of TV, not necessarily real-life.