As an ardent fan of Downton Abbey, I am always eager to discover the reality behind the fiction. Diane Stoneback’s article The Real Downton Abbey reviewed the recent fan mania for tours of Highclere Castle in Newbury, England – the site of the televised serial, and mentioned Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, a book by Lady Fiona, the current Countess who lives at Highclere with her husband, the Eighth Earl of Carnavon.
In her research on the house’s legacy, Lady Fiona found Lady Almina in the archives – an outsider just like the character Cora – a woman who brought wealth as a substitute for British nobility and respectability, and helped to sustain the Earl’s lifestyle. The book was not in my library system (no surprise) but I downloaded it on my Kindle. So far, I am not disappointed. The storyline is full of details of the lives of the Earl and his wife. The scandals may not be as surreptitious as the televised fiction, but Lady Fiona diligently chronicles their adventures, and it’s easy to imagine them as the inspiration for the Earl of Grantham and his entourage.