Monday, February 10, 2014
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey, by The Countess of Carnavorn
Author: Lady Fiona J.M. Aitken Herbert, The Countess of Carnarvon
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
View on Amazon
Source: NetGalley, Edelweiss
It's less revealing of the "real" Downton Abbey than the previous book by Countess Carnavorn, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, but I still found it an interesting and enjoyable read. It's particularly interesting to get a glimpse into what life was like for the English (and American) upper classes in the 1920's and '30's. This book follows the life of Catherine Wendell, wife of the 6th Earl of Carnarvon, as well as the later years of her mother-in-law, Lady Almina.
The events and scandals of the day are certainly interesting (particularly Lady Almina's unlikely involvement in a divorce trial), but the thing I found the most interesting was the history of Highclere Castle itself. Like the fictional Crawley family from Downton Abbey, the Carnarvons have had to adjust to changing times and fight to keep Highclere. The book details the ways the family has struggled to pay taxes, maintain the farmlands and retain ownership of their estate, all things mirrored by their television counterparts. But one of the things that has recently secured the future of Highclere Castle is the show itself. Allowing Downton Abbey to be shot onsite and opening the castle up to visitors has provided a much needed financial cushion for the Carnarvons in order to maintain the expensive castle.