Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting down with Downton Abbey

Lady Almina, © Highclere Castle Archive
“We found a staircase recently. That was quite exciting.” That's Lady Carnarvon of Highclere Castle (a.k.a. Downton Abbey) discussing her ancestral digs with The Paris Review's Meredith Blake.  Lady C has written a book about her family that parallels many aspects of the BBC series, while being engrossing in its own right.
Widely believed to be the illegitimate daughter of industrialist Alfred de Rothschild and his French mistress, Marie Wombwell, Almina married George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, in 1895, when she was just nineteen. In Lady Carnarvon’s telling, it was a felicitous match romantically and financially. Dubbed “the Pocket Venus,” diminutive Almina was a renowned beauty, reportedly besotted with her new husband, a budding Egyptologist. More important, perhaps, Almina brought to her marriage the cash desperately needed to run Highclere. Lady Carnarvon’s book focuses on the tumultuous years of World War I, when Almina converted her palatial estate into a convalescent hospital for wounded officers, and ends rather abruptly in 1924, shortly after the Earl’s untimely death.
Howard Carter & Lord Carnarvon
Yep, he's the same Carnarvon who discovered King Tut. Mayhap we'll see a BBC series about the two of them!
Actually, I'm fantasizing about a Downton Abbey version of Clue. Lord Grantham in the library with the substitute parlourmaid (how could he?— bad plot turn in my opinion); Lady Mary in the bedchamber with the Turkish gentleman; Lady Sybil in the garage with Branson the chauffeur (for the umpteenth time); ladies' maid O'Brien eavesdropping in the anteroom; footman Thomas lurking about somewhere (telltale ash of perpetual cigarette); Mrs Patmore in the kitchen slapping together some poison tarts; the Dowager Countess setting everyone to rights in the drawing room, etc. … any suggestions? Well, if you're also having Downton withdrawal, you're unlikely to find a lower price for the DVDs than here (and the second one has interviews with the cast).


  1. That's EVIL footman Thomas...!

  2. Not to mention: O'Brien in the bath with a bar of soap; Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew in the foyer with a dance; and still unsolved "Poisoner" in the Bates' flat with arsenic. Stay tuned.

  3. Downton Abbey is all the rage right now.I have yet to watch one episode. I gotta get hip to the program.