Tooth is definitely stronger than friction, as the dentist said when he kept breaking his drills.

  Courtesy of a wonderful WordPress blogger, I have learnt that my favourite (and only) TV series reflects a lot of actual family history relating to Highclere Castle in Hampshire, which is the ‘real’ Downton Abbey. Furthermore, only a little more digging has revealed that the Castle has been, and is, involved in far more drama than comes out on our little living-room screens on Sunday nights.

  It is still not quite clear to me whether the resemblances to true-life events are coincidence, or if the author of the script, Julian Kitchener-Fellowes (his wife, Emma, is a descendant of Lord Kitchener) did base the story on them. Reviewers describe the resemblances as ‘uncanny’ and ‘amazing’ which would tend one to think they actually came out of his imagination.

  However, he is undoubtedly on good enough terms to have been a house guest at Highclere, and presumably he will have had access to the information contained in a book by Fiona, the present Lady Carnarvon, which takes an apparently too-kindly look at her heiress predecessor. She does not bring in the bits about this Countess’s reputed affair with Prince Victor Duleep Singh, which may be found elsewhere.


   Among the amazingly similar facts in her book are that this ‘pocket Venus’, Almina Wombwell, illegitimate daughter of fabulously wealthy banker Alfred de Rothschild, was given a whopping great dowry and allowance and became Lady Carnarvon, while with the benefit of her lolly the then current Lord Carnarvon was able to keep Highclere from falling about his ears, as well as to carry on with little hobbies like (post-war) financing the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. He wos one of the blokes wot got clobbered by the Curse of Tutankhamun, he wos, though officially his death in Egypt in 1923 – not long after the tomb was discovered – was given as being due to an infected mosquito bite.

  Back to just one of the bits tied in to Downton. Almina did turn the house into a hospital during World War I, but she managed things on a more lavish scale which probably wouldn’t be accepted as credible in a work of fiction. Every patient was assigned a pretty nurse who was required to wear makeup when on duty, for example. She also started a similar hospital in London.

  A snippet of more modern history is a bit of a feud with a ’noveau riche’ neighbour. A certain Lord Lloyd-Webber. Yes, that one. Andrew. This Phantom of their Opera has been waiting in the wings to buy Highclere, and has already snapped up bits surrounding it which they have been forced to trim off to pay for repairs and upkeep. To his credit, though, he did save one chunk from being turned into housing and kept it as farmland.

  Anyway, the Carnarvons do not fancy having him take over the house. Nor do they seem to get on with him. He, in turn, has cocked a snoot at them by sending letters on House of Lords letterheads (to which he is entitled but Carnarvon is not, due to Labour’s hacking at the rights of hereditary Lords) to Council which should have been addressed to them, and things like that. He also declined an invitation to go onto the board of a local hospital of which Lord Carnarvon is a member. (Hospital board politics: sound familiar to you from Downton?)

  I wonder if the series will run for long enough for modern developments like that to get in?   Who do you think will get the part of Lloyd Webber? Perhaps one could run a TV show ‘Looking for Andrew’. Then if he auditions for it himself he can be turned down in the same way as early movie comedian Charlie Chaplin was once rejected in a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest.

 © Colonialist August 2012 (WordPress/Letterdash)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Books, History and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. nrhatch says:

    We LOVE Downton Abbey . . . well drawn characters speaking well scripted lines in a fabulous setting. 😀


  2. flimflamflik says:

    How are you sir? *hugs*


  3. flimflamflik says:

    Did you know that all of today’s banking systems and the US Federal Reserve were all started by the Rothschilds and also the Oppenheimers are relatives?


  4. Marco says:

    Really? All along the show reminded me a quite a lot of the 1970s ITV series, Upstairs Downstairs (okay that is set in London but the feel is very much the same, there is also the war etc). Maybe U/D also borrowed some ideas? The BBC started the “next” series of U/D in 2010 (something like 35 years later?), but I haven’t gotten around to watching that yet, though.


    • colonialist says:

      Heard of that show, but never seen it. I imagine any tale of a stately home with aristocracy and staff would have similarities, just as our soapies tend to be localised versions of Eastenders.


      • Marco says:

        It’s really quite good. It’s true what you say but sometimes you watch DA and think to yourself, hey this was on U/D the other night. Still, good programs are hard to find so bring it on!


  5. Nicola says:

    Fascinating to know all these ins and outs 🙂


  6. Lisaman says:

    Never heard of downtown abbey…Love the programs that depict old english country villages!!


  7. Arkenaten says:

    This is on dstv I presume, which we don’t have and probably not the sort of thing I’d watch if we did. Sounds a bit like Upstairs Downstairs, an almost iconic ‘period’ TV series from the 70’s.

    Almina Wombwell -a surname with mother ‘written’ all over it!


    • colonialist says:

      Methinks far better done that the ups and downs of the 70s. Quite addictive, actually. Worth getting on DVD.
      She did the mother thing alright – question remains with whose, um, input she did it!


  8. optie says:

    Truth is often stranger than fiction – thanks for sharing 🙂


  9. adinparadise says:

    I’ve seen the whole lot,including the Christmas special, and can’t wait for the next series. What a fantastic, story, true or not. 🙂


  10. footsy2 says:

    Two episodes down and I am truly hooked 🙂


  11. Ruth2Day says:

    now I never took you for the gossipy type, but I’m pretty darn glad to hear you are! I can’t wait for series 3 to air. I watched series 2 and the Xmas special from DVD as.


  12. My son’s girlfriend is good friends with the present daughter of the house…


  13. Excellent round-up, Col 😀 Honoured to have started the train of thought. The Carnarvons have a wealth of history, feuds old and new, and eccentricities too many to number. When you have a stately pile like that you’re allowed the occasional oddity, I guess.


  14. footsy2 says:

    Do so love this kind of gossip 🙂 Shall look for the series online.


  15. newsferret says:

    Love that one on Charlie Chaplin!!


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