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)