Book Review: Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey

By Countess Fiona Carnarvon

If you’re a fan of the PBS series, Downton Abbey then you’re likely familiar with the show’s setting, Highclere Castle. This book, one of two written by the current Countess of Carnarvon, gives the reader a look into the real history of Highclere Castle. This book focuses mainly on the 1920s and 30s, and Lady Catherine, formerly Catherine Wendell. Lady Catherine was an American socialite who married the 6th Earl.

The research for this book comes from the Highclere’s extensive archives, including photos, diaries, and scrapbooks. The book includes a large number of images, including photos and letters, scattered throughout.

The real life story of Highclere Castle, and its occupants, is every bit as dramatic as the story depicted in the Downton Abbey series. The book is well-organized and eloquently written. At times, I found myself wondering if I was reading a biography of Lady Catherine or a biography of Highclere Castle. The story is largely focused around the house to the point where the people felt like they were playing a supporting role. I would have liked a little more focus on the individuals. That being said, the writing in this book is so beautiful, I found myself getting lost in the prose and really forgetting I was reading non-fiction.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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