The Real Downton Abbey – Diaries of Highclere Castle’s Aristocrats


Downton Abbey fans won’t be disappointed by Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon. I listened to the audiobook edition narrated by Sandra Duncan, Jenny Oglivie, and Andrew Wincott.

This is the story of a privileged class born to its wealth. After compiling the diaries of Lady Catherine, an American beauty, and descendant of Washington and Lee, who married the 6th Earl of Carnarvon, the present day Countess of Carnarvon shared its history.

The book begins in the 1920s and listening to its splendid narration, you feel transported to music playing on a gramophone, the clinking of cocktail glasses, the whispers of secret affairs, and the giddy feeling of living life all the way up. Royalty, led by Prince George and Prince Edward, who famously abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson, visits and delights the kitchen staff by going downstairs to say thank you. They feast on quail in aspic while wearing glam clothes even on days when they don’t leave the castle.

Beauty and wealth didn’t insulate Catherine from suffering. Her husband, nicknamed “Porchey”, was a womanizer, who took trips alone and left her drinking alone in the castle. Catherine eventually leaves Porchey and finds contentment in a second marriage.

Although some of the diary entries may seem like unnecessary detail, a decision about what’s necessary is of course subjective, and it’s glorious that the present day Countess has shared Highclere Castle’s history imparted by its aristocratic inhabitants. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to glimpse the inside of a club few ever joined.

You can see The Real Downton Abbey at Amazon by clicking on the link below:
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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