Lady-Catherine-and-the-Real-Downton-AbbeyMy beloved gave me a book for Christmas.  It was a book I’d never have chosen for myself because I am a hypocritical literary snob who believes that any 21st century writer called The Countess of Carnarvon couldn’t possibly write anything of interest to me.  But you know how this story ends, don’t you?

The book was great.  Well written and fascinating.  I really enjoyed it.

As I noted over at Whispering Gums recently, it seems that I read in order to learn about myself…

I’m not going to review the book but here’s the blurb from the back cover:

A beautiful American heiress, a young Lord and an English castle.  Catherine Wendell was only twenty years old when she married Lord Porchester and became the chatelaine of Highclere Castle, the setting for Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey.  Charming and charismatic, Catherine had caught the eye of Lord Porchester, or ‘Porchey’ as she called him, at a ball in 1922.  They fell deeply in love, and less than a year later Catherine found herself suddenly in charge of a small army of staff, hosting lavish banquets and weekend house parties at Highclere Castle.  But as the 1920s drew to a close, Catherine began to lose her beloved husband to the distractions of London.  When the Second World War broke out, Catherine’s life at the Castle would never be the same again.

So far so melodramatic.  But the book is better than that, providing some genuine historical insights.  Porchey’s chat with King Edward VIII about Mrs Simpson, in an attempt to dissuade the King from marrying her was rebutted with “No, no, Porchey, it’s her brain.  I can’t tell you what a wonderful woman she is.”  Nice.  But given the King’s political proclivities, I can only dislike him slightly less…

The Countess of Carnarvon is a lucid, engaging writer and I was happily enthralled, right to the last page.  In fact as I read, I became more and more interested in the 21st century Lady Carnarvon.  Who was this anachronism?

It turns out she’s quite the entrepreneur and the estate is her small business.  Although with 80 employees, it’s not really such a ‘small’ business.

I found out more about Lady C here: