Further Reviews and Comments on
" The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon"
The 5th Countess of Carnarvon of Tutankhamun Fame
by William Cross, FSA Scot
Feedback from Readers
" The story of Almina is well worth the telling and the amount of research put into it is prodigious. A truly astonishing woman in every respect, not least her extraordinary diverse amorous tastes, spanning the social spectrum from belted earls to artisans, not to mention her ability to get through money "
HGK, Herefordshire, England.
" Almina was certainly a colourful character and I think your book is great.."
BB, Bedfordshire, England.
Your book, or books, since the research notes are almost a companion volume so rich are they in detail, is a triumph and it was a complete delight to read.
CW, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.
The South Wales Argus
"...A beautiful monster's life of scandal....voyeurism, betrayal, sexual shenanigans and other secrets of the upper crust laid bare..."
" When he lights a fuse William Cross likes to ensure a satisfyingly large explosion..."
Almina is a " crashing snob, who were she a man would be considered a Lord Flashman and a cad of the worst type, she was by turns charming and ruthless, profigate and greedy, shallow and vain but always, always fascinating..."
..." the aristocratic elite of inter-war London society wheeling around her like stars in her own obsessed and naricissistic firmament..."
"..involving blackmail, adultery, fraud, homosexuality, snobbery and casual cruelty, The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon is an everyday story of inter-war gentlefolk..."
MB, South Wales Argus, 28 May 2011.
" Many thanks for the book which arrived today. It is absolutely outstanding. It is an important piece of British history......"
"......there is no question in my mind that anyone of substance will find this an important work. It is just a question of getting enough people to read it."
ALJ, Texas, USA.
Review by Philip Wray
A very comprehensive book review of "The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon" from local historian, Philip Wray, can be found at his tribute site to the small village of Preston, Hertfordshire, England. Lady Carnarvon and her second husband, Lt Colonel Ian Onslow Dennistoun, lived at Temple Dinsley, near Preston, in the period from 1929-1935. Click below to go to this link.
Review by Alex Cameron
I first became aware of Almina, Countess of Carnarvon as I made my way through the many books that have been published concerning the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb, however her mention always seemed to be as an adjunct to the main story, except for her role in tidying up Lord Carnarvon's estate after the 5th Earl died in Egypt. There was very little mention of her part in this amazing story. It was not until I read H.V. Winstone's, excellent book, "Howard Carter and the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun" that I finally got my first insight into the complex character that was Almina. Towards the end of the book, Winstone dedicates an appendix to Almina, for as he puts it "Publishing economics make it necessary to keep within acceptable limits of relevance in writing a biography, the temptation to write at length about the fascinating woman whom Carnarvon married in 1895, was resisted ....On reflection, however, a brief supplementary note is called so that an important aspect of the search for the tomb of Tutankhamen is available to the reader"
Will Cross has now written the full story. Just to be clear though, this is not a re-telling of the story of discovery, it is a a biography of Almina as she brushes past the history makers. It is a vivid account of the tumultuous life of one of the lesser known players in the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen. It is also journey through time, and of events that were the turn of the century and the First World War and the lives of the ruling class.
During the reading of this book I was reminded of the closing remarks Rod Serling made at the end of the Twilight Zone episode "Bunny Blake... ". It goes, " We are all travellers. The trip starts in a place called birth--and ends in that lonely town called death. And that's the end of the journey...." - and this is the way Will Cross crafts this, almost personal biography of Almina. You can see his heart was in this book by the degree of research that has gone into it; as such it is not a trivial account of Almina and her times, but a truthful, well told, catalogue of her life, the people around her and her many contradictions. In this sense it is absolutely fascinating, in her quest for money she had an almost sociopathic behaviour. And this is the sad part of her life, despite having access to a dowry (from her father, Baron Alfred Rothschild) of over £500,000 (£30m pounds in today's money) when she married Lord Carnarvon in 1895, not to mention his also "unstinting generosity" towards her during his life. But she squandered it all. But not all, to no good. Apart from her ( until now) untold role in providing the financial wherewithal to fund the excavations in Egypt that led to the discovery of Tutankhamen's Tomb, she also contributed greatly to the care of the injured soldiers of the first world war and the building of hospitals for them. She had affairs, she loved, lived and died - where her body rests, no one knows.
As a foot-note, if you are interested in the history of Tutankhamen, you will probably have heard of Highclere castle. Highclere Castle has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1679. The castle is featured in the BBC television series "Downton Abbey" and if you buy the DVD there is a short segment on the history of the house, within the segment the present Countess of Carnarvon also remarks on the amazing influence Almina had on the house, and indeed, the times. Co-incidentally, the Downton Abbey saga is set around the same time as Almina glided through history.
Except for perhaps a biography on Lady Evelyn Herbert, quite possibly, with this biography, the last bit of the Tutankhamen's puzzle that has now fallen into place.