The real Downton Abbey  FEB 23 2012

Downton Abbey (the house) on Downton Abbey (the TV show) is played by Highclere Castle, the county seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Over on the Paris Review site, Meredith Blake has a brief history of the family that currently lives there.

Downton Abbey fans will note the striking parallels between Almina's life and that of her fictional counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley. This is hardly an accident: Lady Carnarvon and her husband, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, affectionately known as Geordie, have been friends with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes for more than a decade. Though Lady Carnarvon calls Fellowes a "genius," she's too involved with the show to call herself a fan. "It's too much of a bloody muddle," she says.

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