Almina was born Almina Wombwell in 1876. Her mother Marie Boyer was French, her father a respectable banker. While her sisters all married well, Marie married a ne'er do well, younger son of a baron named Captain Frederick Wombwell. The couple seperated after Freddie apparently was caught stealing from Marie's parents. Marie soon made the acquaintance of Alfred de Rothschild, the man widely believed to be Almina's father. Even her unusual name Almina was a combination of her parents names. However, although he doted on Almina and left her a fortune, Alfred never openly acknowledged Almina as his. Almina grew up to be beautiful, vivacious and a little bit spoilt. Petite, she was blessed with the curvaceous figure that was then fashionable, Fiona Carnarvon describes her as a "Pocket Venus," throughout the book. Her 'god-father' Alfred doted on her, lavishing her with expensive presents, no doubt to make up for not claiming her as his own. Although a bachelor, he never married Almina's mother, even after her husband died. Apparently he liked his freedom too much, plus Marie was Catholic.
Highclere Castle, as well as the Earl's other properties.
I bought Fiona Carnarvon's book on the day it was published and I find it riveting. While her book deals with a great deal of social history, detailing how an Edwardian household was run, the different roles of the servants, aspects of Edwardian society, Cross's book seems to take a more salacious tone. Just from reading the web-site , he seems to have a less rosy colored view of Almina. According to a recent article in The Daily Mail, Cross claims that Almina had an affair with her husband's best man, Prince Victor Duleep Singh, the son of the deposed Maharajah of Lahore, and that her son, the 6th Earl of Carnarvon was a product of this affair. What this means of course, if it could be proven and I don't see anyone taking a DNA test anytime soon, is that the current Earl is not the real Earl. Given that Prince Victor and his wife were childless, I think the changes that he is the father of 6th Earl are also slim. Although Prince Victor was of mixed race, there was a very good chance that if Almina had been pregnant by him, the child would have dark or tan skin. How was she going to pass the baby off as the Earl's if that had happened? It boggles the mind. Was she going to claim the baby died? Or given it away secretly? I can't imagine that Almina would have taken such a risk, given her own background.
Almina remarried her 2nd husband, not long after the Earl of Carnarvon died in 1923 (his death was considered to part of the Curse of King Tut's tomb). Her 2nd husband was Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Onslow Dennistoun. According to Christopher Wilson's article in The Daily Telegraph, Dennistoun owed his promotion to his wife Dorothy's liaison with the Army's Quartermaster General! Dennistoun and Almina met in Paris in 1920, 3 years before her husband's death. Almost immediately, Almina set him up in a smart cottage. Apparently Almina also used him for money-laundering purposes. She often sold jewelry and works of art that she had inherited from her god-father, and she used Dennistoun's bank accounts to hide the money from the tax man! Almina also apparently was having an affair with a man by the name of Tommy Frost who was also sleeping with Dennistoun's ex-wife Dorothy!
Highclere Castle today