Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon

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Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon
Almina, Countess Carnarvon, later Mrs Ian Onslow Dennistoun (d. 1969).jpg
Lady Carnarvon in Occasion of the Coronation of King Edward VII, 9 August 1902
BornAlmina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell
(1876-08-15)15 August 1876
Paris, France
Died8 May 1969(1969-05-08) (aged 92)
Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England
Ian Onslow Dennistoun
(m. 1923; died 1938)
ChildrenHenry Herbert, 6th Earl of Carnarvon
Lady Evelyn Beauchamp
Parent(s)Alfred de Rothschild
Marie Boyer

Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon (15 August 1876 – 8 May 1969), was the wife of George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, and châtelaine of Highclere Castle in Hampshire.[1] After her second marriage she was known as Almina Dennistoun.


She was born Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell,[2] the only child of Marie Wombwell, née Boyer, the French wife of Captain Frederick Charles Wombwell, a British Army officer. However, her biological father was the banker Alfred de Rothschild, of the Rothschild family, who left her considerable wealth.[3]

On 26 June 1895, at St Margaret's, Westminster, she married George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. The couple had two children:[4]

At the beginning of the First World War Lady Carnarvon opened a hospital for war wounded at Highclere Castle, helping with the organisation and assisting as a nurse.[7] The hospital later moved to Mayfair in London. In 1919 Lady Carnarvon turned down the opportunity of being appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her war work.[8]

The Earl of Carnarvon developed an interest in Egyptology and became the financial backer of the search for Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt, assisted by Almina's wealth. In November 1922 her husband and daughter were present with the archaeologist Howard Carter at the opening of the tomb.

In March 1923 Lady Carnarvon travelled to Egypt to join her husband, who had developed pneumonia. He died on 5 April 1923, and Almina returned to Britain with his body later that month.[9] She continued to provide financial support for Carter's excavation of the tomb until 1925, when she reached a settlement with the Egyptian authorities whereby she gave up any claim on the contents of the tomb in return for £36,000 compensation.[10]

The Carnarvons' only son, Henry Herbert (1898–1987), succeeded his father as sixth earl. Later in 1923 Almina married secondly Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Onslow Dennistoun.

Almina Dennistoun died in 1969 in Bristol, at the age of 92.

High Court case[edit]

In 1925 Almina Dennistoun was involved in a sensational High Court case, known as the "Bachelor's Case", between her husband, Colonel Dennistoun, and his former wife, Dorothy Dennistoun.[11] When they had divorced, Dennistoun had been unable to pay ancillary relief and instead had promised he would provide for his ex-wife in the future, when he had funds.[11] After hearing about Almina's wealth, Dorothy Dennistoun demanded the alimony she had been promised. Almina saw this as blackmail and persuaded her new husband to contest his former wife's claim in the courts, in what Sir Henry McCardie, who tried the case, called "the most bitterly conducted litigation I have ever known".[11] A courtroom speech by Norman Birkett persuaded the jury to decide to disregard the agreement of Dennistoun to pay ancillary relief to his former wife.[12]


  • Carnarvon, Fiona, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle (London: Hodder, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4447-3082-1)
  • Cross, William, The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon (William P.Cross, 2011, ISBN 978-1-905914-07-4)[13]


  1. ^ "Almina Countess of Carnarvon". Lafayette Negative Archive.
  2. ^ Barnard Burke, 1914, p. 387
  3. ^ Guardian book review Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona Carnarvon
  4. ^ Charles Mosley, ed., Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage (Wilmington, Delaware, US: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 107th edition in 3 volumes, 2003)
  5. ^ Henry George Herbert, 6th Earl of Carnarvon
  6. ^ "Burke's Peerage 1970, page 206".
  7. ^ "Highclere Castle official website". Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  8. ^ William Cross. Carnarvon, Carter and Tutankhamun Revisited: The Hidden Truths and Doomed Relationships. p. 47–9 Published by author. 2016. ISBN 9781905914364.
  9. ^ Howard Carter's diaries, Griffith Institute, Oxford
  10. ^ Bill Price. Tutankhamun, Egypt's Most Famous Pharaoh. pp. 132–133. Published Pocket Essentials, Hertfordshire. 2007. ISBN 9781842432402.
  11. ^ a b c Hyde (1965) p. 135.
  12. ^ Hyde (1965) p. 154.
  13. ^ The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon


Further reading[edit]

  • Cross William, Lady Carnarvon's Nursing Homes: Nursing the Privileged in Wartime and Peace. 2011 (ISBN 978-1-905914-03-6).
  • Cross William, The Dustbin Case: An Account of Dennistoun versus Dennistoun. 2012 (ISBN 978-1905914-04-3).
  • Cross William, Lordy! Tutankhamun's Patron As A Young Man. Book Midden Publishing, 2012 (ISBN 978-1-905914-05-0).
  • Cross William, Catherine and Tilly: Porchey Carnarvon's Two Duped Wives: The Tragic Tales of the Sixth Countesses of Carnarvon., Book Midden Publishing, 2013 (ISBN 978-1905914-25-8).
  • Cross William, Carnarvon, Carter and Tutankhamun Revisited. The hidden truths and doomed relationships. Book Midden Publishing, 2016 (ISBN 978-1905914-36-4).

External links[edit]