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
Born Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell
(1876-08-15)15 August 1876
Died 8 May 1969(1969-05-08) (aged 92)
Highclere Castle, Hampshire
Spouse(s) George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (m. 1895; d. 1923)
Ian Onslow Dennistoun (m. 1923; d.1938)

Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon (14 April 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, 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]

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.[5]

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. She continued to finance Howard Carter's work in the Valley of the Kings.

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.[6] 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.[6] 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 defend 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".[6] A brilliant courtroom speech by Norman Birkett persuaded the jury to decide to disregard the agreement of Dennistoun to pay ancillary relief to his former wife.[7]


  • 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 (2011, ISBN 978-1-905914-07-4)[8]


  1. ^ "Sitter: Almina Countess of Carnarvon, later Mrs. Ian Onslow Dennistoun, née Almina Victoria Marie Alexandra Wombell (d. 1969).". Lafayette Negative Archive. 
  2. ^ Barnard Burke, 1914, p. 387
  3. ^ [1]
  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. ^ Howard Carter's diaries, Griffith Institute, Oxford
  6. ^ a b c Hyde (1965) p. 135.
  7. ^ Hyde (1965) p. 154.
  8. ^ The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon


Further reading[edit]

  • Cross William, Carnarvon, Carter and Tutankhamun Revisited. The hidden truths and doomed relationships, Book Midden Publishing, 2016 (ISBN 978-1905914-36-4).
  • 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).

External links[edit]