Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon

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Lady and Lord Carnarvon at the races in June 1921

Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon (15 August 1876 – 8 May 1969), was an English aristocrat, wife of George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, and châtelaine of Highclere Castle in Hampshire. [1]

Life[edit]

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 military officer. Her biological father was millionaire banker Alfred de Rothschild.[1]

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:[3]

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

In March 1923 she travelled to Egypt to be with her husband who had developed pneumonia. The Earl died on 5 April 1923 and Almina returned with his body to England later that month.[4]

The only son, Henry George Alfred Marius Victor Francis Herbert (1898–1987), succeeded his father as sixth earl. Almina remarried in the same year to Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Onslow Dennistoun. She continued to finance Howard Carter's work in the Valley of the Kings.

Lady Carnarvon died in diminished circumstances in 1969 in Bristol, at the age of 92.

High Court case[edit]

In 1925 the Countess of Carnarvon was involved in a sensational court case, known as the "Bachelor's Case" at the High Court of Justice between her husband Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Dennistoun and his ex-wife Dorothy Dennistoun.[5] When the Dennistouns divorced, Mr Dennistoun could not pay ancillary relief. He instead promised that he would provide for his ex-wife in the future when he had the money.[5] After hearing about Almina's wealth after the marriage, Dorothy Dennistoun demanded the alimony money she had been promised. Almina saw this as blackmail and persuaded her new husband to take his ex-wife to court for what Sir Henry McCardie, who tried the case, called "the most bitterly conducted litigation I have ever known".[5] A brilliant courtroom speech by Norman Birkett persuaded the jury to decide to disregard the agreement of Mr Dennistoun to pay ancillary relief to his former wife.[6]

Biographies[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, US: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003).
  4. ^ Griffith Institute, Oxford: Howard Carter's diaries
  5. ^ a b c Hyde (1965) p. 135.
  6. ^ Hyde (1965) p. 154.
  7. ^ The Life and Secrets of Almina Carnarvon

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]