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 lady, 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.

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 army officer. However, her biological father was the banker Alfred de Rothschild.[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 England 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 diminished circumstances 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]

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. ^ [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

Sources[edit]

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