Posted Jan 23, 2013 @ 1:07 PM
I recently read the current countess's book about the real events at Highclere, and I recommend it. That story would have made an interesting movie or miniseries. Lady Almina sounded like quite a character. She didn't have to be convinced to turn her home into a war hospital, though. She'd learned nursing while helping her husband recover from a car accident, and I suppose at that time it wasn't a career option for a countess, but she really loved it, so the moment it looked like there might be war, before war was even declared, she was already making hospital plans and getting things set up. However, she was totally in charge of her hospital, with no military oversight, so there was no former footman coming back to be the hospital administrator. In fact, the horrible thing was that it sounded like the military had made no preparations whatsoever for dealing with casualties, and if it hadn't been for these hospitals opened up by various society ladies, there's no telling what would have happened. They funded all this out of their own pockets (or in Almina's case, Rothchild's pockets).
The part I found amusing was the role of the dowager countess. She went to Egypt to see off one of her sons and ended up becoming the harbormaster at Alexandria, coordinating the hospital ships coming from Turkey and the hospital ships going back to England. It was one of those things where it wasn't being coordinated, she stepped in to handle it and soon was officially in charge. She was much younger than Violet, since all of these people were younger than their Downton counterparts and she was the late earl's second wife, so she wasn't that much older than Almina, but I still found myself picturing Violet running the harbor in a war zone.
Then there was the earl's half brother, who should get a movie made about him. He traveled extensively and was a linguist, and he was so popular in Albania that before the war there was even a movement to try to make him king of Albania. His eyesight was too bad for him to get into the army when the war started, but he had his tailor make a perfect replica of the uniform, and when the unit his friends were in marched past on the way to the station to head to France, he just fell in with them, and the higher-ups didn't notice he was there until he was in France and it was too late to send him back. He got wounded and they had to just load him up with morphine and leave him there when they retreated, then the Germans took that area and were surprised to find a groggy Englishman speaking perfect German to them, and then he was rescued when the English took that area back again. He became best buds with Lawrence of Arabia, and they worked together. If you wrote this character in fiction, he'd be called a Gary Stu.