Going through ‘Downton’ withdrawal
The fifth season of “Downton Abbey” has concluded and we must wait for 10 months to get our next Downton “fix.”
I am reminded that in the early 1970s there was “Upstairs Downstairs,” which was equally as popular as “Downton Abbey” is now. “Upstairs Downstairs” was the saga of the Bellamey family of 165 Eaton Place and their “downstairs” staff led by Mr. Hudson the butler and covering the period from the reign of King Edward VII until the beginning of the Great Depression. “Downton Abbey” begins in 1912 and is the story of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, his family and the downstairs staff who make their lives “bearable.” The downstairs staff is led by Mr. Carson. “Upstairs Downstairs” took place in London and “Downton Abbey” takes place in on the Crawley estate in Yorkshire
Even though the settings are different the relationship between upstairs and downstairs is very similar. The staff is there to serve the family and take care of their every need.
While doing this, the servants are treated almost as if they are pieces of furniture. In both series the years following World War I bring change to both upstairs and downstairs. The aristocracy is no longer quite so rich as before and the advent of Labor Party governments robs them of some of their political power.
Downstairs the staffs begin to realize that there could be more to life than being in service. While British society of the period was not wildly upwardly mobile now there were opportunities for servants that could someday lead them into the middle class.
I’ve never been able to understand exactly why Americans are so taken with British aristocracy. Our forefathers fought two wars to throw off the British yoke and brought forth an egalitarian society where an accident of birth would not determine your state in life. I think that many of us consider ourselves a little superior to the British because of what we like to think of as our classless society.
But whenever PBS broadcasts a show about the British Aristocracy and their “downstairs” retainers, who made life “upstairs” possible, we become glued to our television sets. I don’t believe that my wife and I have missed an episode of what is really an accurate depiction of upper class British life of the period.
However, I realize that the reason many of us are drawn to it is the show’s element of soap opera. I sometimes refer to it as Dynasty Goes to Yorkshire
Sadly for many fans, there are rumors that next year may be its last. There is a belief that the show has run its course and cast members and the show’s creator Julian Fellowes appear ready to move on to other things. Should this be so and if it is the series’ last I think it would be interesting to speculate on what might occur when next we see the Crawleys.
Will Lady Mary find true love and a father for her son? Will that man be a certain Chicago lawyer currently practicing on The Good Wife? Will Lady Mary advise her father that the surest way to save the family homestead is to offer public tours of the Abbey running shuttle buses from a parking lot in the village to the Abbey. Will she also suggest that they open a gift shop selling Downton Abbey themed merchandise? How would he react to such a proposal?
Might Lady Edith publicly declare that Marigold is her daughter, take up permanent residence in London and become a major player in British publishing? Or will it be secretly revealed to her by the British Foreign Office that her lover Michael Gregson actually did not die in the “Beer Hall Putsch.” Having assumed a false identity as a cabaret performer, he is now living in Berlin and has insinuated himself into Hitler’s inner circle supplying British intelligence with valuable information on the Nazi Party. I can almost see a possible new series here.
Will Grandmamma, Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess, finally admit to leading a double life as witch Minerva McGonagall, Chairperson of the Department of Transfiguration and Deputy Headmistress at Hogwarts School Of Wizardry and Magic? Will her old love, exiled Russian Prince Kuragin, be revealed as the long lost son of Wizard and late Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore? Further will it be discovered that the Dowager’s butler Spratt was once a rabbit?
Will Lord Merton come crawling back begging Isobel Crawley to marry him, telling her that his sons have joined the British National Cricket Team that has embarked on a long tour of the Empire.
Will family patriarch Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, finally discover that the 19th century has ended, that women have the vote and should not be patronized? What will happen to Downton Abbey and the family fortune if Lady Mary remarries and moves away while Tom Branson and his daughter join Tom’s brother in business in America?
Can Downton Abbey survive under Robert’s fumbling direction? Could the last scene of the last show of the last season be a long shot of Lord and Lady Grantham, walking down the drive at Downton, hand in hand, carrying cardboard suitcases, bound for a boarding house in the village?
At this stage only series creator Julian Fellowes knows how the plot will turn in season six and he is not saying. So fellow fans endure the coming nine months knowing that all will be revealed next January.
Tom Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org