Stately suppers, shifty servants, and scandalous secrets. Welcome to Downton Abbey
WE’RE FULL SWING INTO THE 1920’S in the latest season of Downton and things just aren’t what they used to be. Technology is changing a mile a minute, fashion is being flipped on its head, the downstairs folks are sensing a change in the social order, and the Crawley’s are throwing a cocktail party. What’s a dowager to do?
While the show is a mixture of soap opera and costume drama, it has a foundation built on real events and people. From the set and decor to the actors’ mannerisms and costumes, the show’s production team strives to be as historically accurate as possible, paying close attention to the details of early 20th century aristocratic life. The set for Downton is an actual castle. Highclere Castle is in the rural hills of England and comes complete with its own real life Earl and Countess of Carnarvon who currently operate the estate. The castle has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1697.
Lady Almina, the Earl’s great grandmother, can be credited with inspiring Cora’s background.
A wealthy heiress with a large dowry, though from a less than ideal family background, Lady Almina was able to marry into becoming the fifth countess of Carnarvon. She was responsible for using her father’s money to transform the castle into a “modern day” estate, adding electricity and having a telephone line installed, a similar transition to the one Downton underwent.
Lady Almina’s husband and the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert, was an amateur Egyptologist who financed the search for Tutankhamun’s tomb among other archeological expeditions. On November 4, 1922 alongside Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon opened King Tut’s tomb to reveal the first intact tomb ever discovered and one of the greatest archeological finds in history. The find created a media frenzy and only intensified with the death of the Earl shortly after the discovery, leading to press speculation that the Pharaoh's curse had claimed his life. While there are no Egyptian adventures at Downton Abbey, there is a reference made to the discovery in Lord Grantham’s dogs being named Isis and Pharaoh.
Our favorite butler, Carson, also has a real life counterpart in the current butler at Highclere Castle.
Colin Edwards has served three generations of Earls and learned his trade directly from a butler to the Queen. While Highclere Castle didn’t serve as a recovery center for troops after WWII, it did serve as a hospital during WWI thanks to Lady Almina’s kindness. Tying closely to Sybil’s storyline, she also became a nurse helping injured patients who in return sent hundreds of letters thanking her for her hard work and generosity. After WWII it was converted by the Countess into a home for evacuated children.
Now for some scandal. Remember when the Turkish diplomat met an ill fate in Mary’s bed?
Well, something similar actually happened during that time period and was recorded in the diary of a great aunt of a family friend of Downton’s creator, Julian Fellowes. A diplomat was smuggled into a single young woman’s room where he died. He was then carried back to his room in a panic by the lady and the matron without waking anyone else. Fellowes refuses to reveal the identity of the family or the estate where the event happened, so the secret shall remain in real life as on Downton.
As we go deeper into season 5 it is rumored that Downton may potentially be closing it’s doors after season 6. So what better time to reminisce on the period drama. Whether it is Lady Grantham’s witty remarks, the beautiful costumes or the drama that keep you coming back for more, you’re certainly not alone. DeviantArtists share in the love of Downton Abbey, delighting us with fan art from the series.
So, get ready to dine with Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess this evening. Dress in your finest formal wear, lest you upset Mr. Carson, and enjoy a night full of marvelous Downton Abbey fan art.
I love you Mr. Bates. I know it’s not ladylike to say it, but I’m not a lady and I don’t pretend to be.”
War has a way of distinguishing between the things that matter and the things that don’t.”
I hope you know that really smart people sleep in separate rooms.”
Are you afraid someone will think you’re American if you speak openly?”
Are you like everyone else in thinking that because she’s a countess she has acquired universal knowledge by divine intervention?”
- Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character and why?
- What would you like to see in future editions of Fan Art Friday?