Divas of Downton Abbey: Southern Style

Watching episodes of Downton Abbey is like scarfing down balls of caramel corn while swilling champagne.                   The New Yorker

I encountered Julian Fellowes, writer and creator of the Downton Abbey series, when he played Kilwillie, a distillery-owning character in the British drama series Monarch of the Glen. As an actor, he never succeeded in winning the hand of Molly, the land-rich, but beleaguered widow, the girl of his dreams. But as master mind of an award-winning PBS series set in post-Edwardian England, Oscar-winning Fellowes is surrounded by drama and divas galore.

Presented in an Upstairs, Downstairs format, Downton Abbey, now in its 4th season, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and the servants who work for them. If you are a devotee, you know that jealousy, revenge, and closely guarded secrets power the plot portrayed by glittering, gossipy, and beguiling men and women against a backdrop of history, politics, and the march of technology.

The series Downton Abbey, a Masterpiece Theatre classic, is now a flourishing brand and there is merchandising to match:

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Tuesday evening, my Southern friends and I, escorted by husband Cliff, brave the mild wintry weather to attend a premiere of the 4th season at WJCT, Jacksonville’s PBS station. Period costumes are encouraged and attendees do their best to comply with apparel from the Edwardian period to the flapper age.

We begin with an appetizer at our house:

Mincemeat tarts from Scotland
Mincemeat tarts from Scotland

Tickets and a programme:

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Then oohs and aahs over wardrobe choices!

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And there is a flapper in our midst, heralding the coming decade!

The lovely Susan Smathers

Finally, the new episode begins!

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After the screening, inquiring minds want to know:

What zingers did Lady Violet fire off?

After her period of mourning, who will be Lady Mary’s next love interest?

What new technology is introduced?

Who is in Carson’s arms at the end of the episode?

The mysteries of Downton Abbey are made all the more fascinating by the true story of the castle in which the series is filmed, Highclerc Castle, whose history is recounted narrative-style by its current owner, the Countess of Carnarvon, in her book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclerc Castle by the Castle of Carnarvon.

Are you a Downton Abbeyite? We are dying to know why. Or why not. Add your bit to the conversation!

There is still time to read and respond to my entry in the My Gutsy Story Contest posted on the website of award-winning author Sonia Marsh:

Rising Above the Pettiness to Focus on the Positive

 

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32 thoughts on “Divas of Downton Abbey: Southern Style

  1. Marian – I enjoyed the way you relayed this FUN event!

    We haven’t had a television in over 33 years, but we DO, indeed, get Downton Abbey DVD’s — by season — from the library. Because of their release dates, we’re always one season behind so I’m tickled pink you didn’t give anything away!

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    1. I’m glad you are tickled pink while piquing your interest. Except for a few shows like those on PBS, you are not missing much on TV these days. Thanks for stopping by and commenting today, Laurie.

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      1. Marian – The cool thing about “watching TV” through DVDs borrowed from the library is that we can be extremely selective in what we view, without commercial distraction. From old-time programs, to current shows — behind by a season — (but I hear tell that the turtle wins the race)…

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  2. I just finished the last episode of season 3 with Mom last night! I was horrified by its conclusion, but I’ll still be back for more. In fact, I just purchased a Downton Abbey cookbook. 🙂

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  3. I watched all of Season III and parts of the first two. I seldom watch TV, but I like supporting a PBS show and having millions of other fans with whom to share the experience. You and your friends did a splendid job on your costumes. Southern Edwardians. Has a nice ring to it.

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  4. Making connections and learning something new–that’s what it’s all about. Yes, we “Southern Edwardians” will morph into something else soon: Be on the lookout!

    I liked your Facebook item on being snowbound. . . reminds me of the famous Whittier poem.

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  5. Oh yes, indeed I am. My PBS station here in Vermont holds a similar gala, but not until January 5, the day before the next season begins. Are you saying Season 4 has already begun where you are? If so, I’m moving to Jacksonville. Happy viewing.

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    1. No, the season has not officially begun here. However, our PBS station held a gala featuring a preview of the first hour of the 2-hour premiere (Yeah!!) beginning January 5. Because curious minds want to know: There are a total of 8 episodes: January 5 – February 23. Shirley MacLaine is returning as guest star and a new guest star Paul Giamatti, will be introduced as Cora’s American brother. Now you know more than most about Downton Abbey, Season 4.

      Today, Julian Fellowes and 3 cast members were interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show. Maybe you caught it. If not, you can get a re-broadcast on her website. Main take-away: Straight-laced Carson is actually a goofy, white-haired guy, pulling one-liners on the set.

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  6. I’d love to be but haven’t had the time to get into a series. It always seemed to be on at a bad time (plus it’s not Hubby’s “cup of tea”. One day I will get a hold of it – and like that bottle of champagne, I will indulge in the whole thing and it will be blissful! 🙂 My Mom read the book and said it was really good…but she hasn’t passed it on yet…. 😉

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  7. I’m putting the Downton Abbey Gala on my calendar next year. It was great fun! I believe there were as many men as women at the event.

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        1. Yes, indeed. I’m looking forward to the “Midwife” special on December 29. And to think the series is based on the diaries of a Midwife in the 1950s. She probably imagined she was leading an ordinary sort of life.

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          1. Yes–but either she or someone convinced her that her life was not ordinary, since her book was published. I’ve not read it yet. At the time, she was probably too busy to even stop and think about it!

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  8. I am also eagerly awaiting the return of Downton Abbey. At the end of last season, I said I wouldn’t be since Julian had “killed” off two of my favorite characters, but over time we do mellow. And I’ll be ready and in place with knitting in my lap plus a kitty to watch the new year unfold.

    The event sounds wonderful, and then to see all of you Southerners in your finest for the affair was just too great! Nice to know your escort will be waiting to accompany you again next year. 🙂

    I have read the book you mention and it is a great piece of historical writing. And the fact that is written by the current Lady of Downton Abbey makes it all the richer.

    Thanks for this fun stop as I catch up on my “reading.”

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    1. Thanks for the visit, busy lady. I am finding many of my blog readers are also Downton devotees. Do you watch “Call the Midwife” too? Sunday, December 29 a special edition of that show airs. There’s is just something about British drama, hmmm.

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  9. Ah just lovely Marian thank you! And the photos of all you ‘ladies’ …
    Can’t wait for the new series … we were glued to our seats on Sunday evenings …
    I love British drama .. the House of Cards (the British one) was wonderful! Gripping!

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