Saturday, April 9, 2016

Downton Abbey: Back to the Future

Although I haven’t even watched Season 6 (my husband has strict orders to get me the DVD for my upcoming birthday) I’m already in deep, black-dress-and-veil mourning for the end of the series. And I know I’m one of millions.

How will we Downton Abbey fans bear it? No more anticipating watching Lady Mary’s legion of handsome, rich and titled suitors swarming round her like bees to a honey jar. No more commiserating with Lady Edith, who seems destined to be swain-free, despite her lissome figure and English, peaches-and-cream complexion. And no more staring dreamily at Irish hottie Branson, who remains true to Sybil’s memory (despite having his head temporarily turned by a certain snarky, socialist schoolmarm) and who’s a devoted daddy to boot.

Happily for us Downtonophiles, a recent article, “A few cures for ‘Downton Abbey’ withdrawal” (Seattle Times, March 20, 2016, by Beth J. Harpaz) may help us over the worst Downton downtimes. So if you'd like to revisit Downton...

*Highclere Castle, where most of the series was filmed, has tours that are open to the public for a couple of months every year. But hurry! Advance tickets are apparently nearly sold out. For armchair travelers, you can actually get a Highclere app! Only $2.99.

*Also online is a free map from Wayfair, a UK retailer,, that shows over 70 Downton locations, nearly half in London. One spot I think would be super fun to visit is where Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham went for tea, the Great Conservatory at Syon Park in Brentford. Then there’s Stride Travel, a review site. You can find a guide to some Downton locations, including the Horsted Keynes Railway Station, where many a farewell was made by the Downtown lords and ladies.

*In this side of the pond, there’s a traveling exhibition of costumes from the period, which, in the next couple of years, you might find at a museum near you: Chicago, Cincinnati, Anaheim, CA, Nashville, and St. Augustine, Florida! 

Still, even with all these opportunities to experience the show in other guises, it won’t be the same, right? Our love for all things Downton means it’ll never be the same. But where there’s love, there’s hope (as Kerry, one of my Village of Ballydara heroines would say). At least in our imaginations. How might things unfold in the future?

Imagine if Matthew hadn’t gotten killed driving his little roadster on those narrow deathtraps known as English country roads. His adoration for Mary might have continued. Or not. Hopefully it would, and they would have at least two more beautiful blond offspring. She would happily run the estate with him and occasionally, the two of them could commune with the pigs like she did with one of her admirers from her early widowhood.

What about Sybil? If she hadn’t died in childbirth, she and Branson, forever madly in love, might have moved from Downton to Ireland, where her hunky Irish husband would get into rabble-rousing politics. She could continue her nursing profession, which would come in handy as they would raise a houseful of half-Irish revolutionaries who’d come home with cuts and scrapes from all the “barneys” (Irish expression for fights) they’d get into.

How about Lady Rose? I would have liked to see this Downton cousin not settle down quite so soon with Atticus, the conventional young heir to a massive estate. And not kitted out in wifely outfits instead of the gorgeous frocks she wore before she was married. It have been far more intriguing if Rose sowed a few more wild oats, hanging out in dance halls and speakeasies with her improper boyfriends.

Which leaves us with Edith. Since I don’t know what happens to her in Season 6 (no spoilers, please!!) I’m free to imagine the best future for her. A handsome beau (not to old, like her first boyfriend, and not too married, then dead, like her next one) who adores her, and who will love little Marigold like his own. And they’ll live happily ever after on Downton, where all the servants’ wages will go up and the homefarm will prosper and Robert and Cora will have more grandchildren than they know what to do with.

So to treasure our memories of Downton Abbey, maybe we can console ourselves with a lovely cup of tea in an elegant china cup. Then, like the Crawley ladies, we can curl up for a long afternoon nap. Then imagine waking up to a sumptuous five course dinner, with no dishes to do after! Bliss.