a fond farewell to downton abbey

“All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” ~ Violet

 

The soufflés are sinking, the puddings are pouting, the meringues have taken to incessant weeping.

I fear much of our “unbridled joy” is rapidly dissipating — Downton Abbey is ending its 6-year run on PBS with the series finale on March 6!

Only one more episode to go. No!😦😦😦

Treated myself to a Crawley family Spode Stafford White cup and saucer just to drown my sorrows.

I’ve been hooked since Season One, Episode 1, only too willing to spend my Sunday evenings with the entire Crawley family at their opulent digs in Yorkshire. Not since the original “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971-1975) have I been so emotionally invested in the lives of an aristocratic British family and their servants. I find the entire class system fascinating, rooting for those who would dare defy the established social order, sympathetic to characters grappling with changes beyond their control.

Today serving Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea: “This decadent dessert tea has the homemade flavors of vanilla cake drizzled with rich caramel sauce.” Good afternoon tea, a perfect pairing with puddings, scones, and shortbread.

Indeed, when I first started watching Downton, I was instantly reminded of “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The time periods somewhat overlapped, with UD beginning about a decade before the sinking of the Titanic and ending in 1930. Both series revealed interesting aspects of post-Edwardian social life set against significant historical events. Instead of Mrs Patmore there was Mrs Bridges, instead of Daisy, there was kitchen maid Ruby. Bellamy son James marries his secretary Hazel as Crawley daughter Sybil marries chauffeur Tom Branson — both compelling, frowned-upon liaisons championing the triumph of true love over all impediments.

But there the similarities end. While UD took place in a swanky Belgravia townhouse, Downton is set at a large country estate. It was a much more lavish production (with an estimated £1 million per episode budget), a sumptuous, cinematic banquet produced for the small screen that ingeniously sated audience appetite for gratifying escapism.

Carson-Hughes Wedding (photo by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV)

The real world is messy, chaotic, tumultuous, crazy, violent, unjust. Is it any wonder we crave and appreciate the carefully delineated world of Downton Abbey with its beautiful costumes and set design, meticulous attention to historical detail, fascinating characters we love and love to hate so brilliantly acted and directed? There’s nothing quite like the reassurance that comes with having everyone and everything in its prescribed place.

Edith, Mary and Tom with their children Marigold, George, and Sybbie (via PBS.org).

Though we were served a romanticized version of life upstairs and down, we were also reminded of many too often forgotten human virtues: loyalty, temperance, manners, civility, industry, and above all, respect. I got shivers every time the staff rose from their seats whenever Mr Carson entered the servant’s hall or stood up from the table. Oh, that respect for authority! Sure, there was that fear that if you dare step out of line you would be out the door in seconds flat. But there’s something to be said for genuine regard, and thanks to Julian Fellowes’s masterful writing, we did see that, witnessing relationships that rang true and gave us hope.

Goodbye white bunting, piggy back rides with Mr. Barrow, meeting the love of your life while exiting a bakery in a rainstorm!

*

Sophie McShera (Daisy) and Lesley Nicol (Mrs Patmore) have become great friends in real life (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV).

MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS

I like how all the main characters, both upstairs and down, were afforded equal attention and interesting story lines, giving us a chance to know them in more depth. Of course I’ll always be partial to Mrs Patmore and Daisy, and it’s been a joy to watch their relationship change from a feisty cook bossing around a lowly kitchen maid to a unique friendship marked by a mutual, well-earned familial regard for each other. I think we’re all happy that Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes finally tied the knot, and it’s also been wonderful to see Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore become confidantes and support each other through several personal challenges.

The wedding reception at the village school was laid out so beautifully (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV).

Most surprising was probably how my feelings for Mr Moseley changed. I didn’t think too much of him at first — he seemed such a sad sack always down on his luck (though he did provide welcome comic relief — remember when he dyed his hair? :D). But gradually we saw what a kind and resourceful person he was, always encouraging Daisy in her studies and reassuring Baxter with her Mr Coyle problems. He took the initiative to educate himself and it was so gratifying to see him come into his own as a teacher in the end.

Mr. Moseley was played by Kevin Doyle (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV).

I also like how Edith evolved. Both she and Mary were cruel and nasty at times, but she ultimately came into her own too, deciding to keep Marigold despite the inevitable scandal, and later asserting her independence as a magazine publisher. “Poor Edith” became a kind of mantra when she was jilted at the altar and later lost Michael Gregson. We couldn’t help but root for her, keeping our fingers crossed that she, too, might have a happy ending after all.

Laura Carmichael (Edith) is also a middle sister in real life. Apparently she got the part because the casting director thought she resembled Maggie Smith.
Guess what Joanne Froggatt’s next role is? Serial killer! (Nick Briggs/Carnival Films/ITV)

And then there’s Anna — so good, so devoted, so true. It’s to her credit that she was able to earn Mary’s trust. Mary, who couldn’t confide in her own sisters, bonded with her lady’s maid. The wonderful scenes between them allowed us to see a side of Mary she often kept hidden — vulnerable, generous, fearful. Their relationship also showed us that it’s not always about class or station, people are simply people when it comes to the important things like friendship, loyalty and love.

ITV/Carnival
Violet and Isobel: the best of frenemies (ITV/Carnival).

Speaking of which, Downton Abbey probably resonated with such a wide audience because its overriding theme was LOVE. Most of the main story lines hinged upon some aspect of it: young romantic love (Mary & Matthew, Mary & Henry, Sybil & Tom, Edith & Michael, Edith & Bertie, Anna and Mr Bates, Rose & Atticus); mature love (Mr Carson & Mrs Hughes, Isobel & Lord Merton, Cora & Robert); unrequited love (Daisy & Alfred, Thomas & Jimmy, Alfred & Ivy), singular friendships (Mr Carson & Mary, Violet and Isobel, Tom and Mary, Daisy & Mr Mason), lost love (Violet & Prince Kuragin), lust (Mary & Kemal Pamuk), love of family, tradition, and country. Love of tea in the library🙂.

Goodbye silver teapots and Spode Stafford White teacups and saucers. Goodbye Victoria Sandwich!

*

Just once, I’d like to sit at the servant’s hall table. I’d probably be way at the opposite end from Mr. Carson, the lowest servant on the totem pole.
Tom Branson is Len’s favorite character. He appreciates people who are plain spoken and unpretentious. What a good friend Tom was to Mary (ITV/Carnival).

WHAT I’LL MISS MOST

  • Violet’s witticisms and zingers delivered with razor sharp precision: “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.” “He’s a man. Men don’t have rights.”
  • Handsome men in white tie and tails. Handsome men in black tie. Handsome butler and footmen waiting table.
  • Women’s hats and shoes and dresses and jewelry. Opera gloves all the time.
  • Food prep and kitchen scenes – love that egg rack, those copper pots and pans, those mixing bowls, the new fridge, Daisy slicing lemons.
  • The fine art of conversation.
  • Lavish dining room scenes – candlelit dinners, sparkling crystal, heirloom china.
  • All the characters we’ve come to know the last 6 years, the roller coaster of emotions.
  • Indulging in the fantasy of living in luxury and having servants at my beck and call.

Goodbye fox hunts, garden parties, weekends in Scotland, cloche hats, bobbed hair, marriage proposals with snowflakes gently drifting down!

*

via PBS.org

MR CORNELIUS’S FAVORITE THINGS

  • George, Sybbie and Marigold’s teddies
  • Big Christmas tree in the Great Hall
  • Robert eating a chicken leg from the new fridge
  • Mary making scrambled eggs for Charles Blake
  • Robert’s new puppy
  • Sybbie calling Robert “Donk”
  • Antique race cars
  • thick slices of bread and cheese in the servant’s hall
  • Mr Carson’s new telephone
  • the Bell Board in the servant’s hall
  • Mrs Patmore

Goodbye pretty pastel tea gowns, strings of pearls, diamond tiaras, cricket matches, Apple Charlotte and Kedgeree!

*

A VISIT FROM MRS PATMORE

Mr Cornelius was inconsolable until his favorite Downton character paid him a surprise visit the other day. Of course he’s always loved watching Mrs P wield her rolling pin and prepare platters and platters of delectable dishes. He’ll always remember what she said to Daisy one time:

We should always be polite to people who are kind. There’s not much of it about!

That pretty much made him a forever fan.

Anyway, Mrs P brought along some Downton treats — a special tin of Scottish shortbread in honor of dear friend Mrs Hughes (who’s originally from Argyll), some scone mix and lemon curd. She got a little teary-eyed handing over the scone mix, since it reminded her of when Lord Grantham, Lady Cora, and Lady Rosamund came for tea at her new bed and breakfast. Lord G specifically asked for another scone right before they all went outside to pose for the village photographer. What a proud day that was! She’ll always be grateful for the way Lord G spoke in support of her, reciprocating her loyalty to the Crawleys for so many years.

Cornelius got busy right away helping Mrs Patmore whip up scones and clotted cream. He was a little unsure of whether the jam (or curd) should go under or over the layer of cream. Mrs P quickly cleared up that longstanding dilemma: with Devonshire Cream Tea the jam goes on top of the cream; with Cornish Cream Tea the cream goes on over the jam. We opted for the Cornish way since we all love Poldark here, and we rather like a bit of cream tickling the upper lip🙂. “Who’s Poldark?” asked Mrs P. We explained he was in another series, from another century, reassuring her we’d never love him as much as we love the people of Downton.

Spending a little time with Mrs Patmore certainly made us all feel better. We told her how important food was to Downton, how the kitchen was the  heart and hub of any great house, how crucial it was to have a good cook to help the Crawleys maintain their social standing. I daresay she patted her apron and wiped a tear from her eye.

Goodbye whisks and scary electric mixers, Bubble and Squeak, Strawberry Charlotte Russe, and Spotted Dick!

ITV/Carnival

After we had our tea, Cornelius suggested a mock wedding. Season 6 was all about weddings and happy endings, after all. There’s nothing nicer than an unbridled bride. Here’s to Mr and Mrs Carson, Henry and Mary (remembering Mary and Matthew), and Edith and . . . ? We’ll just have to wait for the finale to see. Fingers crossed!

The beautiful bride wore a satin and lace gown modeled after Lady Mary’s when she married Matthew Crawley. She carried a simple bouquet of long stemmed white calla lilies.
The newlyweds take a spot of tea.
Cornelius also served Battenberg Cake (he loves checks). The cake was named in honor of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg (1884). Sponge cake is layered with jam and covered with marzipan.
Heart shaped petit fours compliments of the resident Paddingtons.

Goodbye pretending to have an injured hand so your husband is forced to cook! Goodbye breakfast in bed, lamb chops, apple crumble and hot chocolate! Goodbye Spratt moonlighting as an agony aunt, dancing with the Prince, and seeing a dog’s tail and hind quarters at the beginning of each episode!

*

DEPARTMENT OF ETCETERA

Now that Downton’s over, by gosh, by gum, looks like we’ll all have to get a life.🙂 Here are a few bits and bobs to tide us over until the movie comes out. Yes, there’s talk of making one, though nothing’s been confirmed. Most of the actors seem willing. Please write a movie script, Mr. Fellowes!

  • Many of the actors did not particularly like filming the dining room scenes, which took hours and hours, multiple camera angles, and plates of food they didn’t actually eat.
  • A favorite pastime between takes: playing Bananagrams.
  • Maggie Smith has admitted that she’s never actually seen any of the finished episodes.
  • Lesley Nicol, who played Mrs Patmore, actually does not like to cook.
  • In life sadly imitating art, Michelle Dockery lost her fiancé to cancer last year.
  • Though their characters Mary and Edith were at odds throughout the series, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael are actually good friends in real life.
  • Laura Carmichael is currently dating Michael Fox, who played Andy the footman.
  • 400 costumes were used in Seasons 5 and 6, and 1000 wigs since the series began.
  • There were 255 cast members and 900 crew members overall.
  • Laura Carmichael was working in a doctor’s office when she got the part of Edith (her first ever TV audition).
  • Downton Abbey has won 3 Golden Globes, 12 Primetime Emmys (60 nominations), a Special BAFTA Award, and most recently a SAG Award, among many other well-deserved accolades. It is the top PBS drama of all time, and one of the most watched television series in the world.

And a final nod to Mrs Patmore:

*

Please change your mind about Edith, Bertie! (I really like Bertie, don’t you?)

What will you miss most about the series? What did you think of Season 6?

*

♥ Other Downton Abbey posts at Alphabet Soup:

 

One last scone for the road.
VIOLET to MARY: “I believe in love.”

 

GOODBYE, DOWNTON, GOODBYE!

Shall we let some of the cast sing us out?🙂

*

 

wkendcookingiconThis post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!

 

 

—————————————————————

Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

 

56 thoughts on “a fond farewell to downton abbey

  1. Wonderful post.

    I came quite late to the series. In fact the very first episode I watched was the last episode (the two hour finale). Obviously I knew nothing about any of the characters, the story lines, or the actors – but the production values, the costumes, the cars, the countryside were all enough (in those last two hours) for me to go back and watch the series from the very first episode.

    So very glad I did. I shall miss the series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you decided to watch the entire series. I’ve watched most episodes multiple times and each time I see something new. Another good thing that resulted from all this is that it put Highclere Castle on the map, and now with all the visitors and other revenue there’s more money for upkeep. I’m big on historical preservation.🙂

      Like

    1. Hope your hankie is a BIG one. What’s nice about the ending is that some things are wrapped up, but some doors are left open — leaving fans hungry for a movie!

      Like

  2. What I will miss is having something to watch every week. It’s been years since I’ve had a regular program that I adored (Twin Peaks, maybe?) Also: Maggie Smith, Maggie Smith, Maggie Smith.

    Like

    1. Yes, me too. I hardly watch any major network TV. Not into crime series, or reality shows, etc. It’ll be awhile till Poldark Season 2 comes along again (I think in the Fall). I’m curious to see whether Aidan Turner will still have the same huge appeal.

      Like

  3. Stop, stop, you’re killing me. I’ve been weeping nearly all of this final season. I’ll be a basket case by the last episode! (Although I wouldn’t mind being in a basket of scones!) What I’ll miss is the shared experience of Downton. You meet someone else who watches and you’re immediately best friends!

    Like

    1. So true, Diane!! Never thought of it that way but you’re absolutely right. This season has felt so bittersweet, like I found myself watching and listening extra closely because I know it’s not coming around again.😦

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, my, Jama, you have truly outdone yourself this time with this glorious post! Truly, you are amazing! I have tears in my eyes, laughter in my heart, and a deep feeling of gratitude for all this talent — yours and the entire Downton Abbey production team. Mahalo nui loa for brightening the day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Margo — Downton will definitely be hard to top. I’ll miss not having Sunday nights to look forward to in the same way. Can’t believe it’s been six years already.

      Like

  5. Oh, I’m having withdrawals already. This is the PERFECT articulation of why we’re all so “mad” for this series. Thank you, Jama, sincerely. (And you’ve tossed out the morsel of a possible movie? I’ll add to the vibes sent toward Mr. Fellowes!) I love this entire post with all its treasures, mock wedding and all. My favorite line from Sunday night was from Mrs. Hughes (Carson) to Carson: “You’re MY curmudgeon….” ;0) Sniff sniff. XO

    Like

    1. Sigh. Withdrawals aplenty here. Sigh. That was a great line and proves how much she really loves him. He turned into quite the fuss budget husband. Don’t know whether I’d like to live with someone who holds such a high standard. But then, that ruse Mrs. Hughes and Mrs Patmore planned seemed to put him in his place. All husbands do need training, don’t they?😉

      Like

  6. Awww. I’m so sorry your show is ending. I didn’t watch but it looked like the clothing and jewelry was pretty. I hope PBS someday puts as much energy into a costume drama about nonEngland/nonEnglish people. The BBC should follow a family from South Asia to the UK – that’d be worth watching and have AMAZING costumes.

    Like

    1. Well, if anyone can make a good period drama about that, it’s the British. There was a mini series last year, Indian Summers, but I only saw a few episodes.

      Downton was definitely a feast for the eyes. It was pretty to look at whether you followed the stories or not.

      Like

  7. I loved Upstairs Downstairs, too, but have pretty much enjoyed all the Masterpiece productions. Downton Abbey, ahh! I like every bit, but I think a favorite is the downstairs intrigue. I found myself talking to them as they fumbled around with secrets, hoping they would eventually find the help needed. But it all is priceless, Jama, as is your post! Thanks, will return to this more than once.

    Like

    1. Same here — in general I enjoy all the Masterpiece programs and most ITV and BBC productions. But I didn’t like Mr. Selfridge at all (not a Jeremy Piven fan) and I didn’t like the most recent remake of Upstairs, Downstairs. Can’t beat the 70’s original. Just goes to show you can have beautiful production but if the characters lack chemistry, the series won’t be as enjoyable. The Downton characters had such great chemistry and I think the “voice” of each episode was consistent because Julian Fellowes wrote all the scripts himself — pretty rare, since most of the time there’s a team of writers, especially for long-running series.

      The downstairs intrigue was definitely interesting. Remember the old days with O’Brien?🙂

      Like

  8. Lovely post, Jama! I’ve just finished the whole final season (in two weeks), courtesy of my library’s copy. What I’ll miss most is Julian Fellowes’ amazing writing. He covers every detail and makes sure all characters have their chance at happiness. I was completely confident the final show would wrap up all story lines the way I thought they should end, which doesn’t always happen with miniseries. I enjoyed Upstairs Downstairs, too and rewatched a few after Downton Abbey came along. The Sound of Music video clip was fun, too, thanks for sharing!

    Like

    1. I agree with you on Julian’s phenomenal writing! He was wonderful at giving each character equal time and resolving their stories. I was happy with how things wrapped up — no one was left in the lurch.

      Like

  9. Wow this is quite the sum up, Jama. Where’s the Yorkshire puddings?😉 I got given 6 episodes on video and still haven’t finished them. I must get back into it. How wonderful the real life friedships that have bloomed from this show.

    Like

  10. I can’t believe Downton is almost over! Waaaahhhh! I think I will get the DVDs and binge watch it all over again. I have never watched Upstairs Downstairs, so maybe I will watch that and it will soften the blow. Thanks for a fun post.

    Like

    1. I’m thinking of watching Upstairs, Downstairs again too. That was the series that made me want to live in England, and I was lucky enough to get a teaching job there.🙂

      Like

  11. Loved this post! I have watched Downton from Day 1 as well and got my teens interested a couple of seasons ago, and they are all caught up now and we are watching together this year, which has been fun. But sad! I can’t believe only one more episode and we have to wait almost two weeks for it! I didn’t know there was a chance of a movie! Oh please Julian! I didn’t know Laura Main and Michael Fox were dating! Juicy tidbits! Sunday’s episode was so well done. They really are going out on top, but I think they could have stayed on top a few more years. Now please send me some of those scones – yum!

    Like

    1. They’re definitely going out on top, and I think Juilan did say in an interview that that’s the best way to go out. Two weeks is an eternity but at least it’ll be a longer episode — almost two hours. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed for a movie.🙂

      Like

  12. Such an awesome post. I’m sooooooo sad it’s over. But Edith better get her happiness before the end. Hope there is a movie. I’d like to revisit everyone.

    Like

  13. What a wonderful post – a great tribute to the series. You covered everything so beautifully. I’m going to book-mark this post as I’m sure I’m going to want to visit these old friends during my time of withdrawal from the previous six years. It will be like grieving.

    Like

Comments are closed.