Ever since I picked up a book in 5th grade on Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife, I've loved all things British.
So, when Downton Abbey premiered in the states in 2011, people started recommending it to me. My mother-in-law and sisters-in-law absolutely adore this show and have thrown many a Downton Abbey themed party. It's not that I haven't wanted to watch it, I just never had the opportunity to. But, recently Amazon Prime acquired all six seasons and I'm currently enthralled in all things Downton.
*A word of warning, this piece does contain spoilers up to Season 3, so if you've never watched it and don't want it to be ruined, you should probably say "ta-ta" to this article.
I truly love everything about this show. The costumes, the set design, the acting, the characters, the storyline, literally every aspect of Downton Abbey is spectacular. The show starts in 1912 and spans through 1926 and depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants. It illustrates so beautifully what life was like during a time of such change. The world was moving out of old world values and traditions and into the world of invention and technology. It also was a time of great tribulation, with the devastation of The Titanic, the pain of World War I, and the uncertainty of the Spanish Influenza.
A continuing struggle throughout the show is the older generation wanting to cling to royal tradition and proprieties while the younger generation, especially women, look towards the future at a world more equal and fair. One of my favorite lines, spoken by Maggie Smith's character Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
The family is having a telephone installed and she says, "First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel." I practically spit out my water as I'm sure that's exactly what people her age felt in that time. To have been born in a time before indoor plumbing and electricity and then see those luxuries become commonplace must have been earth-shattering.
But, I suppose every generation sees that change. When I was born, VHS and cassette tapes were all the rage and now those are just relics of the past and now we're transitioning to everything in the cloud. From pictures to movies to music, it's all digital and accessed through the Internet. I can just picture the Dowager Countess shuttering now.
Perhaps the most important character is Lady Sybil, the younger daughter of the three Crawley sisters. She is the first to break from tradition within the family. She becomes a nurse during WWI, marries her father's chauffeur, and moves to Ireland with her new Husband who takes a job as a reporter. She leaves behind her world of wealth and status to become a working woman. At first, the Crawleys are aghast at her decision, but with time respect her choices and are proud of who she became.