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I arrived to the Downton Abbey party late. When the series originally aired, from 2010 – 2015, I watched episodes in a hit or miss fashion. Mostly miss, I confess. However, as news of a feature movie began to fill my Google newsfeed, I decided to watch the entire series, beginning with season one, episode one.
I’m so glad I did!
I quickly fell in love with the period drama, set in the early 20th century. Downton Abbey is home to the Crawley Family…and their servants. The series explores the lives of the inhabitants of the big country estate, upstairs and downstairs, and the intriguing way that they interact.
After spending the summer catching up on the series, I found myself grateful that a movie was imminent. Otherwise, sadness over the end of an excellent story would have set in. For my mother’s birthday this week, my sister Linda and I took her to see Downton Abbey and then out to dinner.
Downton Abbey Cast
Downton Abbey features a very large ensemble cast including Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leach, Joanne Froggett, Imelda Staunton, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Goode, Robert James-Collier, Hugh Bonneville, Sophie McShera, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Phyllis Logan, Penelope Wilton, Michael Fox, Lesley Nicol, Harry Hadden Paton, Kevin Doyle, Geraldine James and Simon Jones.
The drama, written and produced by Julian Fellowes, is directed by Michael Engler. Downton Abbey carries a PG rating, for mild sexuality, and has a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.
The TV series concludes in January of 1926. The movie joins the Crawley Family and their staff in the summer of 1927.
A Royal Visit to Downton Abbey
The movie begins with an exciting announcement. King George V (Jones) and Queen Mary (James) will spend a night at Downton Abbey, during their tour of Yorkshire. While Robert, the Earl of Grantham (Bonneville), and Lady Cora (McGovern) are honored, there are burdens that accompany such a visit.
The whole household comes together to prepare for the king and queen’s arrival.
Below stairs, Mrs. Hughes (Logan) directs the housemaids to make sure everything in the grand home sparkles. Mrs. Patmore (Nicol), the cook, and Daisy (McShera), her apprentice, plan the menus and prepare the kitchen. Mr. Molesley (Doyle), beyond excited, appears at the house, ready to don a livery again to help serve during meals.
Upstairs, Robert and Cora feel proud, and a bit anxious, as they anticipate the visit. Their elder daughter Mary (Dockery), fearing head butler Thomas (James-Collier) isn’t adequate for the tasks ahead, asks for help. Former head butler Carson (Carter) comes out of retirement to take charge of the household and offer expert guidance.
As the royal visit draws near, challenges arise.
A stranger in the village questions son-in-law Tom (Leach), whose loyalties seem under suspicion due to his Irish Republic roots.
The Dowager Countess (Smith) learns that her estranged kinswoman Lady Bagshaw (Staunton) will visit Downton Abbey as a Lady in Waiting for the queen. An old feud between them needs to be settled. Cousin Isobel (Wilton) is eager to help.
Second daughter Edith (Carmichael) and her husband Bertie (Hadden-Paton) arrive from their estate to support the family. However, Edith’s formal gown is a disaster and the king makes a difficult request of Bertie.
Mary’s husband Henry (Goode), away on a visit to America, is missing the whole event.
The servants encounter their share of challenges as well. Thomas does not appreciate Carson’s return or the temporary demotion from head butler. And the entire staff is discouraged to learn that the king and queen travel with their own chef and servants. Downton Abbey staff will not assist during the visit at all.
Not to be denied this once in a lifetime opportunity, Anna (Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Coyle) come up with a plan that involves secrecy and hilarious shenanigans.
During the course of the royal visit, small treasures mysteriously disappear from the house. Anna suspects the thief is one of the queen’s maids.
And Tom, the widowed husband of Lady Sybil, feels drawn to Lady Bagshaw’s maid, Lucy (Middleton). The attraction is mutual.
The joys, the challenges, the growth of all those who reside in the house…this is what life at Downton Abbey is all about.
My Thoughts about Downton Abbey, the Movie
As a huge fan of the series, I loved the movie. All the characters returned for this feature film, and the story picked right up from where it left off in the series. My sister has not seen the series…yet…and she too enjoyed the film. It does well enough as a stand alone movie, although familiarity with the characters and their backstories is a definite plus.
Because, we love the Crawleys. We love their servants who dedicate themselves to the household. And, we love the huge, graceful home that is as much a character in the story as the people who inhabit it.
I think part of my fascination with Downton Abbey is the peek into a way of life that was vital to England and Scotland. The historical elements intrigue me as well, and caused me to fact check after each episode of the series.
And I’ve always been drawn to big old houses. They are stunningly beautiful…and so difficult and costly to maintain. The fictional Crawley’s are typically a step or two away from losing their home. Their struggles are a theme that winds through the story. Unfortunately that was a harsh reality for many actual families in the years following World War I. Maintaining those properties continues to challenge current estate owners today.
More to Come
I enjoyed seeing how the characters I came to love in the series have grown, in a movie rich with lavish details. I smiled over every little nod toward the six seasons on television, and applauded every bit of happiness achieved by those who sought to be who they truly are.
It’s a beautifully done film that completely satisfies the Downton Abbey fan…and perhaps inspires a new group of people to check out the series.
I’ve read that if this first feature film does well…and it’s off to a great start…then more movies will follow. I sure hope so! I’ll never tire of Downton Abbey and the people who live there.
Check out Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey where the series and movie were filmed.
Enjoy these Downton Abbey favorites:
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