Last weekend, the family watched a new British television series called Downton Abbey (2010 and running). Episode 1 of Season 1 was very interesting and we’re waiting to see what happens next.
Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) plays the Earl of Grantham who must contend with a distant cousin as the next in line to his family heritage, including Downton Abbey, now that his first cousin, the original heir, and his son, have died in the Titanic mishap.
Crawley decides to follow his conscience and tells his family that his distant cousin will inherit everything after his death.
However, Crawley must also contend with his wife Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), Countess of Grantham, and his mother Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith), Dowager Countess of Grantham, who are equally determined to retain Downton Abbey, including his wife’s dowry, within the Crawley family. This would have been possible when the eldest of their three daughters married the original heir’s son who, as mentioned, was on the ill-fated Titanic with his father.
Now the Crawleys are suddenly staring at the prospect of losing everything to a stranger.
These are still early days and Downton Abbey promises much familial drama, stiff upper lip and dignified behaviour, not to mention gossip and intrigue, the latter generously supplied by the Abbey staff led by a conscientious butler who along with the footmen, chambermaids, and cooks add colour to what promises to be a delightful series.
I was struck by the peculiarity of British aristocracy, the necessity of a male heir and how the entail must pass on to a male progeny, however distant a relative he may be. Something similar was practiced by the erstwhile royal families of India. Even today, in many Indian communities it is taken for granted that the son inherits most, if not everything, after the death of his parents. Times are changing, however, and daughters are increasingly getting a share in family wealth and property.
The only thing that goes against Downton Abbey is its timing—10 pm to 11 pm, Monday to Friday—which is a little late for us working people. Each episode is re-telecast next afternoon when we’re actually at work. It might be possible to catch the series on the weekend when the channels usually repeat all five episodes. The series has been created by Julian Fellowes, actor, writer, and producer.
P.S.: Since writing and posting this piece, I have corrected "Downtown" to "Downton" as it should be. I didn't realise my mistake till I sat down to watch the second episode Monday night.