Description: Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) sees his family heritage, especially the grand country home Downton Abbey, as his mission in life. The death of his heir aboard R.M.S. Titanic means distant cousin Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a Manchester lawyer, suddenly is next in line and accepts moving onto the vast estate with his even more modernist, socially engaged mother, who clashes with his Lordship’s domineering, conservative mother, the dowager countess. Marrying off the daughters is another concern. Meanwhile, the butler presides over a staff which serves the family, but also lead most of their entire lives in the servants’ quarters, intriguing amongst themselves.
Creator: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern
Taglines: War changes everything
- The real estate that “plays” Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, has been the home of the Herbert family since 1679. In 1922, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert 5th Earl of Carnarvon, co-discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. On the show, the names of Lord Robert Crowley, Earl of Grantham’s beloved dogs, Pharaoh and Isis, are nods to the real castle’s connection to Egyptian history. The castle was shown briefly in The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb (1980).
- Cast members of the show have revealed that the costumes are, in many cases, actual articles of clothing from the 1910s and 1920s. They are so fragile that they cannot be laundered, and as a result, don’t smell very good.
- During the second season, the Abbey is turned into a recovery house for troops. At Highclere Castle, the house used for the show, the Countess of Carnarvon turned the house into a hospital in World War I. Unlike Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), the Countess eagerly opened her home and there are letters in some of the rooms from former patients thanking her for her hospitality.
- H.M. Queen Elizabeth II is among the royal fans of the show. She has spotted errors in various episodes, according to the Daily Telegraph. She noted a World War I soldier was wearing medals awarded in World War II. The Queen has also been a guest at Highclere Castle.
- The series was filmed at Highclere Castle, set on one thousand acres in Hampshire, a landmark estate owned by the Herbert family, the Earls of Carnarvon, since the late seventeenth century. It’s open to the public during the summer, and can be rented for weddings and other events. The kitchen and downstairs were shot in a London studio because those parts of Highclere have been modernized. The servants’ quarters were shot at the studio because the upper floors at Highclere are in need of repair.
- According to series creator Julian Fellowes, the parts played by Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Coyle, and Dame Maggie Smith were written for the actors who play them.
- Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman were in talks to guest star together on an episode of this show as a married couple. Kate Winslet could not do it at the time because she was expecting a baby. Alan Rickman was interested, but decided against it because Kate Winslet couldn’t appear with him.