Downton Abbey: The Wit & Wisdom Of The Elite Class

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) sees his family ancestry, especially the grand stately home Downton Abbey, as his goal in life. The sudden death of his heir aboard the Titanic means his distant cousin Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) is next in line and accepts moving onto the grand estate with his even more freethinking, liberal mother, who clashes with his lordship’s very conservative class centric mother, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). Did I mention that Matthew is only a lawyer? And he’s from Manchester? Well, that’s so middle class darling. Marrying off the daughters is another concern. Meanwhile, the pompous yet amusing butler, Carson, (Jim Carter) administers over a staff which serves at the pleasure of the Crawley family. There is never a dull moment at Downton Abbey.

“Lord Grantham has made the unwelcome discovery that his heir is a middle class lawyer and the son of a middle class doctor”

Matthew Crawley

Downton Abbey is the epitome of the period genre with the common themes such as romance, politics, betrayal, scandal, tragedy and social scorn. This drama uses some common stereotypes of the elite class such as one playing village cricket and taking the air before sitting down for afternoon tea. Pompous British aristocrats are also another frequent occurrence. They revel in using their class and money to look down their noses at the less fortunate. It’s a hard universal truth. Truth is something that aristocrats do not want to hear unless it’s the truth that they like. The constant sneering of each other behind each other’s backs, the lies and the deceit.This is all too common with Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael). This is mainly at each other about who can pull the better man.

“At least I’m not fishing with no bait”

Mary Crawley To Edith Crawley

There are false personalities in grand numbers. At functions, everyone is pretending to be someone else. Everyone is constantly roleplaying, living this false persona to the point that the masks they are wearing become one with their face. The term “put your face on” is taken to the extreme. In Season 5, Anne Chancellor makes a cameo appearance as Lady Anstruther. Anne Chancellor is back in another period drama. Yet again, she delivers another convincing and enigmatic performance. This time she plays a cougar of high birth. James Kent (Ed Speleers) is a butler at Downton at the time of Lady Anstruther’s visit. He is her former-employee and they had previous…relations. She is a cougar and is caught in bed with him during her visit to Downton. Watching this series has shown me that highborn women sleep around more than women of low birth. It’s contradicting the common archetype and it’s a role reversal. Downton women are quite slutty. I shouldn’t have said that. That’s just not proper. How scandalous!


As I mentioned in my previous post about BBC’s Pride & Prejudice, capitalism is the be all and end all in societies such as this. Without acquiring vast amounts of money, one isn’t worth associating with. You’re inferior and nothing more than a lowly peasant. One can’t catch poverty. Money is the thing that keeps the wheel churning. Wealth brings position and respect. If you have a lot of money, you are from a respectable family. If you’re self-made with a lot of money, many will still scorn you because your ancestry isn’t prominent. Your family name isn’t in the history books nor do they possess any titles. The name, Grantham can be traced back generations as Lord Grantham will always be the name of the person who owns the estate. The Crawley name can be traced back as well. It’s respected with titles and it is known throughout the village.

One of my favorite plotlines is the wit and wisdom of Violet Crawley AKA Dowager Countess Grantham. She’s a blend of Sheldon Copper (Big Bang Theory), Commander Spock (Star Trek) with the amusing virtues of Tyrion Lannister (Game Of Thrones). She’s funny to watch. She thinks everything that comes from her mouth is gold. If I am honest, most of it is. It’s that funny. Many thanks to writer Julian Fellowes. It’s a sight to behold. Maggie Smith is one of the best actors of her generation, Her resumé spanning from Othello (1965) to Clash Of The Titans (1981) to the great cultural phenomenon Harry Potter (2001-2011). Harry Potter is overflowing with the best of British, Maggie Smith amongst them. Let us not forget to mention the original version of ‘Quartet’ (1981) and the remake (2012).  Every line Violet Crawley has is witty or intelligent. She thinks she’s always right and just because of her position, she should receive special treatment and is oblivious to the current technological and cultural norms. The scenes between Violet & Isobel (Penelope Wilton) are truly remarkable. Isobel is Matthew’s mother. Another Crawley who actually works, much to the annoyance of Violet. She thinks any woman who has to work for a living isn’t worth the trouble.

What happens at the Abbey stays at the Abbey…said nobody ever. British people like to keep things to themselves consistently and scandal is unspeakable. What the elite class think of one another matters. British people like to keep things “hush-hush” and sweep important matters under the rug. Well, a very, big, expensive rug at Downton Abbey hand stitched and imported from France. We’d rather not talk about things that actually matter. This is not just in the 1920s. It still happens now in media, politics and in day-to-day conversations amongst ourselves. The British hate talking about the British Empire. It’s a taboo topic but we love talking about the 1966 football world cup. We hate facing the universal truth because we, in Britain, are like a rabbit in the headlights when facing hard truths.

Large mansions, flamboyant parties and British aristocratic pomposity gone mad amongst the ruling class. That’s the Emmy-winning, record-breaking and critically acclaimed series Downton Abbey. It’s fiction based on fact. People actually lived like this. Wit, banter, pomposity, scandal, social divergence, racism (on occasion) and a lot of politics. Let’s not forget the occasional act of debauchery.

Well I couldn’t possibly comment.