Today I have a friend of mine, H.E. Roulo here to help us mourn the end of Downton Abbey. Thank you Heather for sharing our grief over the completion of a show that has been such a big part of our lives over the last few years. What shall we watch now?
Downton Abbey – the end of an Era
By H.E. Roulo
First, I’d like to thank Emmy Z. Madrigal for allowing me to guest blog about Downton Abbey, a period drama set in post-Edwardian England, for her Regency blog. The final episode of the six-season long series has finally aired in the United States and the saga of the Crawley family is ended on a rich and satisfying note.
Lovers of period romance surely found many things to celebrate in the upstairs-downstairs tale of Lord Grantham and his daughters. It is no surprise that the story ended with triumphant weddings. This was always a tale about the emotional lives of people, whether servants or nobility, set in a historical backdrop. We were awed by the costumes, the manners, the architecture and art of the estate, and the simple doings of lives so different from our own.
It’s not surprising that PBS aired several specials allowing behind-the-scenes footage into the effort to create this bygone world. Writers of novels set during historical periods pay similar attention to their creations, trying to provide readers with an effortless glimpse into the manners of the period and create memorable characters who modern readers won’t judge too harshly. Sadly, we do not all have a Julian Fellowes to guide our hands over the smallest nuance of etiquette. Instead, authors are left balancing verisimilitude against best possible story. Women in Regency romances are often ahead of their times, independent, and most certainly not being dictated to by their fathers. In reality, the number of misses who tossed their curls and jumped astride a horse are far fewer than novels would like you to believe, but isn’t watching our heroines rebel against the strictures of their age part of the joy of reading such stories?
The people living in Regency and Edwardian era stories are constrained by rules, reserved, and that allows the drama simmering underneath to be all the more powerful once it breaks loose. The world itself adds to the tension: whether it’s Lady Mary, the oldest daughter, giving in to desire only to having her first lover die in her bed and his body carried through the house to avoid scandal; or poor Lady Edith (I believe that’s her full title, poor-Lady-Edith, until she gets married) who hides the shameful existence of her illegitimate daughter, but loves her with all her heart.
Such limitations are sometimes appealing, since they dictate what can and cannot be done. To be an Earl’s daughter, with servants and fine teas and sumptuous dinners, is fine if the only price is to keep good manners and change clothes up to seven times a day. Life for the many who are not titled, however, isn’t as gracious. Downton Abbey remembers the ladies’ maid, footman, and butler of this elegant age. Through them, we see a similar set of rules that pay off less handsomely, but their lives are full of joy.
In my household, there was speculation the series would end with the death of Lord Grantham or perhaps his dowager mother, bringing the whole tale to a close and implying it is the death of the age of aristocracy we’ve watched decline during the course of six seasons. In hindsight, it is unsurprising that the true changeover is shown when the beloved household butler, Carson, must give way. He, more than anyone else, believed that the old ways were best. He lamented cars, telephones, and kitchen gadgets. His position depended on the respectability of the family he served, and he remained true to them until his time ended.
I, like the series, will end on a small joyful note. There is talk of a movie so that we, too, may be able to return to that faded elegance once more. Until then, we’ll have our period romances to tide us over.
H.E. Roulo is the author of Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, a YA sci-fi zombie novel set in space. A study in opposites, she’s also an avid fan of period dramas. She has an upcoming series of Regency novellas releasing in late 2016. Follow her on twitter @hroulo or learn more at heroulo.com