Monday, January 6, 2014

Downton Abbey - Season IV

I read up on Downton Abbey before the opening episode of Season IV aired on PBS last night, and thought you might enjoy a few snippets from the book.  

The first character to take on life was Cora, Countess of Grantham.  Julian Fellowes [creator/writer of Downton Abbey] was reading, To Marry an English Lord - a book about the young American heiresses who had flocked to England to marry into old English families during the Victorian era.  He couldn't help wondering what life was like after their marriage, and that's how Cora's character began to evolve.  It was a natural progression for her husband, Robert, Earl of Grantham, to follow, and the others took shape after that - each with their own dramatic function.

Wouldn't you love to have a tea tray brought to you in bed every morning like Cora?  ;-)

[Internet Photo]

When the series first began [Sept. 2010 in the UK, and Jan. 2011 in the US], no one imagined that the show would become the highest-rated drama in the 40-year history of PBS.   An audience of 7.6 million tuned in when the show made its debut on ITV in the UK.  Downton now airs in 200 plus territories, making the Crawleys and their servants familiar to an estimated 120 million people around the world. Phyllis Logan [Mrs. Hughes] said when a London radio DJ started a men's fan club for the show, and all the rufty-tufty booted men started joining, she knew the show appealed to men as well as women.

Below is an earlier cast photo of Downton Abbey, with Highclere Castle, a real working estate located on the Hampshire-Berkshire border [near London], in the background.  If it has a resemblance to Westminster, it's no coincidence, because it's the work of architect Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament. 

[Internet Photo]

Aside from the architecture, the castle has opulent eighteenth-century rooms with tapestries, pictures, furniture, and silver, crystal, and china accessories.   The library, being less formal, is the heart of the house where the family frequently gathers for tea. Julian Fellows says, "Every generation gets one room more right than the others, and the Victorians perfected the library."

Downton Abbey dinners [pictured below] are usually served on a traditional Spode dinner service purchased by the prop department.  Mrs. Patmore would have used a lot of classic French recipes, notes the show's food economist. 

[Internet Photo]

I love seeing the Edwardian costumes and millinery worn in the series. And there's lots of romance both upstairs and downstairs since the show is equally balanced between the Crawley family and its servants   Downton Abbey has something of interest for everyone.

There are lots of tea scenes in the episodes - both upstairs and downstairs.  

[Internet Photo]

Most of the below-stairs scenes are filmed at Ealing Studios in London, since they no longer exist at Highclere in their original state.  

[Internet Photo]

Masterpiece Theater welcomed Downton Abbey Season IV on their website with the following description:  "Joy, Jealousy, Tears, and Tea."   Tea truly soothes all of life's emotions! 

I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of more Downton Abbey books from Barnes & Noble, but the Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey was very enjoyable and enlightening.

I purchased the 423 page e-book, Abbey Cooks Entertain by Pamela Foster, and signed up to have her blog posts sent directly to my e-mail  in-box.

The yummy Yorkshire Pudding Canapes pictured below is just one of the recipes I want to try.

Downton Abbey teas have been ordered from Republic of Tea, so my theme tea is starting to come together.  English Rose is a tisane of Rose, Raspberry and Hibiscus, while the Grantham Breakfast is an organic Assam with ginger root. Republic of Tea also has a Downton Abbey Estate Earl Grey tea which they've blended exclusively for Cost Plus stores.

[Photo courtesy of Republic of Tea website]

 Season IV of Downton Abbey is off to a great start!


  1. I haven't watched Downton Abbey yet but your post tempts me to do so.

  2. You can see all the plot lines marked out already, can't you? such a rotter! Lovely retrospective!

  3. Lovely, lovely post, Phyllis!! Yes, I definitely see a Downton Abbey Tea in your future!

  4. What a fun post -- and I've still yet to see an episode! (I must start at the beginning rather than jumping in so late in the game!)

  5. The first episode was good with twists and turns occurring already. It would be fun to host a DA tea and I'm sure you're already working on one.


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