Since I last committed pen to paper on “all things British,” we’ve had the announcement concerning the new royal baby. I’ve decided there will be plenty of time to talk about that later. All I will say at this point is, “Congrats, and hope you’re feeling better, Duchess.”
And now on to the big topic, big that is, for anglophiles on this side of the pond. Series 3 of Downton Abbey starts this coming Sunday.
A friend of mine was able watch it online (it aired in England this past fall) and told me there’s a wedding, birth and death. And the death will be “shocking.” Naturally, I did not want my friend to reveal anything. And then I was checking out the UK Telegraph online, just for some news on “what’s new” in Britain, and there, smack-dab on the front page was an entertainment article that certainly gave a clue as to which character will not be among us for long. Don’t worry, mum’s the word. I had forgotten that the show is also very popular over there, and big cast changes would be fodder for a good story. I will not let it dampen my spirits.
To celebrate the return of Downton Abbey, I thought I’d talk about one element of the family structure that was common at the time. You may know that Cora, the “first lady” of Downton is American. Her marriage to Robert was made more for financial reasons rather than for love, although it’s clear they have grown to love each other. Marrying American heiresses was quite the thing from, say, the 1870’s through 1910 or so. I have just read the most interesting book about the subject, “To Marry an English Lord,” by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. You see, essentially, wealthy Englishmen didn’t work. They owned vast estates and earned money from the tenants on the land, who were largely farmers. As England became more industrial, the agriculture business waned, and down went the income. The best solution was to find a wealthy woman. What better place to look than to America. We didn’t have the rule that “only the eldest son inherits,” so there were plenty of “nouveau riche” American girls to court favor with.
Over the next month, as the Downton series runs, I’m going to share some other fun facts from this fascinating book. As for now, I’m off to watch an episode of the nostalgic TV series “Jennie,” about Winston Churchill’s mother. Why? Because she was an American who married into an aristocratic British family. Stay tuned!