I have really enjoyed the BBC series Downton Abby. The clothing, the technology, the furniture, the architecture, the lifestyle, and the attitudes are all so familiar and comfortable to me. We have so many wonderful things now, but we have lost so much in this past 100 years. I could so easily walk into that world as Manfred or Siegfried although it is set in the U.K., which was I think somewhat more repressive or perhaps more restrictive than Europe. Especially for women. And as Manfred or Siegfried I’m not really sure I even thought about how women lived and what they could and could not do. We all had rules that we had to live by and that was the way things were.
What strikes me as being so familiar about the lifestyle of the Lord and Lady Grantham and their immediate family is how they lived. Taking time to go for walks on the property, horseback riding, sitting with family and guests for tea, meals, and after dinner conversation, so much of this is lost. While Manfred did not live as a British Earl of the time, he did have a very nice home and a title that afforded him the ability to have doors opened to him. Siegfried on the other hand was high nobility and lived on a hillside castle manor house with huge grounds that included a private lake and a house full of servants, so my experiences there may be more akin to the Downton Abby story, but Manfred was alive during the first part of the series unlike Siegfried who lived about 60 years earlier.
Another familiar aspect of the life during the time period of the Downton Abby series is the commitment that people made towards their personal honor. I find that so lacking now. Honor and personal pride is not just for the upper classes and their high social circles and grand living, it is how a man or woman takes pride in the things they do and the way they are in the world. It is important for the household staff to be dressed sharply and be professional for themselves as professionals. Their position seems demeaning or meaningless to outsiders but to them they are professional housekeepers, butlers, footmen, maids, valets with a code of ethics and a standard of performance. They do not wish to have one among them that sullies their reputation or ruins the morale of their team. I often think that modern Americans take a snobby and somewhat ignorant attitude towards these hard working souls. I think that most Americans take an uninformed attitude towards the nobility as well. I was a nobleman as Manfred and Siegfried, and I do not ever recall lording over others my status or title unless it was absolutely necessary. That sort of pretentious behavior was rarely ever required or desired. We all had a role to fill just as Lord Grantham reminds his future heir that if he suddenly deemed his valet to be obsolete that he would be denying that man his trade in life. Sometimes so called high ideals can be very costly to the people that they are meant to assist.
Another aspect that I notice is the great change in women from the past to the present. And I am not trying to be mean here, but I think the women of the past often seemed more feminine and beautiful. It’s not that modern women are not sexy, but something is very different and it’s somewhat sad like they have lost something. I am not completely sure of what that was or is. I recall from my past all sorts of women who had varying degrees of personality traits with some being very bold and intelligent and others shy and somewhat naive, but both kinds retained this unknown quality from the past. Perhaps modern women are less focused or are more stressed than their earlier counterparts. In these times women are expected to be mothers, be fashionable, obtain a higher education, be successful, and obtain a money earning occupation while doing all of the aforementioned tasks. Do modern women truly have any time for friendship?
For that matter do modern men of this so called western culture have time for friendship? I think we live in very lonely times despite all our technologies for rapid communication. Perhaps this is the quality of life that I see so desirable in the Downton Abby series. These people make time to spend quality time with each other and do not dash off to make a cell phone call, text during a meal, or ignore another while chatting or playing games on a computer. I guess I must be anachronistic.
Rittmeister © 2012
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