Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Secrets" Goes Behind the "Downton Abbey" Manor House

My friend Sarah, who comments here occasionally, has introduced me to this blog, Jane's Austen's World, which offers intriguing information about, well, Jane Austen's world, as well as British life in other eras.

It is a lovely blog, and today it features a review and recap of a PBS companion show to "Downton Abbey" called "Secrets of the Manor House."

"Secrets of the Manor House" is billed as "a fascinating glimpse of life inside the great homes of Edwardian England."

PBS says, "Secrets of the Manor House looks beyond the fiction to the truth of what life was like in these ancient British houses. They were communities where two separate worlds existed side by side: the poor worked as domestic servants, while the nation’s wealthiest families enjoyed a lifestyle of luxury, and aristocrats ruled over their servants as they had done for a thousand years."

You'll find out a little about how Britain's aristocracy came to be (warrior class) and how they displayed their power and elite status through their homes, as well as how they refilled their coffers by marrying American women, AKA the Buccaneers. All of that dovetails nicely with "Downton Abbey," although we don't know who the soldier was way back when who scored the real estate that Downtown Abbey sits on. We do know, however, that the current Earl married an American heiress to keep the property stable financially, and those finances are at the very heart of the romances and conflicts swirling upstairs at Downton Abbey. The "warrior" business also informs the current generation(s) of servants and masters, as so many of the principal characters have been pulled into World War I, either as soldiers or nurses or support on the homefront. This time, however, war is acting as a great equalizer, not a way to rise to the top of the social heap or gain favor from the king. Fascinating, indeed!

You can see a 9-and-a-half minute teaser video here, along with other information about the program. I especially like the little pictures on the wall to illustrate the hierarchy inside the aristocracy.

Or you can scan Jane Austen's World's more detailed info, including screencaps, here.

"Secrets of the Manor House" airs at 7 (central) on our local PBS stations WTVP from Peoria and WILL from Champaign-Urbana, with the third episode of this season of "Downton Abbey" immediately after at 8 pm.

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