Everyone has favourite characters, and some both engage our sympathy and then we wonder about them…Thomas, the footman in Downton, is a mainstay of the series and in fact several of the footmen at the Real Downton –Highclere Castle -were most amusing characters. As in Downton, the footmen hoped to progress from footman to valet. One such man was George.
George became valet to the 6th Earl of Carnarvon and as such accompanied him on various trips abroad. On one of them, by boat to the South of France, George had passed himself off as a first class passenger and had a fine old time but he spent all His Lordship’s funds on fine wine and gaming during the voyage. He confessed when they docked at Marseille. Lord Carnarvon forgave him but he had to pay the money back over time from his salary. Fellow passengers however had the impression he was indeed Lord of a Castle and every so often telegrams would arrive for him at Highclere which he needed swiftly to intercept. George would then slip off to London returning to entertain the staff with his latest exploits. In the end he went too far when he was entertaining a party loudly and enthusiastically in the Steward’s room at Highclere. He was not in a fit state to announce lunch or to serve in the Dining room. The other staff explained to Lord Carnarvon that “he’s downstairs, my lord, but I am afraid he is not available”
(Excerpt from Lady Catherine and Real Downton Abbey)
Longstanding friend of the Carnarvon family, Julian Fellowes had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote Downton Abbey. He often commented he wanted a house which spectacularly testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period.
The success of Downton Abbey took everyone by surprise from the first nervous apprehension whether anyone would like the first episode or stay with it for the second or third… the series has become a phenomenon with appreciative viewers all around the world.
Find out more about the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle.