Downton Abbey, that splendid British period drama series created by Julian Fellowes is rapidly coming to a close reports our London correspondent, after gracing our screens for six seasons.
Fellowes has masterminded and maintained his masterpiece over the years with meticulous attention to detail and that is heightened in this series.
Everything from the style of the fresh English flowers on the breakfast table to the historic costume everyone wears are fashioned with love. Please, don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers.
Down by the seaside where the daisies are blooming in abundance along the roadside, racing car driver Henry Talbot and his best friend Charlie Rogers are racing each other.
They are preparing for their next outing at a race meeting at Brooklands, with Charlie beating Henry by three seconds in their time trial.
Met morph to the dining table at Downton Abbey where Robert, Earl of Grantham, who has been suffering from acute boredom getting better stuck in bed, is finally up and about. He’s excitedly reading an invitation from Henry Talbot out loud for he and the family to attend this exciting event.
Following much discussion about whether it’s a good idea for the Earl to travel that far during his recovery from a calamitous collapse at dinner and hospitalisation.
Those in attendance all decide however that he should accept on their behalf. Mary has talked herself into it, although she’s also sure that she will be sorry.
Oh dear, this is not a good omen.
Downstairs Daisy and Mrs Patmore are holding court in the kitchen with smiles on their faces, delighted over the pending opening of Mrs P’s B & B in the village since she refurbished it in a homey comfortable style.
Her first bookings are in place and everyone congratulates their favourite cook on her insight, industry and application except Carson, who reveals that he is jealous with her success.
One of the great attractions Mrs P has provided is that the small house has an indoor privy, a new and astonishing feature for the village to boast about.
Mrs P relates to Mrs Hughes how she wants to make a feature of her breakfasts and become renowned for them.
Isobel Crawley now an integral part of the family relays to Dowager Violet that she’s been invited by to attend the wedding of the son of her former beau Lord Merton with Miss Cruikshank.
Suspicious as to the young woman’s motifs, Mrs Crawley likens her attendance at such an event as being aligned to that of the the Wicked Fairy at the wedding of Sleeping Beauty. She’s determined to have the ‘princess’ reveal her hand.
Dowager Violet warns that she would be a free Nurse to take a tiresome old man off the young couple’s hands…’I would feel sorry for Larry, if I didn’t dislike him so much’ Isobel comments.
The Dowager notes Miss C is going to be a tough nut to crack but she is happy to help because, as we all know, she’s a ‘tough nut cracker’. She then informs her friend she’s off to the south of France, very unexpected.
Having failed in succeeding in retaining the hospital in village hands, with Cora taking over Violet needs a break from Downton and her family and has decided on a catching a break.
She comforts the alarmed Isobel by re-assuring her that a ‘month among the French will only give her a desire to come home’.
Downstairs Thomas Barrow is still having a tough time too. Carson is urging him to hurry and find another position, which he is reluctant to do.
Edith is up to town to visit her new editor Laura Edmonds and to see how her charge is working out, as the magazine continues its pathway to success.
Miss Edmonds reveals she’s had a letter from one Cassandra Jones, offering her services to provide an ‘agony aunt’ column and they decide to give it a try.
Edith invites her protégée to come and meet her family at Brooklands on the following day.
Dinner discussion at Downton is about how ‘vast palaces’ are disappearing and Henry Talbot drops in uninvited after dinner, and is encouraged by Mary’s response to his surprise.
He wants people to understand how determined he is to win her heart and hand and she’s not complaining.
Everyone is feeling that anything is possible and downstairs the servants are discussing what they will do on their day off while the family is away all day from the house.
Daisy, Mr Moseley are sitting exams in the village, while poor old Thomas is left scanning the job columns once more.
The day dawns fine for Brooklands as Miss Edmonds arrives and Edith introduces her to Tom who has been helping Henry with his car.
She finds it refreshing to be accepted readily into such exalted company and is puzzled so Tom relates to her how he started life as a chauffeur on the estate and is now part of this welcoming family.
The family have brought a feast of food from Downton for everyone to enjoy before the race, a new first for the track where a sandwich and smell of oil rag has been the norm until now.
Edith is pleased when Bertie Pelham turns up and Henry re-assures Mary all will be fine and that he wants her smiling as he passes during the race.
Henry and Charlie repair to their motors, after Henry steals a kiss from Mary, wishing each other well as they line up for the racing start and the action is underway.
All proceeds to plan for most of the race, where a great deal of gentlemanly driving is going down
Mary wants to know what is the point in them going round and round … and Tom excitedly explains how it’s all about the exhilaration attached to speed?
Back in the park at the village, everyone is relaxing having a picnic lunch after most of the exams are over, except for Daisy who has more after lunch.
They all discover Andy cannot read and he feels like a fool until the village schoolmaster Mr Dawes steps in and offers to teach him after school telling Thomas he’ll take over, disappointing the under Butler.
Back at the house like naughty children Mrs Hughes and Carson are sprung while trying out one of the families Knole sofas in the library.
They are embarrassed when caught ‘at it’ by Thomas, who wants to join in too but is again, rejected.
At the track Henry is accelerating trying to catch Charlie who is leading to challenge him and he takes the lead…. as they have a race to the finishing line.
Then as they enter the final lap, after passing the grandstand there is a huge crash and they all see a pillar of smoke rising.
Racing to help they find Henry trying to pull his best friend Charlie from the flames, unsuccessfully and Tom and Bertie have to pull him out to save his life too. These were early days in car racing, and no one was supposed to die, it was more like a gentleman’s sport.
Mary is left to console the totally devastated Henry, but only for a moment having to leave with the family, telling him that her aunt Lady Rosamund insists that a dinner at her home that night will proceed.
Dinner in the dining room is very sober, as they discuss Charlie’s stupid and wasteful death. Henry phones, as he has to hear Mary’s voice, he’s been drinking and wants her to give him an answer to his proposal.
Put on the spot, she turns him down as she has realized she doesn’t want life with a racing car driver. Tom consoles her telling her that being hurt is part of feeling alive and she shouldn’t give up on the man who is right for her and that it is a wrong decision to make on such a night.
Mrs P has convinced Mrs Hughes who continues to be ridiculed by her new husband for her cooking skills, feigns an accident with her hand.
This will force Mr Carson to have to cook their dinner this week, bringing him down a peg or two as he learns how hard it is to achieve.
He’s so exhausted he falls asleep at the table when they are eating and waking him, she kindly tells him he can leave clearing up until the morning – poor old Carson, he’s completely shattered by the whole experience.
Mr Moseley learns he passed his exams with flying colours and has been invited to be a teacher at the village school while Daisy has to continue to wait for her results.
Bernie and Edith left in Lady Rosamund’s drawing room together profess their love for each other. He tells her he wants her to be his wife and Edith says blurts out that she would have to bring Marigold with her, stopping short of telling him she is her daughter.
Regaining composure she says its because she is Marigold’s guardian and wouldn’t leave her behind. Despite feeling slightly puzzled being a kind man Bernie says yes and while happy, Edith lets him know she will have to think his proposal through before giving him her final answer.
The family arrives at Downton Abbey to find Lady Isobel in the library waiting with a letter from the Dowager Violet and a present for him that Spratt will be dropping by to deliver.
They discover it has already arrived and is downstairs in the servant’s hall and intrigued Tom urges them all to descend downstairs to see what it is.
There they find a gorgeous new Labrador puppy, which following tradition for naming his dogs after ancient Egyptians, Lord Robert promptly names Tia’a after the wife of Amenhotep II.
Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore share her happiness over her first night guests and then great mirth over Carson’s discomfort when Mrs Hughes relays about him learning how to cook. When he almost catches them at it, Mrs Hughes tells him that they are just laughing about life.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Lord Robert Crawley Hugh Bonneville
Lady Cora Crawley Elizabeth McGovern
Lady Violet Crawley Maggie Smith
Lady Mary Crawley Michelle Dockery
Lady Edith Crawley Laura Carmichael
Lady Rosamund Painswick Samantha Bond
Isobel Crawley Penelope Wilton
Tom Branson Allen Leech
Charles Carson Jim Carter
John Bates Brendan Coyle
Thomas Barrow Robert James-Collier
Elsie Hughes Phyllis Logan
Anna Bates Joanne Froggatt
Mrs Patmore Lesley Nicol
Daisy Mason Sophie McShera
Molesley Kevin Doyle
Andy Parker Michael Fox
Images: Courtesy iTV