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Laura Perrins: Lady Mary gets it wrong again. Latest research shows you cannot road test marriage


Dowton Abbey was a hoot on Sunday. It is worrying however that Julian Fellowes felt the need to bring out the big guns, in the form of a house fire, so early. I hope there is not going to be disaster in every episode.

Fellowes also continued to treat Lady Edith in the same dismal fashion as the last series. Truly, what did the girl ever do to him? A probably dead lover, an illegitimate child she is separated from, and then in the first episode Lady Edith is nearly consumed by an inferno. She was saved – for now – but was reduced to having to sleep in her father’s dressing room that night. Next week Fellowes will have her out in the stables. How long can this go on?

Lady Mary’s concern for her sister amounted to thus: she was angry as ‘Lady Edith set her room on fire.’ Not, a how are you; how are you doing; I am really glad you are still alive? I am only surprised that Lady Edith has not put some mercury in her sister’s wine by now. But perhaps that will come.

Which brings us to Lady Mary. Lord Boring of Dullchester is still hotly pursuing her. But although she ‘loves him,’ she is not convinced she should marry him as they do not get enough time together, and she wants to be sure everything is just perfect before she does wed him.

Lord Boring, in a desperate attempt to convince Lady Mary to marry him, has submitted to what can only be called a sexual audition. He has proposed a tryst, a “week away” in a love shack for himself and Lady Mary where they get not only to spend their days together but their nights also. This is in an era before the distractions of TV and internet, fellow viewers, so I do believe this could be over-kill.

On the one hand, it is no great hardship for Lord Boring to endure – locking himself away with Lady Mary and only themselves for company. But on the other hand I ask myself – does the man have no pride? Is this what he has been reduced to – proving his worth between the sheets? The humiliation and desperation alone is off-putting.

What, might I ask, will Lady Mary say at the conclusion of the week? Does she intend on giving marks out of ten? Helpful tips? A sticker that says ‘must try harder.’ The mind boggles – it truly does. And let’s not forget that Lord Boring has a disadvantage in the sexual audition stakes as Lady Mary has been married and, although Lord Boring probably has had his way with a maid or two, on balance he must be much less experienced. And our Lady Mary is never short of criticism now is she – so good luck with that one.

Perhaps you feel I am a little harsh and all Lady Mary wants is to make sure she and next husband are ‘compatible’. This to me is just a posh way, a very Lady Mary way, of saying even though I love you (which must include them both being very attracted to each other), your sexual prowess may not be simply up to scratch. That does not sound quite so honourable, now does it?

It is an interesting story-line, however, as we know the vast majority of people these days will not only ‘road test’ a potential partner but cohabit for long periods of time before getting married – because they want to be ‘sure.’

However, most studies show, perhaps counter intuitively, that this does not necessarily result in a happier marriage. A new American study shows that the more relationships you’ve had prior to marriage, the less likely you’ll have a good marriage.

So I fear for Lady Mary and her poor desperate suitor preparing for his sex audition. Because even it if all goes sparkling well in the love shack it does not guarantee a happy marriage.

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