With Netflix’s drama The Crown filming currently – bringing the royal saga up to date – we can reveal that the UK’s other favourite upper-class potboiler, Downton Abbey, is being similarly eased into the 21st century. TCW Defending Freedom’s arts and entertainment editor has had a sneak preview of the script …
THE Earl of Grantham is sitting at his desk in the downstairs study going through paperwork. A gentle knock at the door disturbs him.
The door opens and head butler Carson enters.
‘You wanted to see me, my lord?’
– ‘Yes, Carson, what on Earth is that infernal din?’
‘Are you referring to the irritating background humming noise or the incessant banging, my lord?’
– ‘Both, I suppose.’
‘Well, my lord, the low humming noise is coming from the new ground source heat pump that Lady Grantham recently ordered. It had to be sited on an outside wall and unfortunately the most suitable positioning is just outside the study window.’
Carson gesticulates to the south-facing sash.
– ‘You mean I will have to listen to that ghastly racket continually?’
‘I am afraid so, my lord. But do not despair, because the banging will shortly be coming to an end. The builders have almost finished taking up the hand-painted Egyptian tiles in the hall to accommodate the new wider bore pipework and will shortly be able to replace them with the bamboo and rattan matting that was delivered yesterday.’
Lord Grantham splutters.
– ‘Good God man! Those tiles were brought here by my great-grandfather, and now they have just been broken up?’
‘Progress has its price I’m afraid, my lord. But looking on the bright side, there will be considerably less disruption with the pipework upstairs, as the contractors have assured me they will be able to take up and re-secure the existing floorboards with minimal damage.
‘They have however pointed out that the new radiators will struggle to keep an ambient temperature throughout the main rooms, and it might be best if the family invested in some new clothing with a high tog rating.’
Lord Grantham slumps in his chair.
– ‘Thank Heaven we have all those fireplaces – at least we can use those as back-up.’
Carson shuffles awkwardly, coughing slightly.
‘Sadly not, my lord. Under the Government’s new “green deal” the burning of logs will shortly be made illegal, and the ornate fireplaces will take on a mere decorative duty going forward.’
– ‘What in God’s name is going on these days? I feel like a stranger in my own home. By the way, I wanted to talk with Mrs Patmore about next week’s luncheon.’
‘Mrs Patmore is no more.’
Lord Grantham leaps out of his chair.
– ‘What? You mean she’s dead?’
‘Oh no, my lord, nothing as dramatic as that. However, for some time the fact that hir was identified AFAB, or as a female at birth, has been something of an encumbrance and hir feels more omnigender than novigender. In future, hir would like to be referred to as Patmore and the Mrs, which suggests a patriarchal chattel, should no longer uttered.’
– ‘Crikey, I really have been out of the loop too long. The next thing you will be telling me is that Mr Molesley isn’t Mr Molesley.’
Lord Grantham allows himself a chuckle at his joke, but notices that Carson isn’t smiling.
‘No, my lord, you have nothing to fear there. Molesley is still Molesley. But if I may be so bold, I think you should be aware that you cannot simply assume that calling the servants by their former gender-based pronouns is acceptable. Is Mrs Hughes happy being Mrs Hughes for instance, or is Mister Bates comfortable with this identification? One cannot be too careful my lord.’
Carson’s tone unsettles Lord Grantham.
– ‘No, of course, you are – as always – absolutely right, Carson. I will make a special effort not to cause any unnecessary upset or offence.’
‘If I may suggest my lord, there is a very interesting and inclusive gender awareness programme being run at the village hall next month. I have taken the liberty of obtaining a pamphlet that explains this.’
Carson passes over a rainbow-coloured brochure and Lord Grantham reads aloud.
– ‘“In the old days and especially for Generation X the population felt accustomed and at ease using binary language – gender matching assigned sex. This outdated terminology ignores people who experience a sense of gender that does not conform to societal norms.
‘Additionally, it reflects a limited understanding of the modern world and fails to account for the variations of identity that exist today. This two-day awareness module will guide participants in a non-confrontational and holistic way through the labyrinth of complex and occasionally confusing aspects of gender identification.”
‘Well Carson, you can put me down for a place and I think Lady Edith and Lady Mary might well benefit from this too.’
‘Very good, my lord. And might I suggest that the Dowager Countess would benefit from attending?’
– ‘Top-notch idea. Carson. She could do with shaking out of her somewhat fuddy-duddy views of the world, she needs to get with it. Please go ahead and organise it and I think it best if we keep this as a surprise between us, Carson – I don’t want them cancelling out of it.’
‘Of course, my lord, leave everything to me. Will that be all?’
– ‘Yes, thank you.’
Carson turns and makes for the door. Lord Grantham calls out.
– ‘Oh, Carson, can you arrange for the car to be brought to the front, please? I have a small errand to run.’
Carson raises a quizzical eyebrow.
– ‘Yes, the car. I need to attend a meeting of the cottage hospital trustees in the village.’
‘I am afraid that is not possible, my lord.’
– ‘Dammit! Why on Earth not?’
‘Sadly, the charging point that we had installed in the old garage has not been functioning and we are currently unable to charge up the electric engine. There is, of course, the bicycle.’
– ‘No, no, no! Just bring me my pearl-handled revolver and a bottle of Shrimpie’s Old Knob-Strangler malt.’
Exit Carson, quietly closing the door. The camera pans across the room, settling on Lord Grantham’s face – a medley of confusion and sadness. A tear falls gently down his cheek.