The all-new, official companion to all three seasons of the hit PBS series, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, beautifully highlights the history, the characters, and the behind-the-scenes drama as Downton Abbey enters the 1920s. Carefully pieced together at the heart and hearth of the ancestral home of the Crawleys, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey takes us deeper into the story of every important member of the Downton estate. This gorgeous, entirely new book focuses on each character individually, examining their motivations, their actions, and the inspirations behind them. An evocative combination of story, history, and behind-the-scenes drama, it will bring fans even closer to the secret, beating heart of the house.
We have a special Q/A with the author, Jessica Fellowes, below!
Edwardian fashion has been resurrected on runways and in style magazines. What else has surprised you about the popularity of the show?
I think no one could have anticipated the way it’s become such a cultural reference point not just in Britain and America but all over the world. ‘Dowager gems’ is a well-known Twitter hashtag. I don’t think Julian could have predicted that!
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes’ great-aunt Isie is the model for Violet Grantham. Are any of the other characters based on anyone notable or otherwise?
As any writer does, he has drawn on different people he has met or known over the years. O’Brien is based on a particularly mean lady’s maid that used to work for a cousin of his grandfather. She was, he says, “as polite as courtier, but she had a black heart, cold and manipulative”, driving away all her mistress’s friends and family until she alone ruled their Knightsbridge house. Others, are taken more lightly from people he has known – Thomas is based on a dresser from his theatre days; Carson on a wonderful butler, Arthur Inch, who was an advisor on Gosford Park.
What is your favorite episode or scene from the first two seasons of Downton Abbey and why?
Ooh, that’s not easy to answer! I’m a blubber – I cry at the read-through, when I see it on the television, and then again when watching it on DVD! I think the war scenes were striking, and I was pleased, if that’s the right word, that current generations would realize what our grandparents and great-grandparents had gone through. But who can possibly forget the final scene of the second series – Matthew and Mary, kissing and happy at last, as the snow fell around them. Aah!
What was the greatest challenge you faced when writing this book? What was the most fun?
The greatest challenge was probably the timing. Both books were not started until January and were at the printers by July. Given that we had to interview actors and production, go on set, research the period, source the images – photography had to be done alongside the filming – as well as actually write it, this was something of a challenge, but one I was happy to rise to. The most fun for me was definitely the research – it’s a period that has always fascinated me, so to have the excuse to immerse myself in it completely was wonderful.
Which character do you think has evolved the most during the course of the first two seasons?
Lady Edith for me is the most interesting. She, like a lot of women at that time, was brought up to expect a certain kind of life, which was completely turned inside out by the war. She thought that all her prayers would be answered in the shape of a husband – marriage was what gave Edwardian aristocratic women freedom, independence and a certain kind of power. Without that, she has to find her own way and it’s not as if everyone then moves with the times – nearly everything she chooses to do has to be fought for. It’s a lesson to us now to be thankful of what we have and to use it in the best way possible.