With the motion picture set to premiere in September, fans of the TV show Downton Abbey definitely have something to look forward to. One of the highest ranking series of all time, the historical drama spanned six seasons over the course of five years. Downton Abbey amassed a considerable fan following.
The compelling lives of a noble family and the downstairs servants. set against the backdrop of the always enticing early 20th century, made for a fantastic piece of television drama. Downton Abbey became so popular that it paved the way for a movie to be made. Many factors contributed to the huge success of the show, with the most prominent one being the time period. Many of the things we saw come to life on the series are actually based on true events. And yes, that includes the Crawley family and the rules they have to follow. Some of them probably aren't new, but others might just surprise you. Let's take a look at 10 of those rules!
10 Women Can't Be Heirs
The daughters of Robert and Cora Crawley are fan favorites, and no one can quite imagine the show without them. For everyone who watches the show, it came as a blessing that the Crawley family could only produce female offspring. Particularly women of such character and courage, because we all love some girl power represented on TV.
But let us not forget that Downton Abbey took place in the 20th century when women didn't have the rights they have today. One of those was the right to inherit, due to something known as the entail. This law was written in stone to the point that everyone in the family panicked when the heir of Downton died aboard the Titanic.
9 No Closeness With The Servants
Look, let's not forget that Downton is, after all, nothing more than fiction. A piece of compelling, endearing, and heart-breaking fiction, but fiction nonetheless. And some creative liberties will always be taken in the name of TV drama quality, especially when it comes to the relationship between masters and servants.
Historians might frown a bit at the closeness between the Crawley family and the downstairs people because it was deemed as incredibly inappropriate for masters to be close with their servants. But even though the show does take a few liberties in this aspect, the lines are never blurred, and there's always a clear sense of hierarchy.
8 A Marriage Is A Contract
For those of us who have been born and raised in the later years of the 21st century, it's almost impossible to imagine getting married for any other reason besides love. The way younger generations see it, marriage is nothing more than a celebration of love and of two people who want to build a life together.
Things were a little different back then, though. Marriages weren't arranged because two people were madly in love with each other, but rather because it was a good business opportunity. Mary and Mathew were lucky enough to fall in love eventually, but their union began as nothing more than a contract.
7 Speak Properly
If you were born into servitude, you were bound to die into servitude. The lives of the servants in Downton Abbey become even sadder once we realize that, back in the early 20th century, escaping poverty and rising above your station was nearly impossible to do. And while falling out of grace in the case of noble families was a little easier, it was also not as black and white as one might think.
Being born into nobility also came with its own set of responsibilities. Anyone who's ever watched the show has marveled at the way the Crawley family speaks. This is no coincidence, given that the high ladies and gentlemen of the time were expected to speak properly and elegantly.
6 Careful With Mourning
Back when Queen Victoria's husband died, the poor ruler was so heart-broken, she withdrew herself from her duties as Queen so she could mourn in peace. This period of mourning dragged on and was eventually perceived as extremely harmful to the nation. This perception resulted in the societal belief that long periods of mourning were not something one should abide by.
Lady Mary turned a blind eye to this, and when she lost her husband Mathew, she went into a considerably long period of mourning herself. However, members of the Crawley family were sure to be aware that such a practice had been abandoned by society. We'll give Mary a discount since we're still mourning ourselves.
5 No Children Outside of Wedlock
Some rules are made to be broken, and as we've seen so far, even though all of these are rules the Crawley family should abide by, there are always a few exceptions. Anyone who is familiar with the basics of history knows that back in the 20th century, having children out of wedlock was considered one of the worst possible things a woman could do.
For many years, women's role in society boiled down to marrying and producing heirs for their husbands. If there was proof that a woman wasn't a virgin, especially if that proof came in the form of a child, that would be enough to have her cast away from society. Edith may have found her happy ending, but she was lucky.
4 Help The Troops
In the middle of the second season of the show, audiences watched eagerly as Downton Abbey was turned into a recovery house for the soldiers who fought bravely during World War I. This is actually a nod to an accurate historical event that took place in Highclere Castle, the building used to portray Downton. At the time, the Countess of Carnarvon did exactly that, opening the doors of her house to the troops of her country.
Even though Cora Crawley wasn't very happy about the situation, noble families knew that, in order to preserve their reputation in society, they had to prove loyalty to their country.
3 Dress Elegantly
It's not just a coincidence that Downton Abbey has been nominated several times for awards for costume design and hairstyling. The show does a stellar job of bringing to life the way people in the early 20th century were dressed from the servants, to the soldiers, to the noble Crawley clan.
There's not a single fan of the show who hasn't been left in awe by the wonderful costumes worn by the Crawley men and women. They are true staples of wealth, opulence, and elegance, and that's exactly how it should be. Nobles were expected to always look their best, even if they weren't set to leave their estates.
2 Know Your Place
The issue of how women were expected to behave is a recurring theme in this list. This is mostly due to the fact that many more rules applied to women since the emancipation wouldn't occur until decades later, which would finally allow them to inherit, marry for love, and have as many children as they liked inside or outside of wedlock.
In the early 20th century, noblewomen were expected to look beautiful, remain virgins until they wed, produce heirs, and take care of their household. Any woman who dared try to get political or take a very active part in her husband's business affairs would be scolded—or worse.
1 Don't Marry Below Your Station
This issue is valid both for men and women, although noblemen with a considerable fortune wouldn't be as disgraced. As we've explained above, in the early 20th century, marriage was perceived as a contract. More often than not, people were pushed towards unions that were financially advantageous, without love even being a part of the conversation.
Anyone who dared not follow the norm would probably become cast out and no longer welcome in society. Hierarchy was a big part of life in the early 20th century, and trying to break with the status quo was simply not a good idea.