The romantic relationships at Downton riveted viewers as they followed the twists and turns of some of the most beloved — and dramatic — courtships in television history. Hosted by Hugh Bonneville, who portrayed Robert, frequent father of the bride and Earl of Grantham, this celebration features the most romantic and moving wedding scenes from the series as well as exclusive interviews with Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge, the creative team that brought these relationships to life, and in-depth interviews with cast members who portrayed the romantic partners.
Spanning the idyllic pre-war era through the storms of The Great War into the roaring 1920s, Downton Abbey has been the site of many unforgettable love affairs, both upstairs and down. As the world around them underwent extraordinary change, romance within the sumptuous house continued to be marked by passion, ambition and heartbreak.
“The spine of the series is love,” said Julian Fellowes, writer and creator. “All of the characters are given an opportunity to feel love, to turn love down, to love the wrong person, to make a mess of it, to make a good thing of it. But I think on the whole love is a very key ingredient to all our lives, even if we haven’t got any.”
The central marriage of “Downton Abbey” is that of Robert and Cora, played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. Despite challenges and obstacles, their union is based on a deep understanding and affection for one another, which grows over the course of six seasons. “I like the idea that Robert had married Cora for her millions in order to save Downton and keep the show on the road, and subsequently fell in love with her,” said Fellowes. “It puts a slight guilt almost into the relationship on his part.”
The dubious honor of the most scandalous marriage at Downton was that of Lady Sybil to Irish chauffeur and self-proclaimed socialist Tom Branson. Their slow-burning courtship crossed class boundaries and shattered social taboos. Much of the first two seasons were taken up with the courtship of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. Although Matthew is instantly smitten, the icy Mary takes a while to succumb to his charms until, having endured separation, war, and the death of Matthew’s fiancé, they are finally united after a winter wonderland proposal.
WEDDINGS OF DOWNTON ABBEY also features romance below stairs. The long-suffering Anna and Mr. Bates are given enormous obstacles to overcome as bad luck, misunderstandings, miscarriages of justice, a vengeful first wife and a murderous prison mate threaten to destroy their happiness.
Another long-simmering romance that finally resulted in matrimony was that of Carson and Mrs. Hughes, played by Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan. “It was the longest burning, slowest romance in the history of television,” said Carter. The creators admit that there was no plan at the beginning of the series to bring the couple together, but Carter and Logan created such a wonderful duo that marriage became inevitable. The pairing of the circumspect Carson with the wise Mrs. Hughes created warmth and humor as the two personalities balanced each other.
One of the most shocking weddings on “Downton Abbey” left poor Edith stranded at the altar, jilted in humiliating fashion by Sir Anthony Strallan. But far from crushing her, the event became a turning point in her life. And eventually Edith finds Bertie, whose love for her is so great that he accepts both her and her illegitimate daughter. Their glorious Christmas wedding gave Edith the fairy-tale ending that she — and her fans — deserved.
“The last episode was written for the fans who have supported you all along the road,” said Fellowes. “I wanted a real warm glow and everyone sitting there with two bottles of Corrida and crying. That was my conscious plan, which I think we brought off.”
PBS special programming invites viewers to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front-row seats to world-class drama and performances. Viewer contributions are an important source of funding, making PBS programs possible. PBS and public television stations offer all Americans from every walk of life the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content.