How ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ Fits in the Show’s MassNewsline
THe is the middle of a super-rich family Downtown Abbey In a new chapter of their long-running tale, she is again. Downton Abbey A New EraThe film, which is out on May 18th, will be set in 1928. It depicts the Crawley Family enjoying their last years in the Roaring Twenties before the Great Depression. In A New Era, the family finds out they’ve inherited yet another gorgeous property: A villa in the South of France. Apparently one of Grandma Violet’s old paramours left it to her, which will no doubt stir up a scandal among the family members.
A New EraThe second Downton AbbeyMovie and six seasons of TV series which covered many social and global changes from 1912 to 1928. Here’s where A New EraFits in the larger Downton Abbey timeline—and a refresher on all the Downton drama you may have forgotten.
Downton Abbey Season 1: 1912-1914
Jessica Brown Findlay and Michelle Dockery. Laura Carmichael. Downton Abbey
Robert Crawley, played by Hugh Bonneville, discovers the death of his heir on board the Titanic. Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), his new cousin, arrives at Downton Abbey. Robert is a bit of a snob, so Matthew’s working class proclivities (he’s a lawyer) immediately cause friction between the two. Robert’s mother, the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) tries to find a legal loophole that would allow Robert to give the estate to his eldest daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery) instead, but fails. She spends the rest of the series doling out pointed barbs to whoever may cross her—usually Matthew’s mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton).
Mary is caught in scandal after a handsome, young Turkish diplomat enters her bedroom and causes her to die in her bed. Mary’s mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and her lady’s maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) help Mary move the diplomat’s body back to his room in an effort to save everyone’s reputation—if it gets out that Mary had a man in her bed, the whole family will be ruined.
Mary and Matthew enter into an interracial love-hate relationship. Edith (Laura Carmichael), whom Mary often bullies, spreads a rumor about Mary and the diplomat as revenge for Mary’s cruelty. Mary comes out to admit that she does love Matthew, just as World War I begins and Matthew must go to the front.
Meanwhile, downstairs, two servants named Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) and Sarah O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) make everyone’s life hell. (It’s revealed that Thomas is a closeted gay man who feels isolated. O’Brien seems to be mean for absolutely no reason.) Anna is infatuated with Bates (Brendan Coyle), the valet.
Downton Abbey Season 2: 1916-1918
Iain Glen. Michelle Dockery. Dan Stevens. Downton Abbey
Thomas (Thomas Howes), Matthew and Thomas join the war effort. Downton is transformed into a place for wounded soldiers. Sybil, Jessica Brown Findlay, the youngest of the Crawley siblings, studies to be a nurse at the hospital. Violet (also a nurse) and Isobel (a know-it all) disagree on how to run the hospital.
Matthew returns to Downton on leave and reveals he’s engaged to a woman named Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle). Bates’ crazy, criminal wife shows up at Downton and threatens to spread the secret about Lady Mary and the Turkish diplomat if Bates doesn’t come live with her. Mary proposes to Sir Richard Carlisle, a newspaper magnate (Iain Glen), in order to stop the news getting out. He then buys the story and squashes it. The Crawleys look down on Richard because he’s self-made, which is pretty snobbish. (In fairness to the Crawleys, he turns out to be a pretty vile dude—after all, he is blackmailing his fiancée.)
Sybil fall in love (Allen Leech) with Tom Branson (chauffeur), an English politician who hopes to return to Ireland and end English rule. (We’ll call him Branson so as not to confuse him with the servant/soldier Thomas.) Sybil is increasingly drawn to equality, and she becomes disillusioned in her life with the landed gentlemen. Sybil and Branson plan to flee together. Mary and Edith discover the plan and try to stop them. Robert offers to pay Branson. Branson declines and Robert finally gives Sybil permission to go to Ireland to marry.
Bates’ wife (conveniently) dies by alleged suicide, clearing the way for Bates and Anna to marry. Thomas deliberately gets shot in his hand to allow him to be returned home. William saves Matthew’s life but both return to Downton wounded. In an attempt to ingratiate himself with Robert, he kidnaps and then “finds” Robert’s beloved dog, Isis. Isis spends a terrifying night in the woods. Luckily, when Isis “magically” reappears she looks bored by the whole situation. The cook’s assistant Daisy (Sophie McShera) agrees to marry William on his deathbed, and William’s farmer father (Paul Copley) essentially adopts Daisy as his daughter.
Matthew is crippled from the waist down and learns he’ll never be able to father children but then miraculously gains the ability to walk (and procreate) again. Lavinia succumbs to the Spanish Flu, which is a good thing because she was there for Matthew and Mary. Matthew is guilt-ridden that Lavinia betrayed him before she died. Mary is so guilt-ridden that she believes her attempt to sabotage Lavinia’s Turkish diplomat will render her ineligible for Matthew.
Both of them get past their guilt. Matthew and Mary discover that Lavinia gave her blessing to them being together, which is convenient. Matthew learns the secret of Mary’s Turkish diplomat sex relationship. Matthew agrees. Mary ends her relationship with Richard. He is not happy and gives Mary some nasty words. Matthew punches Richard with a hammer. Matthew proposes in the snow to Mary They are married. They kiss. Everyone is happy that things have settled down in the dynastic world.
Downton Abbey Season 3: 1920-1921
Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens Downton Abbey.
Giles Keyte—Carnival Films
Season 3 of the War is depressing if you think so. Branson gets caught up in a rebel plot to burn down a nobleman’s house in Ireland, and he and a pregnant Sybil must flee to England. Robert convinces Sybil that a doctor in the city will better help her give birth than Dr. Clarkson (David Robb). He’s wrong. Cora stops speaking to Robert for several episodes because she blames him for Sybil’s death. Branson, along with his daughter, is basically stranded at Downton among people with whom he disagrees fundamentally.
Edith thinks she’s finally found love and gets engaged only to be left at the altar. She picks herself up by becoming a columnist and writing about women’s issues. Bates gets arrested for his wife’s murder, but is eventually released. Thomas and Daisy have a crush upon the same handsome new servant. Thomas is outraged whenever he attempts to move on him. He’s allowed to stay on, but a lot of the servants are pretty terrible to him.
Cora gets pregnant. For some reason, O’Brien fears that Cora might fire her and so purposefully facilitates Cora’s miscarriage by leaving a bar of soap next to her bathtub. Cora loses her baby, and O’Brien realizes she’s finally gone too far.
Matthew is co-owner with Robert of Downton Abbey, where they argue over modernizing the estate. Matthew and Mary struggle to conceive and worry that Matthew’s injury may have made children impossible after all. Mary gives birth eventually to a son, who is now the new Downton heir. Matthew takes the baby into his arms, then gets back in the car and delivers the news to the other members of his family. Season 3 was a disappointment, as I already said. Oh, and Matthew’s death comes in the festive Christmas episode. Have a wonderful holiday!
Downton Abbey: Season 4 (1922-1923)
Elizabeth McGoern, Lily James Downton Abbey
Nick Briggs—Carnival Films
Mary, as you can see, is very depressed. Mary is not interested in her son even though it appears that she does have an interest. Downton AbbeyNever interacts with the children, except once per day when they are brought downstairs by their nanny. Eventually, Mary begins to take on Matthew’s duties as the co-owner of Downton. Two new suitors are introduced to her, the first being a charming dummy called Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), and then the second is a smart man named Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). Mary initially loses interest because Charles isn’t landed gentry. He turns out to be a charming man. IsMary rejects the secretly-landed gentry, but he is still there.
Edith is in love with Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), her married editor. To get a divorce in Germany, he is attacked by soon-to be Nazis. Unfortunately for Edith, she finds out she is pregnant and goes on a “vacation” to Switzerland for a year with her aunt to have the baby. Somehow nobody in the family ever suspects she’s pregnant. Marigold is her baby, which she gives to the farmers nearby.
Branson is divided over whether he should stay in Downton to care for his daughter, or if he should leave to follow his political ideas. Branson is seduced by a new maid who arrives, drinks with him. She’s roundly dismissed and generally thought to be a bad person because she tried to seduce someone above her station—even though Branson did basically the same thing a few years before with Sybil, though admittedly without the aid of alcohol.
Rose James, a cousin of Rose (Lily James), comes to Downton. She’s young and hip and does a bunch of scandalous things like briefly dating a Black musician. Mary intervenes to stop their relationship (which is not Mary’s best look). Cora’s mother and brother visit from America (played by Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti of all people).
Meanwhile, downstairs, a new servant names Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) falls for Matthew’s bumbling old valet Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Anna is raped by a visiting servant but hides the fact from Bates, afraid that he’ll try to avenge her. Anna’s rapist dies, leading everyone to suspect that Bates killed him.
Also, we get to witness a beautiful moment when the butler (Jim Carter) and the housekeeper (Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) hold hands at the beach.
Downton Abbey Season 5, 1924
Michelle Dockery and Matthew Goode Downton Abbey
Did you know Lady Mary was a victim to two men? Mary goes to a hotel for a weekend with one of the dumb ones and finds out that their attraction is more sexual than intellectual. Matthew is the only man she can be proud of, and Mary dumps him. Another handsome man shows up, Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), a playboy. He races cars, and Mary’s husband died in a car crash. It is impossible to resist the dramatic irony; they are meant to be.
Edith seizes Marigold from farmers caring for the baby. This is extremely distressing to the farmers. Edith runs the magazine that her deceased lover left behind. Branson dates a radical left schoolteacher for awhile, and nobody at Downton likes her because she’s too political. Branson leaves Downton and moves to America.
Isobel has been tempted by two people: Dr. Clarkson, a local physician and Lord Murton (Douglas Reith). She clearly prefers Murton, but Murton’s sons are rude (one once drugged Branson because he was sweet on Sybil). So Isobel rejects Murton’s advances.
Rose marries Atticus, a Jewish man (Matt Barber). The Crawley family isn’t particularly bothered by this because Cora is half-Jewish, a fact that was hinted at by her maiden name but never actually discussed until this point in the show. But Rose’s evil mother is revealed to be anti-Semitic and attempts to stop the marriage by sending a prostitute to try to solicit Atticus. This ploy fools nobody: Atticus, who is a 1920s version of a gentile Jewish boy, rejects Rose’s prostitute and tells Rose what has happened and promises her his unending devotion. They were married. Rose and he are adorable together. It’s so nice when a Crawley gets married and no one dies!
Downstairs, both Anna and Bates are suspected of and then cleared of the rapist’s murder, but not before Anna spends some time locked up. It doesn’t bother the Crawleys how many years this couple have spent in jail. Thomas makes himself extremely ill when he tries a mysterious medical regimen to try to “cure” himself of being gay. Baxter realizes what’s going on, takes him to a doctor, and helps him get off the meds.
The season can’t end without a death, and this time, the end comes for Isis the Labrador. The opening credits, which heavily feature Isis’ adorable butt and wagging tail, remain.
Downton Abbey: Season 6: 1925
Laura Carmichael plays Lady Edith, Harry Hadden-Paton portrays Bertie Pelham in ‘Downton Abbey.
Nick Briggs—Carnival Films/PBS
Lady Mary finds herself in yet another situation of potential blackmail. This time, a random woman claims she’s going to spread the rumor that Mary spent a weekend in a hotel with a man. Robert pays off the would-be blackmailer, and Mary takes up with Henry Talbot, though she’s hesitant to commit because of the whole race car driving thing. But after Henry’s friend dies in a fiery accident, he decides to give up racing, and he and Mary wed.
Also Lady Edith (finally!) finds lasting love. Bertie Pelham becomes her friend and is supportive of her journalist career. The romance between them is nearly shattered by jealous Mary who is grieving over Henry’s on-again, off-again relationships. Mary tells Bertie Edith is pregnant by an unwed child. Edith and Bertie break up. A guilty Mary later facilitates Edith and Bertie’s reconciliation. Bertie unexpectedly inherits a new title, and when the two marry, Edith becomes the wife of a marquess, a position that ranks above everyone else in the Crawley family, to Mary’s consternation.
Robert experiences a ruptured stomach ulcer. The scene is far more violent than any that they have shot during World War I. Branson and Henry open a shop for cars after returning from America. Cousin Isobel finally marries Lord Murton, which is too bad because she and Dr. Clarkson seemed like they’d be a great fit. Rose moves to New York. Thomas and Mr. Carson tie the knot and Thomas becomes a butler. Daisy assists her father in law to secure a lease for some farming on Downton land. She also flirts with Andy (Michael C. Fox).
Downton Abbey, The Movie: 1927
Maggie Smith, left) plays Violet Crawley. Michelle Dockery portrays Lady Mary. Downton Abbey.
Jaap Buitendijk—Focus Features
The Crawleys prepare for the Queen and King of England’s visit with their staff. The queen’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), turns out to be yet another distant cousin of the Crawleys. (It’s a fun Harry PotterStaunton and Smith to reunite! Lady Bagshaw is to be left her estate by Robert, as she has no heirs. Lady Bagshaw wants to pass it on to Lucy (Tuppence Morrison). Over the course of the film, it’s revealed that Lucy is in fact Lady Bagshaw’s daughter.
Mary believes Branson may be part of a plot against the King. But it turns out Branson was just trying to stop the assassination attempt on his own, without any help from the police. He succeeds in saving the king’s life. Branson is at this point pretty content with his political views. The Crawleys seem nice to him, which can make it a bit depressing. Branson and Lucy are bonded over their shared feelings of being trapped between upstairs and downstairs. They even share a kiss. Everyone gets on board with Lucy inheriting Lady Bagshaw’s land when it seems like she and Branson may marry and the Crawleys will get their hands on the land anyway through Branson.
Thomas discovers a gay bar while out with one of the king’s servants, which is fun, but then he is arrested during a police raid, which is not fun. The king’s servant gets Thomas released from prison and the two begin what will become a long distance relationship. Mary is told by the Dowager Countess that she’s dying late in the film. She is able to continue her role in another movie.
Downton Abbey: A New Era: 1928-1929
Harry Hadden-Paton (l-r), Laura Carmichael and Tuppence Middleton. Downton Abbey: A New Era
Ben Blackall—Focus Features
Although the year is not explicitly stated by any character, there are signs to suggest this. A New EraThe film’s beginning date is 1928. It is titled “The New Era” and it suggests that the Crawleys may be on the verge of a new era. Julia Fellowes, the film’s creator, is referring to 1929’s Great Depression.
The movie shows Thomas and Lucy getting married. The couple then separates and embarks on two new adventures. When Violet learns she’s inherited a villa in the South of France from an old friend, she bequeaths the house to Sibbie, the child of Branson and Sybil. Violet believes that Sibbie will be the only Crawley children to inherit property. She would like that corrected. Violet discovers that Violet’s husband left Violet the Villa, but she also had a woman. She wants to sue for the villa in the courts. Robert, Cora and Edith travel to France with Branson and others to inspect the property and resolve the legal issues.
Mary and Violet remain at Downton while Violet hosts a movie crew who are paying them to film a romantic movie that stars Guy Dexter (Dominic West). Mary’s husband Henry is nowhere to be found. He is “traveling,” as he was for most of the previous film—Matthew Goode seems uninterested in reprising his role in these films.
Mary is flirting with Hugh Dancy (director) and they talk about the successes of The Jazz SingerThe film, released October 1927, was a success and has inspired Hollywood to produce more talk films. A New Era is set in late summertime or early fall—the Crawleys talk endlessly about how it has become fashionable to visit the South of France in the “warmer months” rather than the winter—which means that the movie probably takes place almost a year after The Jazz Singer’s debut. Mary and the director are seen driving by a theater showing. The TerrorThe first ever all-talking horror movie, ‘The Killing of a Friend, was released September 1928.
The movie does briefly flash forward about a year, and given how happy everyone is in the scene, the Depression probably hasn’t hit yet. So it’s safe to say the movie ends around July or August 1929 and any future DowntonAt least one character in the film is likely to be facing economic difficulties. It’s unclear, though, whether Henry Talbot will be forced to curtail his travels and actually show up in a third Downton AbbeyFilm, or whatever Downton creator Julian Fellowes will have to do the unthinkable and kill of yet another of Mary’s husbands so she’s free to flirt with other men.
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