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Have you been watching Downton Abbey on PBS Masterpiece Theatre? In Season 1, this period drama centers on the Crawley family and their servants two years before World War I. Now in Season 2, the Crawley family and staff are dealing with the social, cultural and familial ravages of war.  But this television show is so much more than my plain-jane logline description.

Wonderful writing and a superb cast bring a set of heroic yet deeply flawed characters alive. On the flip-side, even the most despicable villains provide glimpses of their humanity, leaving us all to wonder, “What’s going to happen next?” No cardboard characters or contrived plots here.

If you haven’t been watching and would like a quick way to get up to speed, look no further than Amber West’s post Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday.

When you return from Amber’s place, grab a cup of tea and prepare to settle down here with me for my Downton Abbey Mash-up. I’ll make you some toast and slather on the marmalade. Slice of cheddar? I thought so:)

Ready?

Did you know that Downton Abbey is a real family home? Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle, the family home of the Earl and Countess of Carnavon. The 8th Countess of Carnarvon, who currently resides at Highclere has written a book, Lady Almina and The Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

The book covers the period when Lady Almina converted Highclere Castle into a Hospital in September 1914 for wounded soldiers in World War 1. Sound familiar?

The book also chronicles their lives after the war when Lady Almina’s husband the 5th Earl of Carnarvon went to Egypt with Howard Carter and discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

Do you suppose this is why The Earl of Grantham’s dog in Downton Abbey is named Pharoah? Don’t you just love it? Clever writers!

Sadly, Downton Abbey has not always looked the way it does now. In August 2009 the headline in The Daily Mail was Can Highclere Castle Be Saved?  Historic Home Verging on Ruin Lord Carnarvon Reveals  Click the link for more pictures.

A year later ( July 2010) Andrew Lloyd Webber famous for many Broadway and worldwide hits such as Phantom of the Opera wanted to buy the struggling Highclere, renovate it to house his art collection and open it to the public. Lord Carnarvon was not pleased with his offer!

Naturally, I’d love to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s art collection but I’m happy that Lord Carnarvon stood firm and wanted to keep Highclere in the family. The entire kerfluffle is here; Castle Is Not For Sale Earl tells Lord Lloyd-Webber

And for the newest news — Downton Abbey Just Got Dirty — I’m not about to spoil your fun and tell you who’s going to appear on the show next season as a perfect foil for the Dowager of Grantham ( Maggie Smith’s character )  but it’s delicious and you’ll see her face the moment you open the link. Brace yourself and brew another pot of tea. Hats may fly!

Downton inspired parties, a companion reading list and more Downton fabulousness to ooh and ahh over is covered in a post Sunday Nights At Downton Abbey by Jennifer Tanner.  Finish off your Downton fix by going to Tameri Etherton’s blog where she delivers a funny, warm-hearted  post about how she and her hubby became fans in Dear Downton Abbey, we love you.  If I haven’t convinced you to watch Downton Abbey I’m sure Jennifer and Tameri can.

Are you a fan? Who’s your favorite character? Why? Who’s your favorite couple? Who’s the villain you most love to hate? What do you think will happen next? 🙂

~Kate MacNicol

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