I must admit, I was one of the thousands (or millions) of American folks who wept with the ending of Downton Abbey’s Season 2 and counted the days until the premiere episode of Season 3….which just so happened to air this past Sunday evening!
I quickly became intrigued by the characters, as well as the starkly contrasting ways of life depicted on the show. As unfair as it may seem to me, there were so many class distinctions between the nobility of Edwardian England and their waitstaff, and this show does a very good job at portraying them all.
Fans of Downton (or history buffs in general) will rejoice in this new book by Sterling Publishing, a non-fiction treat all about this time period and the people within it. Upstairs & Downstairs: The Illustrated Guide to the Real World of Downton Abbey by Sarah Warwick is a wonderful accompaniment to the show, a way to clue us in to the truths and misconceptions of this time.
Here is part of the synopsis from the press release I received along with my preview copy of the book:
“Detailed accounts and journal entries from actual servants and their masters describe what life was like during that time. Images and descriptions include a lavish Edwardian dinner party including a sample eight-course menu; detailed descriptions of popular fashions and leisurely activities of the time, along with examples of architecture of this fascinating period.
“Upstairs & Downstairs also journeys through the lives of famous Edwardians such as Beatrix Potter; suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst; politician and statesman Winston Churchill; and authors George Bernard Shaw and P. G. Wodehouse. Portraits and images of their famous homes are included.”
A few things I found fascinating:
- Most breakfasts served in Edwardian estates arrived in three elaborate courses.
- Mornings for waitstaff often began as early as 4 am.
- The main housekeeper had her own parlour, irreverently dubbed “Pug’s Parlour,” where she did most of her management work.
- The lowest servants often were only given a straw mattress to sleep on — on the floor.
- For a dinner party of 20 guests, more than one thousand pieces of silver, crystal, porcelain, and glassware would have been used at the table.
Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product at no cost from Sterling Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I received no other product or monetary compensation for this honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.