I am so looking forward to the January return of "Downton Abbey," now in its third season on PBS. It is a soap opera, I know, but one of grand proportions.
My interest in the program is one that has a bit of intrigue. I have several relatives who, although from Savannah, became intermingled with the British royals during the period before World War I and lasting through World War 2.
My great-uncle was the ambassador to Switzerland from 1913 to 1919. This was just before WW I began and lasted through the war, which, by all accounts, was a time of great upheaval throughout Europe. His daughter met and married a diplomat from Scotland, who later became the ambassador to Japan.
Because of the connections, my great-aunt was asked to be a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary, who was Queen Elizabeth's grandmother. This was, as you have seen in "Downton Abbey," an era in which ladies were to be seen and not heard.
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I had really put all of this information in the back of my mind until I started watching "Downton Abbey."
Good heavens, I thought, I need to find out more about the Savannah relatives.
I started looking on the Internet. I found several articles about them in the New York Times archives. The ambassador was invited to lots of parties and was very busy greeting troops from Georgia arriving in Switzerland via train. He and his daughter shared the same name, Pleasant. I have always loved that name.
I found pictures of Queen Mary wearing a flower-bedecked hat with four ladies-in-waiting, looking very pained, also wearing giant hats laden with flowers, standing around her. I have a copy of one of the pictures on my icebox.
There was a long article about the horror the royal family felt about the idea of suffragettes invading Buckingham Palace. It seems some of the ladies-in-waiting wanted the freedom to vote, much to the chagrin of King George. Queen Mary threatened to sack all of her entourage if they did not drop the idea. Even though the "Downton Abbey" program is fiction, it is based on many real issues society faced at that time.
In one of the New York Times articles there is a very funny thing the suffragettes did. One of the ladies-in-waiting had gotten the secret telephone number of the king. She had the audacity to call him and actually get him on the line. He was so put off by the whole thing he promptly shouted into the telephone he could not talk and hung up. One does not bother the king with such brazen ideas. The palace was agog and in disbelief that someone had the nerve to even broach the subject with the king. The king and queen were told to take no notice of these sorts of things and the ideas would go away.
We all know these ideas did not go away. It is amazing how it takes a wonderfully well-written story to make history much more appealing.
I await with great pleasure the next chapter of "Downton Abbey" and am grateful "we've come a long way baby!"
By the way, I bet the costumes in these next installments of the show are going to influence our clothing choices for the next year or so. From the photographs I have seen, they are gorgeous.