Tuesday 24 July 2012

Bow Down Ye Lower Middle Classes

As the sequel series to the popular TV drama “Downton Abbey” follow on from one to another it might be interesting to see how far they go towards the present day.  Will they be daring and have a young Earl of Grantham living it up in 1960’s London?

A clue to where the series might be in the first years of the 21st Century was when following a truck off our local motorway.  It was being handled well enough, but the driver, like any not familiar to this neck of the motorways could not make sense of the road signing and needed to switch lanes several times.

The company it belongs to was written in large letters on the rear and sides.  It was Downton Real Distribution Solutions.  It makes a change from Logistics.  Perhaps it might be no bad thing if the umpteenth fictional Earl of Grantham was portrayed as a white van driver forever at the margins of financial survival.

It would not be too far from the reality of some of the old aristocracy or the scions of peers of more recent creation.  This year the 14th Earl of Loudon died and was succeeded by his son the 15th.  The family are now ordinary Australians living and working in the same way as their suburban neighbours.

In the fictional past we now tend to think in terms or our preconceptions of the aristocracy and others of the landed classes of the past.  But I like to think of Patrick Rackrent, Jorrocks, Tristram Shandy and Mr. Hardcastle.  Also, they were not as permanent as we like to think.

A look down an index of peerages and landed gentry will yield many names and families that have declined or gone or simply been absorbed into the other classes and occupations.  This has been for many reasons.

Some were unlucky in being hit for inheritance taxes too often in too short a period.  Some were dragged down by a range of family and other financial obligations that ran ahead of incomes and inherited wealth.  Some blew it on being in society or on the horses. 

Very many with their wealth in land were slowly ruined by the Great Agricultural Depression and its effects on the succeeding generations.  Whilst the Empire and growth of government offered opportunities one way they found themselves with serious competition on their hands.

A few made their way in business and managed to survive although not at the same level.  Additionally, and this may be no bad thing for them, they no longer command the highest reaches of celebrity interest or the gossip columns.  Money does that and they no longer have the money.

What might make a fun comedy series in the right hands with writers with both a wry humour and a sense of history might be if the white van driver found himself a major multi-millionaire on the Euromillions lottery.

Who then bought Downton Abbey to turn it into an extreme type of theme park.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure I once read that aristocratic families survived for an average of three generations.