Downton Abbey – Dreadfully Subversive!

As a suburban family man I do enjoy sitting down in front of my HD TV on an autumn Sunday evening to watch that exquisite example of English, class obsessed, period, property porn that is Downton Abbey. Thoughts of medicine, politics and economics are usually far from my mind during this time.

However towards the end of the 11th October episode I was surprised by two separate scenes:

The first was Lady Crawley discussing her lady’s maid Anna’s emergency procedure (cervical cerclage) done for her repeated miscarriages.

Lady Crawley: I’m so grateful for you coming out here at dawn.

Gynaecologist: Don’t worry – it will be reflected in my bill.

Lady Crawley: Of course.

It itself this wasn’t that exciting, but it woke me up a little so I was prepared for the extraordinary anti-government speech delivered by the fiery Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley (played by the excellent Maggie Smith). In this scene the ladies are discussing the proposal for the village hospital, of whom the Crawleys are trustees, to merge with another larger hospital.

Lady Rosamund Painswick: Is it really so important to see the Crawley’s in command mama?

Violet Crawley: That is my sole motive is it?

Isobel Crawley: Isn’t it?

Violet Crawley: No, no it is not. For years I’ve watched government take control of our lives, and their argument is always the same – fewer costs, greater efficiency – but the result is the same too. Less control by the people, more control by the state, until the individual’s own wishes count for nothing. That is what I consider my duty to resist.

Lady Rosamund Painswick: By wielding your unelected power?

Violet Crawley: You see the point of a so called ‘great family’ is to protect our freedoms. That is why the Barons made King John sign the Magna Carter.

Isobel Crawley: I do see you argument was more honourable that I had appreciated.

Lady Rosamund Painswick:  Mama we’re not living in 1215, and the strengths of great families like ours is going. That’s just fact.

Violet Crawley: Your great grandchildren won’t thank you when the state is all powerful because we didn’t fight.


High drama? Libertarian propaganda? Veiled criticism of the BBC by ITV? I’ll let you decide.


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