Fabulous frocks, stately homes, social climbing and illicit love affairs — there’s nothing like a costume drama for a bit of spirit-lifting escapism. Belgravia, written by Julian Fellowes, and airing on Sunday nights on ITV, is just the ticket. However, Fellowes also wrote Downton Abbey and viewers have noticed many similarities between the shows. Here, CLAUDIA CONNELL looks at why that might be...
Belgravia: The death at the Battle of Waterloo of his only son, Edmund, leaves Peregrine, Earl of Brockenhurst (Tom Wilkinson) with no son to inherit Lymington, the family seat (not to mention a house in Belgravia). Instead, it will pass to his scoundrel nephew, John Bellasis, played by Adam James.
Downton: With three daughters, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has no one to inherit Downton. After his cousin and his son go down with the Titanic, he searches the family tree to find a male heir, and discovers distant cousin Matthew Crawley.
The Earl of Brockenhurst (left) in Belgravia is played by Tom Wilkinson and Hugh Bonneville (right) plays the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey. Both are left without heirs after tragedies
SCANDAL OF AN ILLEGITIMATE CHILD
Belgravia: Anne Trenchard (Tamsin Greig) yearns to raise her motherless, illegitimate grandson, but her social-climbing husband James, fearing a scandal, forbids it. The baby boy, Charles, is adopted by a clergyman and his wife.
Downtown: Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), the Earl and Countess’s daughter, gets pregnant during an affair with Michael Gregson, the married editor of the newspaper she works for. Gregson travels to Berlin to try to get German citizenship to obtain a divorce and marry Edith but is killed during a failed Nazi coup. Edith gives birth to Marigold and her parents concoct a story about the baby being Edith’s ‘charge’.
Belgravia: Charles Pope (Jack Bardoe) has no idea he is the illegitimate grandson of the Earl of Brockenhurst. He is a cotton trader and a man of principle who will refuse to profit from slavery. Unlike other Victorian gentlemen he works, and plans to open one of Manchester’s most modern mills.
Downton: Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) is a solicitor when he is contacted about inheriting Downton. He goes on to marry Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), the Earl’s eldest daughter, and overhauls the estate’s management with modern farming methods.
A HOMAGE TO HISTORY
Belgravia: The first episode of Belgravia opens on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It focuses on a real-life ball thrown in Brussels by the Duchess of Richmond with the Duke of Wellington (who led Britain to victory) in attendance. During the ball, soldiers are told of Napoleon’s advance and abandon the dancing to head to the front.
Downton: The first ever episode of Downton Abbey also launched off the back of a reallife event — the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912. Lord Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville) reads about the disaster in his freshly pressed copy of The Times, which had been presented to him on a platter by his butler, Carson. His Lordship later learns that his cousin and heir, James, and his son, Patrick, the heir presumptive to the Downton estate, have both drowned.
Pictured: JACK BARDOE as Charles Pope and ELLA PURNELL as Lady Maria Grey
Belgravia: Lady Maria Grey (played by Ella Purnell) is the pretty daughter of Lady Templemore who is determined her daughter will make a ‘good’ marriage to a wealthy gentleman and save the family from ruin. But Maria wants to visit India and learn about business, and hates being constrained by her sex. Most of all, she doesn’t want to marry Lord John Bellasis, the oaf her mother has lined up for her, and is far more taken with the dashing Charles Pope.
Downton: Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay), youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, doesn’t want to be a grand lady who swans around in posh frocks. She strikes up a friendship with Tom, the family chauffeur and, through him, develops an interest in campaigning for working-class rights. She trains as a nurse to help the wounded of the Great War,