If you like Downton Abbey…

Who has seen the Downton Abbey movie?  Whether you watched every episode of the series or saw the movie and still need more, we have something for you all. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so don’t tell me too much if you have!

Most importantly, we have all six seasons of Downton Abbey on DVD to check out.  A few other movies that we have that you might enjoy include Howards End, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson; the 2012 version of Upstairs, Downstairs; Brideshead Revisited with Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon; and The Crimson Field, a BBC-produced saga about field-side doctors, nurses, and volunteers in France during World War I.

If you’re interested in fiction that covers the same time period or story line as Downton, consider Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke, a story about an aristocratic family in England and their secrets on the eve of World War I.  Daisy Goodwin has written two novels that are about heiresses and English aristocracy, The Fortune Hunter and The American HeiressThe Fortune Hunter is about the real-life  love triangle between Empress Elisabeth of Austria, her lover Captain Bay Middleton, and the heiress Charlotte Baird.

Like the Duchess of Grantham (Cora Crawley), many American heiresses took their inheritances to Europe in search of a title.  Consuelo Vanderbilt was one of the most famous of those, and you can read her autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold: The American Duchess – In Her Own Words.  For a lighter, fiction version of her story, try American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt by Karen Harper.  Harper is a prolific author of historical fiction, and her books always deliver interesting views of women in history.   One of my favorite books about these American heiresses is To Marry An English Lord by Gail MacColl.  It’s a fun nonfiction book with tidbits of information about the more than 100 heiresses who “swapped dollars for titles.”

Another famous American heiress who married into English nobility was Jenny Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill.  She was fiercely independent at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable for a women to be, and her life makes for an interesting read.  We have a great novel about her, That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron.  For those interested in the more scandalous parts of Jenny Churchill’s life, the try Edward VII: The Prince of Wales and the Women He Loved, which included Jenny Churchill.

On a lighter note, Danielle Steel’s Beauchamp Hall is about an American woman who goes to England to work on a Downton Abbey-like show and finds love.  The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is set in the English countryside right before and during World War I.

Downton Abbey was filmed at Highclere Castle in England where the current Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live.  The Countess has written two books about previous Countesses of Carnarvon:  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle and Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey.   Lady Almina delves into changes that took place in English society during and immediately after World War I, while Lady Catherine covers the family during the years of World War II.To learn more about the staff that made life possible for the aristocracy, Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey” by Margaret Powell offers an inside view of working in the kitchens of some of England’s grand houses.  Think about Daisy crossed with Mrs. Patmore!  Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge is a comprehensive study of those in service.  Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison is a story of the woman who served as personal maid to Lady Nancy Astor.  It was fascinating to hear about Lady Astor’s travels, clothes, and jewelry.  This book also offers an in-depth view of the differences between the lifestyles of those who lived in wealth “upstairs” and those who worked tirelessly “downstairs.”

We have many more — just email me (sperry@uptexas.org) if you want more titles or ideas.

Happy reading!

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