Lady Mary’s Secret Sex Vacation As Explained By Historical Advisor, Downton Abbey
The Crawleys of Downton abbey are a very appropriate family, at least on the surface, but as viewers (and at least one local farmer) know, they’re all secretly a bunch of sex-crazed charlatans. First there was Lady Mary and the case of the Turkish diplomat who died just after taking her virginity. Then there was Lady Edith and the guy who got her pregnant, only to disappear in Germany and never hear from again. And now, of course, there’s Lady Mary again, with her suitor Lord Gillingham, going on a secret sex vacation (“sketch trip”) to Liverpool in order to decide if he’s really the right one or not. To find out how realistic such a trip would have been, Cosmopolitan.com spoke to historian and author Alastair Bruce, who is the show’s historical advisor and an expert on all things Edwardian England. (You may know him from the special The Manners of Downton Abbey, in which he can be seen wielding a measuring stick to verify that each chair is the correct distance from the table.)
When you first heard about the script for “Lady Mary Goes to Liverpool”, what did you think historically?
I knew it was going to happen. I knew that this would be an excellent opportunity to test again the good manners of the time that were expected, especially of those who lived in the high station. I think it was a pretty risky but natural development for a widow in a changing era who had been madly in love with her husband and was being chased by two men she had vague thoughts about. One of them had the temerity, the dexterity and the determination to recommend that, in order to break the deadlock, they may boldly go to a place of personal satisfaction which until then both their culture and their – i will not tell their instincts – but their education had prevented. And once again, Lady Mary, for the second time in her life, is throwing roulette on the danger of her future, as her privilege as a member of the aristocracy and how she is allowed to live with that privilege depend on very directly on the responsibilities it assumes. And one of them is to negate personal desires of the flesh, and to live truly altruistically, in order to maintain respect for a nation that has less and less reason to put up with it. aristocracy apart for recognition and respect. And here she risks it all, perhaps for the right reasons, in something that people would think very little about these days.
Was this kind of secret getaway something people would really do at the time?
Well I think people have unbuttoned their zippers and taken off their underwear since time immemorial. We have to assume that then and now, human beings who are displaced to this most earthly level can find clandestine ways to bend even the most understandable rules of behavior. In answer to your question, did this happen? Of course it happened. Most people who embarked on such a daring jaunt would go out of their way to make sure they were never discovered, just as people continue to do today.
So, if Mary was caught, what kind of consequences would she face as a single woman hanging out alone with a single man?
It’s all about reputation. The aristocracy felt it was necessary to maintain their position in society. But to keep it as long as possible, they felt it was imperative to set an example of life beyond any form of criticism. This meant that from an early age they were trained to behave properly, to be chaperoned if they weren’t married, and never to think about dating the opposite sex no matter how badly they wanted to until. ‘until they are married. This is why so many of them married young, in order to discover both the freedom of their parents’ chaperoning, but also to discover and enjoy the physical blessings that were available in love and marriage. Some of them found love at the same time, some did not.
I think it’s a story that doesn’t change through the ages. People take risks or don’t take risks, depending on who they are and the circumstances in which they find themselves. I think when Mary says, “If my dad was here he would box you on your nose,” what she actually says is, “I’m horrified by what you recommend, but somewhere in the middle. background, as a widow who has had to deal with so much misfortune and who is right now deeply troubled about what I should do to choose someone to spend the rest of my life with, this is probably a very good idea that you recommend. ”But, my God, it is full of dangers.
Let’s talk about the scene where Marie sends Anna to the pharmacy to buy her contraception. Is this something a titled woman would have asked her maid to do for her?
Yes. You could do anything as long as you never broke the rules of decorum. There was an expectation because prophylactics existed that prophylactics existed to be used. The great thing was never to let anyone know that they were being used by someone who shouldn’t be using them within the confines of what was considered a proper and formal wedding. In this case, of course, she pushes poor old Anna to do it, not so much because she is the maid but because she is a married maid, and so while asking someone else to do her “dirty work”, she is in fact asking a married woman – who, when questioned, as sometimes happens – would feel very entitled to ” obtain prophylactics for continued good family planning.
Perhaps what Lady Mary could have done if Anna hadn’t been married would be to keep asking the question, for there is no one Mary can trust who is not her mother and sister. My God, she wouldn’t ask her sister! There is no one else she could ask for other than the maid, and the maid, by the nature of the way these people lived, was the closest person to her in her life. life. She might have asked a single Anna to find in a very roundabout way someone Anna trusted to go and buy it for her, who also wouldn’t be suspected of having done something immoral or certainly untraceable to this immorality linked to Mary. Who else would you ask, you know? She certainly couldn’t go and do that, unless, of course, she dressed as a non-lady, which would be hard to achieve (and she could be recognized), and then drive across the country and d ‘having the excruciating debate over whether she was allowed to buy it or not, with a woman standing behind a pharmacy counter. But it would have been a bit more complex.
What about Lord Gillingham? Would getting caught have a similar effect on their reputation?
Well, it’s not a fair world, is it? I mean, men are expected to misbehave at almost all ages. The problem is, as I explained to [Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna] when she was in this rape situation, I said, “Jo, you know how to be a woman [means] nobody believes you. They all think you provoked it. They all think you are responsible. ”So just as Lady Mary had been discovered or if she had become pregnant, the presumption would be that Lady Mary provoked it and allowed it to happen, as sex cannot take place. that if the woman “allows” that to happen, and therefore she is the sinner. Look in the Bible, and there you have Adam and Eve, and Eve is in terrible trouble for encouraging Adam. You see what I want. It’s kind of embedded in this social understanding of things. I think Gillingham would have gotten away with it, although people could tut-tutté a little. But in the end, you know, it’ll bounce back, because the men did.
In the season premiere, Jimmy gets caught in bed with Lord Grantham’s Lady Anstruther. We see that Jimmy gets fired, but what would have happened to a woman in his place, caught in a compromising situation like this?
I think Lord Grantham would think she was contemptible. She was in a position of strength there, because she is a woman and he was from below, just as an evil teacher might prepare a young student for sex because of the position of power. that this teacher has on this vulnerable student. . Thus, one could also apply the application of inappropriate power by an aristocrat who is in a position of wealth and position which tempts a young, impressionable and obviously fairly high-blooded man who finds her attractive. Again, these people go into these things on the assumption that they’re going to get away with it. People take risks in life. The roulette wheel spins often and I thank Lady Anstruther’s reputation which probably wouldn’t be compromised as I don’t think Robert will tell anyone about it.
As a historical advisor, you correct the actors on their posture, the decorators on the placement of the dishes, etc. Did you have to make any corrections in relation to the sexual scenario?
What are you asking ?! The answer is that I took a step back. I knew the book by Stokes [in which Mary reads about contraception]. Stokes’ book in its day was revolutionary, because here is a very useful writer who tackled a subject so little covered until then. Young women did not find out the facts of life either through their mother or father until the day before their wedding, or worse yet, in bed with their husbands the night after the guests left. I mean, people haven’t taught women much about their bodies and these aspects of their natural instincts. Obviously, the natural instinct is the natural instinct. Stokes’ book provided a whole generation of women who were on the verge of this permissive new age, that age where the chance to make decisions would hopefully be easier and less judgmental, at least with the possibility of prophylaxis. If you ask me if I taught anyone what position to sit or what position … no. It is beyond the advice of a historian.
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