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
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, and causes scandal when she marries Tom against her family’s wishes.
Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, the youngest and most rebellious daughter of the Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey. Her character eventually succumbs to death in childbirth
DEATH IN CHILDBIRTH
Belgravia: Sophia Trenchard (Emily Reid) is the pretty, if slightly wet, daughter of James Trenchard (Philip Glenister), the wealthy but frightfully common businessman. Lord Edmund Bellasis (Jeremy Neumark Jones), her rotter of an aristo boyfriend, tricks her into believing they are married — and gets her pregnant, before he’s killed in battle. Sophia dies in childbirth as her mother sobs at her bedside.
Downtown: Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) was the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. During labour, GP Dr Clarkson declares that Lady Sybil has pre-eclampsia and must go to hospital. Nonsense, says obstetrician Sir Philip Tapsell. Sybil gives birth to a daughter and dies … as her mother sobs at her bedside.
Harriet Walker plays Caroline, Countess of Brockenhurst in ITV’s new show Belgravia
Belgravia: Harriet Walker plays Caroline, Countess of Brockenhurst, the acid-tongued manipulator who plans to ruin the Trenchards. Dame Harriet, 69, was honoured in 2011. She also appeared as a grand lady in Downton — Lady Prudence Shackleton, a childhood friend of the Dowager Countess.
Downton: Maggie Smith plays Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, whose stern looks and withering put-downs made her one of Downton’s most loved characters. Maggie Smith, 85, was made a Dame in 1990 for services to the performing arts.
THE DASTARDLY BUTLERS
Belgravia: Turton (Paul Ritter) is the Trenchards’ head butler, and is terribly sniffy about the fact his master works in trade. But he’s happy to exploit the family’s wealth for his own gains, and steals food from the family kitchen to sell on.
Downton: Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) is Downton’s most manipulative servant. He tries to get his lordship’s valet fired by planting stolen goods and forces the maids to give him information about their ladies.
Belgravia: Anne Trenchard (Tamsin Greig) may have enough money to keep her in fancy hats but one thing she can’t buy is acceptance in London society. Anne, the daughter of a teacher, marries a market trader turned tycoon. She is tolerated by the grand ladies of Belgravia but never made to feel welcome.
Downton: Doctor’s daughter Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) is given a very hard time by Violet, the Dowager Countess, who is aghast at her lack of servants. When they first met, Isobel asked what they should call one another. The Dowager Duchess shot back: ‘We could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham.’
THE EVIL LADY’S MAIDS
Belgravia: Speer (Bronagh Gallagher) is lady’s maid to Susan Trenchard (Alice Eve), spoilt daughter-in-law of Anne and James Trenchard. Susan makes the mistake of trusting her maid over her scandalous extra-marital affair, but Speer will use the information for her own gain.
Downton: Who can forget evil O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran), lady’s maid to Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham? Cora is delighted to fall pregnant in her 40s, hoping it might lead to the male heir Downton needs. But O’Brien, believing she is about to be sacked, has other ideas and places a wet bar of soap on the floor by her Ladyship’s bathtub. Cora duly slips and loses the baby.
Tamsin Greig as Anne Trenchard with her beloved pet dachshund, Agnes
Belgravia: Agnes is the Dachshund belonging to Anne Trenchard. Agnes is always being petted and fed scraps from the table. She enjoys carriage rides with her mistress, who seems to love her more than she does her own useless son Oliver.
Downton: Isis was the yellow labrador belonging to the Earl of Grantham. She was always at her master’s side and there wasn’t a dry eye when Isis died of old age in 2014.
The Earl of Grantham’s beloved pet labrador, Isis, who even had her own storyline
HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE?
Both shows’ scores were composed by Bafta-winning Scottish composer John Lunn. With their classical, lofty, iconic opening sequence, they left many confused viewers joking on Twitter that they thought the music had been recycled.