November 22, 2012
The Dowager Countess having tea on the lawn of Downton Abbey

I’ve been lost in the world of Downton Abbey.  In many ways it is a dangerous place for me to be because I idealize it, become disenchanted with ‘the real world’, and pretend I am, in fact, Lady Mary Crawley... or the Dowager Countess of Grantham, depending on my mood.  (I am never Lady Edith in my imaginings.  Poor Edith.)

Christ the King
 The loveliness of Downton – the dresses, the house, the manners, the drama – meshed in my mind with the great feast day we will be observing this Sunday: The Feast of Christ the King. Come along with me as we tie the two together.

Our God is Lord of All, and Jesus Christ is King.  We speak of a royal priesthood and the kingdom of heaven. The language we use to speak of holy things is rife with noble imagery, and if we are to inherit our place in heaven as coheirs with Christ, then we too, are noble.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines noble as: of high or exalted birth, or, possessing, characterized by, or arising from superiority of mind or character or of ideals or morals.  That’s us, isn’t it? We are made in the image of God, His sons and daughters – high and exalted birth indeed!  And if we cooperate with Grace, we are able to have “superiority of mind or character”.

Servants and family of the Abbey
Though we live in more democratic and egalitarian times, we do still have high expectations of the high born, don’t we? Scandal in the royal family seems all the more shocking because they are, well, royal and we expect that they should know better, behave better, and conduct themselves with more dignity. 

Ah, there’s the word I've been waiting for!  Dignity.  I don’t see nobility as having as much to do with rank and position as it does with dignity. We were all given dignity in equal measure; it is our birthright from the King Himself.  Royal behaviour isn't always easy; it isn't always the quickest or the most fun road to travel; and sometimes it needs a little outside help. It used to be that girls (boys too, but that’s someone else’s story to tell) received instruction in things like elocution and comportment. You may have seen the movie Mona Lisa Smile and laughed at the girls being quizzed on how to handle their husbands unexpectedly bringing home the boss for dinner.  Quelle nightmare! In our time, unless you are sent to finishing school, social graces are no longer in the curriculum, and I think it’s a shame. Think of the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Doesn't that suggest our behaviour, our actions are effective means of sharing the gospel? How we present ourselves to the world is enough to introduce people to Jesus.

Mrs Hughes, housekeeper
Let’s go back to where we began in Downton Abbey where manners and morals reign. How a person behaves in that society matters, and how she is perceived in public is very important. Yes, the upstairs upper classes had rules aplenty of how to behave and what to say in any situation, but the downstairs servants followed rules of behaviour as well, almost more so than the privileged classes who had the shield of money to protect them from censure.  We may think their codes of conduct to be excessive and unnecessary, but compare what we know of how women behaved up until, say, the 1920s or 1950s with any of the Housewives, Desperate or otherwise.

I think it’s time we reclaimed our royalty.  In the weeks to come we’ll look at ways fun and serious to do just that.

2 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to learning of ways to reclaim our royalty. Thank you, your Ladyships, for providing this space of true feminine dignity on the Internet!

    ReplyDelete

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What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!

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