Dear Downton Abbey

Dear Downton Abbey, before you say goodbye, I want to share my gratitude for the joy you have brought into my life. I’m writing to tell you that I’ve grown to love you as I do an old friend, and to express my admiration for the unique strengths each of you bring to your world. I want you to know that I anticipate each episode with a child-like feeling of Christmas.

I don’t see Downton Abbey as a model for living; I see it as a model of life. The ups and downs, the comings and goings, the arguments over issues large and small. The struggle for power and control in times of change and modernization. I relish the dysfunction in your home as each of you learns who you are, the value you bring, and where you can make a difference in the world. Ditto for your eventual realization and understanding of those around you. Judgments flourish and misunderstandings abound. Fear, jealousy, and desire drive poor behaviors resulting in unfortunate and inevitable consequences. People are rescued from themselves by the kindness and compassion of others, served gently from places high and low. Sometimes life is unfairly cruel and unfairly generous. Hearts are broken (we break with you) and then glued back together again through the soothing power of space and time. You (the collective you) are a model of life because we experience the same journey ourselves. We just show off different clothing, don different titles, use poor grammar, and have wearable technology. Otherwise, your world and our world are the same.

I want to send a shout out (that’s a term we use now, rather than the word “compliment”) to the most unappreciated and important force on the show: Mr. Tom Branson. Tom, research shows that followers need four things from leaders: Hope, Trust, Stability, and Compassion. You are Downton Abbey’s guiding light, providing all four elements in an elegant and understated manner. You nourish the family and staff in ways that they hardly know they need. Your presence was keenly missed when you visited our side of the pond, and deeply valued upon your return. I see beautiful strengths in action like Responsibility, Belief, Empathy, and Includer. I hope you’ll take the StrengthsFinder and share your results with us. When I guess people’s strengths, I am often wrong. I guess anyway.

Daisy, your journey from the lowest rung on the ladder to becoming a force of nature to be reckoned with, and an educated one at that, is amazing. You are impatient, firm, and strong. In you I see Belief, Activator, Command, and Learner. I pity the person, regardless of rank, who stands in your way. Go get ‘em, Daisy!

Mrs. Patmore, you are the queen of common sense. You believe in doing your job in a proper and frugal manner, yet you embrace entrepreneurship! Your journey is cautious and thoughtful. I see Deliberative, Input, Intellection, Ideation, and Restorative. I want to stay in your B&B.

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, thank you for not living happily ever after. Thank you for showing us how difficult relationships are, even after working with one another for years. Mr. Carson, I see your Maximizer and Consistency in every episode. You want the perfect traditions and values and processes left untouched. Thank goodness Mrs. Hughes brings Adaptability, Harmony, and Developer, else there would be no peace in either home. It was good for you to wash those dishes, Mr. Carson, and I will always treasure your first adventure with that newfangled, disruptive device, the telephone.

Mr. Barrow, despite your talents, your struggles surrounding your identity and your relentless envy of others has driven you to break trust with those you serve and work with. You’ve never been able to overcome that, have you? There is a lesson in that for the rest of us, for trust is the currency of all relationships. Your unregulated, high-horsepower strengths like Significance and Competition operate like a race car with no brake. You crash around the universe, grabbing the spotlight and seeking credit, and then blame others for each fall from grace. The problem doesn’t lie in those rock star strengths; it lies in you. You are not coachable and you don’t learn from experience when the universe tries to teach you. You crave acceptance and love, and but make it nearly impossible for others to give you what you need. I see people like you in the workplace, and they experience similar self-induced difficulties. You’ll either figure it out one day, or you won’t. I hope you do.

Mr. Molesley, you’ve proven yourself to be an analytical thinker who, unlike Mr. Barrow, has learned from the lessons provided from the universe. You will do well as a teacher, for you’ve played that role already with our friend, Daisy. I see Learner, Input, Strategic, Analytical, and Developer hard at work. Well done.

Lady Edith, I am rooting for you because I have felt your heartbreak, manifested in my own misadventures that are too similar to your own. Rising above your troubles at the altar, the loss of your lover, your poor treatment from Lady Mary, and losing and then gaining your daughter, you get up every time. These experiences have not defined you (despite Lady Mary’s attempt to make it so); they have shaped you like fire shapes steel. Your strengths have slowly become stronger, including Achiever, Discipline, Restorative, and Maximizer. A shoddy product will not do, and you will toil all night to fix it. You have more confidence in your work than you do your personal life, a perspective I share. I wish a happy ending for you, and will join you in sadness if it is not so. I hope you tell Lady Mary to shove it. She needs to hear that from you. Your courage trumps her beauty.

Then there are the fabulous strategic partnerships of Downton, starting with Lady Mary and Anna. Lady Mary, your blazing eyes refute the ice princess image, but your heart is protected by aloof walls high and wide. When they are broken on the rare occasion, emotion and kindness flow. But, for the most part, your feelings are locked up and carefully hidden from view. Your Context keeps your mind in the past, and you use that info to move forward (or not). You’re a thinker, analyzing and plotting a roadmap (Strategic, Analytical, Intellection) which you share only with a few trusted advisors (Relator). Your Self-Assurance appears in every episode, and you move with utter confidence even if you are heading in the wrong direction down a one way street. We know you care as evidenced by your support of Anna.  Anna, you bring creativity and reality to Lady Mary’s world. You are resourceful and responsible (Arranger, Responsibility). Your Positivity has served you well in your service and in your marriage.

Lord Grantham and Lady Grantham, you two have helped polish the rough edges off one another. The American notion of “we are all created equal” has melded with the English sense of “we are entitled”, resulting in a pretty darn good relationship that benefits family and staff alike. Lord Grantham, I value your ability to communicate what matters most to the proper stewardship of the estate (Responsibility, Communication) and your ability to find common ground with your staff and demanding Mum (Harmony). Lady Grantham, you’ve grown into your leadership role. You don’t demand to lead, but you accept it when it is offered. I believe you are driven by the belief that we are all connected in some way (Connectedness) and yet you also understand and tolerate the needs of the individual (Individualization).  We saw your strengths in action when you provided the beautiful wedding garb for Mrs. Hughes. Your special ability to see the forest and the tree has also helped you navigate the rough waters with Daisy and the Dowager Countess.  And that leads us to my most favorite partnership of all.

My favorite partnership is between the Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley. You two couldn’t be less likely allies, for you operate from the opposite end of the hierarchical and intellectual spectrum. You are the ying and the yang of the show. We need both. The zingers that fly between you have me ROFL (that means I’m quite tickled). I replay them. I see Significance, Competition, Focus, and Strategic in Lady Violet (remember the award winning roses episode?), and Responsibility, Consistency, Empathy, and Restorative in Isobel. Together, they blend into a practical and perfect union of unspoken support, surviving each and every heat of the battle. Lady Violet, you uttered the quote of the decade: “What is a weekend?”

I know I haven’t covered everyone, but I’ve run out of time (we don’t have weekends anymore – it’s a 24/7 kind of world. “What is a weekend?” is more relevant now than it was in your day!)

The show is not over here in the U.S. (why does Europe get to see the show before we do?) and I will accept what comes. In the meantime, I do have one final, lingering question for Lady and Lord Grantham. It has bothered me for years. I hope you will forgive me, for it has to do with the modern science of genetics. You both have lovely blue eyes. How is it, then, that Lady Mary and Lady Edith are brown-eyed beauties? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s kind of impossible if you are their real parents. My educated, scientific female mind travels the possibilities. Were they adopted? Is there a hidden scandal in your past? Ah, never mind. I don’t care. I treasure you all just the way you are – perfectly imperfect, entirely human, and profoundly wonderful.

Love,

Maureen   Ideation | Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Individualization | Maximizer

PS. For those of you who enjoy StrengthsFinder and Downton, feel free to share your thoughts!

4 thoughts on “Dear Downton Abbey

    • You are welcome, my friend. I needed something non-serious to write about today. I woke up, the idea came to me of a “Dear Downton” letter, and with that, my energy followed. I had been thinking about the character’s strengths for some time. Wouldn’t it be the coolest if they all took the StrengthsFinder, answering from the point of view of the characters they play? I would love that! Happy Weekend! ;-)

  1. You made me laugh when I got to the part about blue eyes and brown eyes. Only Maureen would be watching a show and, picking up a detail like that and wondering about the science behind the family!

    • Hi Barb! You know, I didn’t think there was anything odd about it, but when I read your comment, I thought about my work with this year’s Cranbrook Hockey team. I’m photographing all the games which means I’m meeting more parents. The first thing I do is determine what parent the boy looks like. Sometimes it’s neither, and sometimes it is clearly one parent or the other. But so far, no genetic rules have been broken! ;-) This is the beauty of our thinking strengths: we are observers and don’t even know we’re doing it until we share out observations which seem to surprise others. Imagine if your daughter had brown eyes! I’d be asking you some questions! In fact, there was a 2 year old at Friday’s hockey game. I know the father, but hadn’t yet met the mother. When I met the mother, both father and mother have nearly black hair. The daughter is as blonde as blonde can be. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Where did that blonde hair come from?” :-) I think I’m starting to see that perhaps I don’t need to blurt out my observations in the moment!

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