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Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

Newport, RI & the Gilded Age



I just took a trip to Newport, RI, home of many grand mansions from the Gilded Age and my are they beautiful. We toured seven of them in three days. Their initial grandeur, although mesmerizing, loses its effect as you tour the houses and hear the stories of those who lived in them. Realizing what it took to run a house so ostentatious can be disheartening if you don’t belong to the same socio-economic circle. However, they can also be appreciated for their pure architectural beauty and genius. Most of them modeled after castles or chateaus in England and France, they helped spread the culture and intellect of Europe to the U.S. Who would have thought…a small town on the coast of Rhode Island acts as a miniature European city.


For anyone who likes Downtown Abbey or is interested in the social structure during that time, touring these mansions is a real treat. The tours are very informative and interesting, detailing the home-owners’ daily lives, parties, marriages, relationships with their servants, clothing, budget, etc. The kinds of families that lived in these mansions are the likes of the Vanderbilts. In fact, various family members built more than one house in Newport. The mansions are now preserved and shown to the public by the The Preservation Society of Newport County. It’s shocking to think that some of these mansions could have been torn down in the 60s, but thanks for The Preservation Society they are still standing and thriving. I would definitely recommend a visit to Newport, RI to see these stately mansions and learn more about the Gilded Age.



Our place in societal roles, influenced by Downton Abbey


It’s hard to know what to value in life and how to feel about societal roles when we’re in between a proper, aristocratic mindset and have taken on a more modern, liberal and informal attitude toward things. Perhaps we are no longer in between the two, but rather pretty far into the modern mindset. But as I like to think of the past, I do still care about propriety.


I was reminded of this recently when I was watching the third season of Downton Abbey, which takes place in the early 1920s when things are shifting away from the older aristocratic ways to a more open-minded attitude. Various people in the family have differing opinions – some clinging onto propriety, others (women especially) breaking out of the traditional roles in the home, and others still being pushed in one direction or the other by fellow family members (whether or not they agree is another question).

So as I watch Downton Abbey and observe how each character approaches what is proper and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t for a person of their stature, and how they find their place in the changing world around them, I think about my own attitudes towards important things that define our lives and the way we value things like money, education, family, manners, etc. I like to think that these things are still important, despite the shift for a more relaxed attitude towards life. I certainly embrace the positive advances we’ve made, particularly when it comes to the advancement of women, but holding onto a little bit of the past and what was valued in the past, such as Downton Abbey’s setting, I like to think that there are still some things which hold a certain amount of importance, like manners and cordiality, that we should not criticize. People may think of this stance as snobbish and elitist, but I don’t think it is. I think it is merely valuing the basic, important things in life that make us dignified people and there is nothing wrong with that.