Call in the Auntie Brigade! Lessons from Downton Abbey


Call in the Auntie Brigade! Lessons from Downton Abbey
What would you do without your favorite aunt?

Crisis is in the air this week at Downton Abbey, and the decision about whom to turn to seems clear.  Whether it is 1922 or 2014, there is no one like an aunt. 

Lady Edith is pregnant, unwed, and the father (whom she adores) has disappeared without a word.  Unwanted pregnancies are incredibly complicated regardless of the era, and modern society still has a ways to go in terms of resolving this issue; however, Lady Edith's situation is downright dire.  Abortion is illegal, and having a child out of wedlock is looked upon by her family and all of those who surround her as disgraceful.  When Edith tries to confide in her mother, she asks her mother if she is bad.  Her mother says that everyone has bad thoughts, but one is not bad unless they act upon these thoughts.  Needless to say, the secretly pregnant Edith finds no comfort in her mother's words.  She chooses instead to confide in her quirky Aunt Rosamund.  Interestingly, her Aunt was incredibly harsh with Edith on the subject of dating the not-yet-divorced Michael Gregson during her last visit to London.  Nevertheless, her reaction to Edith's unwed pregnancy is calm and clear:


"I will support you whatever you decide.  Just as Cora will, and Robert.... I refused to be shocked."

Meanwhile, downstairs, Lord Grantham is off to the U.S. for a surprise trip to assist his brother-in-law with a mysterious problem.  Such travels traditionally necessitate a valet, which would be Mr. Bates.  Mr. Bates has finally re-connected with Anna, so the timing is problematic.  Anna does not have an aunt to look out for her, but Mrs. Hughes takes it upon herself, in an auntly fashion, to intervene.  Mrs. Hughes bodly explains to Lady Mary that Anna cannot spare Mr. Bates; Lord Grantham must bring Thomas as his valet in Mr. Bate's place.  Mrs. Hughes is so determined to protect Anna that she is willing to risk her job.  Then, when Lord Gillingham's creepy rapist valet, Mr. Green, surfaces for a surprise visit, Mrs. Hughes inserts herself and confronts him on Anna's behalf:

"I know who you are and I know what you've done.  While you are here, if you value your life, I should... keep to the shadows... Mr. Green, you were to blame and only you.  Don't you dare thank me, I've not kept silent for your sake."
Mrs. Hughes is obviously not Anna's aunt; however, as an older, childless, mentor, her protection of Anna since the rape is fierce.  The downstairs world of Downton functions a lot like a family; in this vein, it is easy to imagine Mrs. Hughes as Anna's beloved aunt.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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Elisabeth LaMotte


Social worker, psychotherapist, blogger and author of "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce"

Location: Washington, DC
Credentials: LICSW, MFT, MSW
Specialties: Communication Problems, Dating/Being Single Support, Divorce/Divorce Prevention
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