Spoiler Alert: This post reveals details of Downton Abbey, through Season 6, Episode 1.
On Downton Abbey, Earl Robert repeatedly faces financial trouble. Many of his fellow nobles and gentry find themselves in even more dire straits. They cope by selling off their birthright — castles, houses, treasures, and land — and living humbler lives. Why do these apparently rich people teeter on the edge of financial ruin?
For most of their history, Britain’s nobles and gentry lived on the profits of farming. And by the early 20th Century, agricultural wealth had been dwarfed by the riches of industry. Farms still made money but proportionately much less. They couldn’t easily support the upper class’ high cost of living or the tax burden of industrial society. And many nobles and gentry could not or would not supplement their income by working. Continue reading “Decline on Downton Abbey: Why the Nobles and Gentry Went Broke”→
[SPOILER ALERT: Details below from Downton Abbey Season 3 + Ep. 1, Season 4.] In a post last year, I explained The Entail, Primogeniture, and Why Matthew Inherits Downton Abbey. But the intricacies of noble (and royal) inheritance never end, and Downton Abbey’s fourth season raised new questions. During Season 3, Matthew invested some money in Downton Abbey, and in exchange, Lord Robert gave him half ownership. So what happens to Matthew’s half interest now that he’s dead?
The Downton Abbey TV series begins with a predicament for the Earl of Grantham. Earl Robert has no sons, and an “entail” keeps any of his three daughters from inheriting his great estate and mansion: Downton Abbey. Robert’s heir is Matthew Crawley, a distant cousin. Matthew will someday inherit both the earl’s title and his real estate, thanks to the entail. What is this “entail”? (I’m a lawyer and amateur historian, so this question is just made for me.)