Lord and Lady Grantham the love story: Julian Fellowes plans Downton spin-off


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The Independent Culture

Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes is planning to pen a prequel to hit ITV period drama Downton Abbey centred on a younger Lord Robert and Lady Cora Grantham.

Speaking at a Bafta Screenwriter’s Lecture he said:  “I have an idea of doing a prequel to the courtship of Robert and Cora… They had a slightly troubled courtship because she was in love with him before they married, and as we know, he married her entirely for her money.”

The first series of Downton was set in 1912 when the Titanic sank. At that point Lord Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, and Lady Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern, had an eldest daughter approaching her twenties, so the prequel would probably be set in the 1880s.

Fellowes hinted that the story of the Granthams’ courtship might be a novel rather than a television series – but given the latter’s success, attracting viewing figures of 9 million in its third series, people will be clamouring for a televised version.

The series is well known for galloping through historical events. So far it has journeyed from the sinking of the Titanic through the Great War - during which Downton house was turned into a hospital - to the early 1920s and potential financial ruin.

Britain 1890s-1910s would present plenty of opportunities for Fellowes’ historical nous:  it could see the influx of American heiresses to England; the Granthams celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee; Lord Grantham fighting the Boer war; and the impact on the English aristocracy of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Fellowes said of the relationship between Lord and Lady Grantham: "I sort of feel there's something quite nice in there because he's a decent cove, and so he feels rather guilty about this which has affected their marriage beyond that."

A pair of younger actors would be cast to play Bonneville and McGovern’s characters’ courtship.

Fellowes made his name writing the Oscar-winnig screenplay for 2001 film Gosford Park which also explored the relationships between masters and servants in a grand English house.

ITV commissioned him to write a four-part miniseries about the Titanic earlier this year which didn’t mete out the critical acclaim of Downton and was dubbed “Drownton” on Twitter.

For more information about Bafta Screenwriter Lectures visit guru.bafta.org