' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Downton Abbey's Lady Edith brings her 'bastard' home. Almost.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Downton Abbey's Lady Edith brings her 'bastard' home. Almost.

Let's give Julian Fellowes, writer and creator of Downton Abbey, kudos for letting Lady Edith have her own controlled meltdowns regarding the daughter she just had out of "wedlock" with her married lover! And then for not leaving the child in Switzerland, despite the stern admonitions of Aunt Rosamund, who tells her in no uncertain terms she must forget the child, let her grow up with the good Swiss people who are caring for her, and if she, Lady Edith, should find the father who may or may not reappear she must never tell him! And besides that, you will have other children!

My god, doesn't that sound like the advice a lot of us got from the old days when we gave up our children? Forget, hide, never tell, you will have other children. Right....

But plucky Lady Edith is not down for the count. The exact line escapes me this morning, but the chauffeur-turned-family member, Thomas Branson, kicks Edith into gear about doing what she really wants to: bring the baby home where she can see her grow up. But of course, she can't bring the baby into Downton Abbey itself--quelle horreur! The groundwork having been laid in previous episodes, the Good Farmer Drewe, indebted to the Downton family, will take the baby and raise her, knowing full well whose child it is. Mr. Drewe and Edith will keep this secret between the two of them. 

Fellowes has done his work well here. Edith (played superbly by Laura Carmichael) has always been the quiet rebel in the family--unlike the sprightly Lady Rose who was ready to marry a black man, partly to shock her mother--and we have been waiting for this all along since Lady Edith began her relationship with a married editor, Michael. The question of course is whether anybody else in the family (besides the two who already know, Dowager Countess Violet and Rosamund) will figure out who the girl really is as she starts to grow up and look like her mum. At one point, Edith corrects her Grandmother Violet and says, can we stop referring to her as "it" and call her "she"? I wanted to jump up and say, Yes! At another point, when Rosamund tells Edith she will have other children, Edith looks stricken, conveying: that ain't going to make up for losing this one. Edith actually tells her Aunt Rosamund that she doesn't understand because she's never been a mother. You go Girl!
Lorraine/Edith in senior picture

Of course we don't really think that Michael is out of the picture. The poor fellow is married, all right, but to a woman in a loony bin, and under British law of the times, he can't divorce her. However, if he becomes a German citizen (iffy after the war), he can, and since love conquers almost all, he goes off to Germany. There he immediately gets beat up by some "brown shirts" for speaking his mind. Thus his disappearance when there might have been a hasty wedding instead of an aborted abortion, followed by a lengthy trip to Switzerland "to improve Aunt Rosamund's French." We assume that Michael will return next season (we hope so!) and the plot line of the child's true parentage comes into play. 

The similarities to my own story cannot be ignored here: I had no sisters, but if I had, I would have been the unfortunate one, with the less than comely looks, with the suitor I did love falling to maternal interference (his mother!) and then not showing up when he should have (earlier Edith is left in the lurch right at the wedding ceremony), and then...me falling in love with a married columnist at the newspaper where I worked following my romantic misfortunes. So you better believe this story line was the one I was following! Lucky for Edith, no matter what happens next, she is going to know where the child is and be able to watch over her. A very open adoption.

Lorraine now
In real life today, one acquaintance of mine who has been extremely critical of my involvement in adoptee rights and all things adoption is a huge fan of the series. She herself comes from an elite family not unlike the Grantham clan of Downton Abbey, and for reasons unknown to me has always been volubly upset because of my finding my daughter, bringing her into my life, and my continuing involvement in unsealing original birth certificates--so much so that one of her sons thinks his mother may be hiding a first child herself! My neighbor is rather elderly now, and watches the series repeatedly, and I can't help wonder how Edith's story line is touching her. Does she have a secret child on another continent? Is her cold reaction to adoptee rights and first mother grief because her oldest friend from boarding school is an adoptive grandmother? I was told by her best friend's husband once that "I am their worst nightmare" of a birth mother. His lucky son went to Siberia to adopt, so it's unlikely their grandson will be reuniting with anybody.

This isn't the first time that Julian Fellowes has dealt with "bastard" children. In Gosford Park, for which he won an Academy Award for best original screenplay, the story twists on a child raised in an orphanage who returns to the Downton-Abbey like home where he was conceived. If you haven't seen this movie, directed by Robert Altman, and are a fan (or not) of Downton Abbey, why wait? It's totally delicious, and one of my favorite films of all time. Maggie Smith, in a role not unlike her salty Violet in Downton Abbey, is priceless, and Helen Mirren gives one of her stellar performances.

As for Fellowes, he is invested in children without parents, for he is a benefactor of Families for Children, an adoption agency in England. Don't know more about it so I have no comment. One last note: if my nose in that high school photograph looks rather straight, trust me it was the work of a retoucher. I had a huge ski-jump of a nose then. --lorraine 

From FMF

Downton Abbey and what you won't learn from those happy adoption agency websites

Gosford Park 
Multiple story-lined drama set in 1932, showing the lives of upstairs guest and downstairs servants at a party in a country house in England. As a hunting party gathers, no one is aware that before the weekend is over, someone will be murdered twice! The police are baffled, the servants know that almost everyone had a motive. You can stream for $2.99.

If you do it through FMF, a small fee will accrue to the blog. And thank you for doing so. 


  1. LOVED, LOVED this post! It made for some wonderful reading - and you, Lorraine, are every bit as awesome as Edith (even more so, because you actually exist in real life!)

  2. I haven't watched Dowton since the third season and quite frankly stopped watching it because of the whole ridiculous Thomas storyline.(and because my two favorite characters were killed off). I was angry to that (now I can't remember her name) the maid was so looked down on because she had a baby out of wedlock and ended up giving him away. That was stupid. What happened with that situation? Did she ever get him back? I am glad Fellows came to his senses with these new episodes that concern Edith. That shows some promise on his part. I just hope he doesn't end up disappointing viewers again. And you shouldn't be disappointed about your high school photo Lorraine! I think you look pretty.

  3. Actually, I did write about the maid who got pregnant and how that ended. See the link now at the blog.

    What I think we have to remember is like the endings or not, Fellowes is being true to the times.

  4. So hoping you would do a blog on Edith's pregnancy in Downton Abbey. You've again literally hit the nail on the head especially because Lorraine, you resemblance Edith's good looks. Edith's resolution to keep her daughter nearby was better than adoption but I know it will still be very hard for her character to not be more involved. We'll just have to wait to see how Fellows handles Season 5. It's both yours and Edith's character's that make them most attractive and not just their physical images. ;-)

  5. True to the times concerning the maid not Thomas. I'm sorry but putting 2012 PC (gay rights)into a 1916 script doesn't work and just makes the show look silly! I hope all works out for Edith tho-I feel very sorry for her.

  6. Thank you for writing about this - i was hoping you would. There are a couple websites I enjoy reading who do silly recaps of Downton Abbey and I had to stop reading the comments there - SO many people were saying things like "no takie-backsies Edith, you should've left the baby in Switzerland" and how the Swiss parents must be feeling since they've bonded with her, etc. Conventional adoption wisdom prevails, everywhere it seems. So very disheartening.

  7. RE “Thomas Branson, kicks Edith into gear” , He said, we have to fight our corner or the others will run right over us.
    Love your Blog. Stumbled on it searching for help with my own adoption dilemma. I am grandmother of three beautiful children whose father was adopted in 1968 in California. He tried to get information from CA last year and they never responded to his request for information. I think he may be telling me this just to stop me from searching. As a grandmother I feel it is my duty to find out what I can about the health of this “other side of the family tree” for my grandchildren. The children’s father has several serious health issues, and the first child is showing signs of the same issues. I have no legal right to post the required personal information on the internet and am wondering if someone can tell me what options I have.
    Love Downton, and loved Gosford Park
    Thank you,

  8. bjztx said:
    am wondering if someone can tell me what options I have.

    Please send Lorraine an email, I know of a lady in San Diego that could probably help you!!
    She found my daughter! I'm sending Lorraine an email with the lady's email.



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