Downton Abbey's anti-Catholic plot [spoilers]

Downton Abbey’s anti-Catholic plot

Spoiler warning!

“It is really to illustrate that casual, almost unconscious anti-Catholicism that was found among the upper classes, which lasted well into my growing up years,” says Fellowes, 63, who is a Catholic and an old boy of Ampleforth.

Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, has, in a previous episode of the series, opined that Catholics have “something Johnny Foreigner” about them. “It wasn’t that they were nasty – Robert certainly isn’t – but they thought that somehow Catholics were un-English and so 'not quite right’,” says Fellowes. “I am not aware that anyone else has ever touched on it, so I thought it might be interesting.

“[Evelyn] Waugh writes about Catholics, Lord knows, but not much about the anti-Catholics, who outnumbered them in that world, many times over.”

Thank you for the spoilers. I’m looking forward to this. It would be interesting to see where he takes it. I also didn’t know that Fellowes is Catholic.

Well I didn’t see Lady Sybil’s death coming, I expected Tom to get caught up in the Irish Civil War and killed in it as many individuals did. Especially considering Tom is a socialist and most of the socialists were on the wrong side in that war (as co-incidentally was the man seen as the most Catholic political leader in 20th century Irish history) and many like personal heroes of mine such as Liam Mellows either died or ended up as outcasts or had their health broken.

The plot definitely does represent a reality of how Catholicism was seen in this era. The conversion of JRR Tolkien’s mother to Catholicism which occurred roughly twenty years before this era also illustrates how rough things could get as she was disowned by most of her family. Irish Catholics like Tom formed a peculiar social class, the were tolerated at certain levels but the gent in the article is quite right, they were always perceived as somewhat foreign and so to were many English Catholics even those of high social rank who would never have mixed with Irish working class Catholics. It’s worth noting that two of the most prominent female advocates for Irish independence were both converts to Catholicism later in life and one of them faced quite a lot of odd remarks about her marriage to a Catholic which reflects the tenor of the time.

Anti-Catholic plot or historically accurate view of the British upper class toward Catholics for that time period? I’m going with the second.

The second is more fair and ‘anti-Catholic plot’ in this context refers mainly to the plotline rather than the show been itself anti-Catholic. I’m a bit grumpy with Sybil been killed of as I particularly liked the character.

Oh, the sentiment of anti-catholicism was pretty strong in that era–the legal proscriptions had been lifted (saving the ban on the Monarchs or PM being Catholic) but in many cases it was like being an African-American in the 1970s US South.

Consider that most Catholic of Anglicans, CS Lewis still considered himself an “Ulster Protestant” and his brother Warnie was tempted to actually join one of the “Orange” groups in the late 1960s (The Lewis’s childhood nurse is largely credited to enculturing the boys with these sentiments).

Tolkien commented on this aspect of Lewis at times and considered it a form of tribalism which was detrimental to Christianity. Not that only Ulster Protestants tended to carry on like that, there’s been a fair few Irish who have assumed Catholicism is the natural religion of the Irish and tried to equate Irishness and Catholicism as been the same thing over the years. Triblalism of that kind has been a bit of a curse historically of course in Irish politics.

Whether the PM could be Catholic or not is a question that’s awkward to know the answer to actually. No-one has yet been in a position to challenge it and Blair waited to convert till after leaving 10 Downing St. so the matter is ambigous at present.

No!!! This hasn’t been aired here yet and it’s caught me by surprise. Wow, don’t know if I want to know more or not…

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