The Manners of Downton Abbey: A Masterpiece Special


Hovering just off camera on the set of Downton Abbey is the man who watches the actors’ every move. The director? No, it’s the historical advisor, Alastair Bruce, guaranteeing that the behavior above stairs and below stairs is true to the period of 1900s Britain. A treat for Downton Abbey fans or anyone who loves history, this MASTERPIECE goes behind the scenes during the filming of Season 5 with Bruce to explore the elaborate code of conduct that governed British life.

Bruce, who holds the prestigious Order of the British Empire, is an expert on royal ceremony and custom, and has been the on set advisor to cast and crew since season 1. Among his responsibilities is to consult with Downton Abbey’s actors on how to speak, stand, sit, eat, drink, dress, and keep a stiff upper lip.

With exacting precision, Bruce explains the intricacies of correct manners and behavior. “It’s so difficult to take people back in time to when rules were so different, “ Bruce says. “The manners of Downton are not just about how to address a Duchess…it’s much more important than that. It’s key to how these people lived and exactly what they believe in… their manners held the old order in place when everything else seemed to be falling apart.” In The Manners of Downton Abbey, interviews with leading cast members such as Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, and Lily James add perspective about the demanding norms that rule their characters’ lives. The program includes many memorable moments from the series, along with comments from the actors about how key scenes were filmed.