Downton Abbey was in top shape as they hosted a royal guest today afternoon. The Duchess of Cambridge visited the set of the popular drama and met with the lead actors, in an engagement that all Downton Abbey fans will truly enjoy.
Upon her arrival at Ealing Studio, where Downton Abbey is filmed, Kate was greeted by the show’s writer and creator, Julian Fellowes. Young Zac Barker, who presented her with a posy of flowers. Along with his twin brother Oliver, Zac plays Master George Crawley, Lady Mary’s son and the heir to the estate. Oliver, too, was on hand and gave The Duchess a toy train for Prince George, her own young son and heir to the throne.
During her visit, Kate chatted with a number of the actors, who were dressed in their costumes and ready to film the period drama. Unfortunately, Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham, was not present as she had taken ill.
In a discussion with Sophie McShera (who plays Daisy), she learned that the actors who play the cooks and kitchen maids can’t cook. Kate also had a giggle as she asked Jim Carter, the actor who plays the normally uptight butler Mr Carson, whether his butler’s outfit was his “usual attire”.
The Duchess of Cambridge toured the show’s wardrobe department and make-up room, where she met Phyllis Logan, who plays the head housekeeper Mrs Hughes, as she was made up by artist Nic Collins. Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas Barrow, shared a joke with The Duchess, saying: “You’ve come just at the right time, Phyllis is about to have her Botox put in.”
Kate took a tour of the various sets and met the people responsible for the props and costumes. She also had the chance to watch as they filed a scene from series six.
“I think the Duchess really enjoyed herself,” said Lesley Nichol, the actress who plays the cook, Mrs Patmore. “We knew before she came that she was a fan of the show, and she clearly knew a lot about what we did. She was asking us how our lives have changed since the show and I told her ‘immensely’. Although, to be honest, I was talking so much she didn’t have much of a chance to get a word in edgeways.”
“I got the impression that she thoroughly enjoyed herself, but I really hope she has just gone home for a cup of tea and put her feet up. It was a long time for her to be walking around on the set with that bump. I would have offered the Duchess a cup of tea myself, but I couldn’t have guaranteed what was in it,” she added.
After completely taking in the sights on set, The Duchess went ‘downstairs’ to the Servants Hall, where she sat for a picture along with the principle actors and production team. There was a cake bearing the letters ‘DA’ (for Downton Abbey) in icing, and The Duchess unveiled a commemorative plaque before she left.
“It was very exciting for everyone, the cast and the crew,” said Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith. “It was a very special day for Downton. It was a very surreal and exciting experience to be at work and be visited by a member of the royal family.”
“She’s watched the show and really loves it. Julian Fellowes thanked her in his speech for mentioning the show while she was in America and that she watched it and loved it. She helped put us on the map. Brendan [Coyle, who plays Mr Bates] and Hugh [Bonneville, who plays the Earl of Grantham] were fighting over who’s her favourite character, but she wouldn’t reveal who it is. She watched some, but she didn’t ask me any secrets or for any spoilers.’
The Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to the set is in celebration of the success of Downton Abbey. The programme is immensely popular both in the UK and overseas, and has become “one of Britain’s greatest cultural exports”.
This isn’t the first time that a fictional member of the nobility on Downton Abbey has interacted with real-life royalty. Earlier this week, Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the Countess of Grantham, met Prince Charles and Camilla at a reception at Winfield House.