Aging, Menopause

Downton Abbey–Will I Be the Next Dowager?


A  post by Downton Abbey fan Judy Ackley Brown:

Season 3 of Downton Abbey is ending soon, and I am quietly grieving.

My obsession with the show is strong.

My Sunday nights best not be interrupted during the DA run!

This season I was intrigued with Maggie Smith’s character of the dowager.  It prompted me to double check on the exact meaning of this uncommonly used word, which is “a dignified elderly woman”.

Where are the dowagers in our culture now?

Have they lost their purpose?

Do we need to regain this quiet but powerful role?

Do we behave with dignity?

Violet is bold, opinionated, sly, but also witty and wise.

Ever present in the daily lives of the family she is the typical matriarch.

The dowager has dated opinions for sure and appears to struggle with the inevitable arrival of a new and modern world. Edith, her granddaughter, a journalist?  Tom Branson to baptize baby Sybil a Catholic?

What struck me this season, in a warm fuzzy way, is that despite Violet’s rigidity, she deeply cares for each family member.

The continuance of the estate and the well- being of the family unit is at the center of her often unsolicited advice.

She embraced Branson when a new great grandchild was in the horizon.

Despite her subtle and manipulative ways, she did play a key role in restoring peace after Lady Sybil’s tragic death.

I hope Violet sticks around for a long while.  I look to her with a new sense of awe. She has qualities I might want to embrace.

This stoic but outspoken dowager might just have her priorities in alignment.

After all, as she says, “It seems a pity to miss such a good pudding!”

Lady Violet has some of the wittiest lines in the show. Her clear opinions of Americans, as seen in this video, endear us regardless of our nationality!

Marathon!  Don’t miss the Downton Abbey Marathon Sunday on PBS

Judy Ackley Brown lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina and enjoys travel, writing, and photography. A professed anglophile, she hopes to plan another trip to England soon.

The photo below shows Judy as a toddler with her paternal grandmother, Fern Ackley. Fern sits stoically like a dowager!

Judy and Grandma

21 thoughts on “Downton Abbey–Will I Be the Next Dowager?”

  1. I loved the first 2 seasons but admit the 3rd has left me disliking many of the characters and just weary of the whole era. Yet I still watch it– often breaking those 2 hour segments into two days.
    Enjoy! I’m sure you’ll find something else to captivate you.


    1. I don’t think this is the best season but am still loving the plot and character development.
      And love that it is on Sunday nights! Breaking the 2 hour segments is a good idea. We also watch “Call the midwife” beforehand! Another great British show.


  2. Interesting idea about bringing back dowagers. I do like the whole idea of society renewing its respect for its elders (since I’m getting to be one!!). However, if I have to look even more matronly in order to be a dowager, I may have to skip the whole thing. : )


  3. Yes, Judy, judging from your lovely grandmother’s poise as evidenced in the photo, I’d say you will be a dowager in all the best sense of the word. 😉

    I have to agree with Susan that the word dowager has taken on somewhat of a frumpy meaning. We need to revive the word to its original form, then I will be glad to join the ranks. My maternal grandmother was a true ‘dowager’ – stoic, but with a deep love of family and a strong sense of duty. She always told us to “do what’s right” no matter what. No excuses, ever.

    For instance, she didn’t particularly like having pets around, cats or dogs. They were an expense and a nuisance. She was busy enough without trying to care for an animal. HOWEVER, I know she lugged buckets of water out across the road from her house to the city’s dog pound when a dog was out in the fenced yard barking and whimpering. She said she “couldn’t let the poor beasts suffer.”

    Like many women of her generation, it is not difficult to combine words to describe her that may seem contradictory – strong, stoic, sympathetic, kind, generous, soft, hard. All wrapped up in one little lady. Yes, we need to honor our dowagers… then and now.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Judy. Very thought provoking.


    1. Wonderful thoughts Patti! I wonder if we could come up with a new name and more modern image!!!! Any ideas?!! My mother in law sounds just like your grandmother.


    2. Patti, I love the story of your grandma! I know the type. Deep down, they really do love animals.

      My great-aunt was a fine dowager. No prints and she always wore heels and she ruled the roost!


  4. Oh wow! Can’t wait! I just hope we don’t loose another character. Hated loosing Sybil. I really liked her…..perhaps my second favorite character ( well then there is Daisy too…..)!


  5. I had read that “matthew” wanted off the show after this season, but was still so sad when they
    killed him off! That leaves an interesting three to run the estate, from the old guard, a new mother, an Irish revolutionary and the “old maid” sister having an affair with a married man. Next season should be interesting! I think the housekeeper is becoming the nicest character of all, never judging anyone, always trying to help them. Even when she fired the maid, she didn’t attack her,
    just told her that she might not be suited for that type of job. Love this show!


      1. It is my understanding and recollection that this is a new introduction. Should be interesting. Rose will more than likely have a new key role in the dram a at DA. Her mother is something else. I did not like her at all which was probably the intent of the character.


    1. Mrs. Hughes is wonderful and the most reasonable and loving character. She definitely
      has an expanding role. I am devastated by Matthew’s death. But we must move on. So long to wait for next season!!!


  6. Since I hadn’t had a chance to watch the last episode, I now know what happened. I guess I need to be filled in. I’m beginning to think they could do a show just on the hired hands. Thee is always something mysterious, funny or just plain real happening with them.
    As for dowagers, my 86 year old aunt fits the definition perfectly.


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