6 ‘Downton Abbey’ errors that will leave you scratching your head

As Britain’s best-loved period drama, Downton Abbey has been praised for its depiction of aristocratic life in Edwardian England.

The winner of multiple awards, creator Julian Fellowes hit a rich vein of demand for such a show after the release of the first series in 2010.

Yet, despite its deserved acclaim, the TV show isn’t perfect, like any other programme. Over its six seasons and 52 episodes, a number of flaws crept into the script and setting.

Here are six of the most interesting Downton Abbey blunders.


Michael Gregson…just disappears

There are several reasons why a person can just disappear these days. Maybe they’ve switched off their phone, cutting off contact from the rest of humanity, or they’ve drawn the winning lottery numbers and decided to travel the world with their winnings.

Back in 1918, it was even easier with no smartphones to speak of. Yet, it still didn’t explain why Michael Gregson just suddenly took off without warning in Season 4. While other characters vaguely mentioned him ‘going to Germany’, something didn’t quite add up, until we learn that actor Charles Edwards who plays the character was simply busy with other projects.

We did get a tidy conclusion in the show, however, when we found out Michael was killed over there and….er, that’s it.


Wrong use of vocabulary

For such a dialogue-rich show, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the scriptwriters (living in the 2000s) slipped up every now and then.

A famous example is Sybil saying she ‘couldn’t care less’ about money over love. History books show that the phrase ‘couldn’t care less’ didn’t technically exist until much later in the 20th century.

Other time-related errors — known as anachronisms — are littered throughout the series. ‘Que será, será’, for example, may come from medieval Spanish, but it was only after Doris Day sang it in the 1956 film The Man Who Knew Too Much that it entered the widespread lexicon: it’s highly improbable that the series’ Dowager Countess would have used it half a century earlier.

Even words such as ‘pregnant’, now the most used term for an expecting woman, would have been seen as improper back then: terms such as ‘in an interesting condition’ were much more common. So, when Anna Bates uses it very liberally, she’s either being very crass or very ahead of her time.


The time skips in Season 2

The Great War, also known as World War I, plays a major part in the second season and has a profound effect on some key characters.

However, the war’s length means that we often see some big leaps through time, sometimes as long as several months. This isn’t a huge problem, except it seems some of the characters aren’t aware of it.

This leaves us with scenes where the same conversation is continued months later with no acknowledgement to the time that has passed in between.

While most fans can look past this, it still annoys the perfectionist in many of us.


John’s extremely unlucky run of events

Here’s a list of unfortunate events that happen to poor John Bates the valet.

  • Incorrectly accused of murder…twice.
  • His ex-wife gets him sent to prison.
  • Subject to attempts to remove him from this position by Anna Smith and Mr Carson.
  • Falls flat on his face in front of the rest of the house after maid Sarah O’Brien kicks his cane away.
  • Sentenced to death.

Now, we get that this is a drama series, but even so, for one person to experience such trauma in such a short period of time is a little over-the-top.

The good news, though, is that Bates does get his happy ending when it turns out that his old adversary Anna Smith is the love of his life, and they get married at the end of the series.


The TV aerial

The series got most of its setting spot on, with the old-fashioned antiquities adorning the famous old Downton Abbey country house. However, there were a few glaring mishaps in the background which the eagle-eyed viewer could pick up on.

Perhaps the best one is a backdrop of the neighbouring town that featured a television aerial among the rooftops. The TV wasn’t invented until 1927, and it wasn’t available to the general public until at least a decade later, so short of a time traveller, there couldn’t have possibly been one during the show’s era.

Still, it’s nice to know that even the most successful TV shows have their little flaws, and it’s also fun for viewers to spot. Keep your eyes peeled for more the next time you put Downton Abbey on!