22 things you never knew about ‘Downton Abbey’

Think you know everything there is to know about Downton Abbey?

Here are some surprising facts about the hit period drama:


1. The X-Files star Gillian Anderson was originally offered the role of Lady Grantham, which eventually went to Elizabeth McGovern.


2. Queen Elizabeth II is a Downton Abbey fan and has apparently pointed out mistakes in some episodes, like a WWI soldier wearing medals that were awarded in WWII.


3. Each episode cost an average of £1 million (1.3 million US dollars) to produce.


4. The Earl of Grantham’s dogs, Pharaoh and Isis, are named as a tribute to Highclere Castle‘s connection to Egyptian history. The castle estate, which doubles as Downton Abbey in the series, has been home to the Herbert family since 1679 – including George Herbert, who co-discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922.


5. Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern played husband and wife together years before their roles as Lord and Lady Grantham. The pair starred together in a British TV series called Freezing in 2008.


6. Titanic star Kate Winslet and Harry Potter star Alan Rickman nearly guest starred in the series once as a married couple, but Winslet was unable to commit to filming due to her pregnancy at the time.


7. Jim Carter, who played butler Mr Carson, is married in real life to actress Imelda Staunton, best known as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies. Staunton later appeared in the Downton movie as Maud Bagshaw.


8. Many of the costumes are original items of clothing from the early 20th Century and couldn’t be properly laundered as they’re too fragile. As a result of this, the Downton cast were often not very pleased about the smell of the costumes!


9. Elizabeth McGovern, who played Cora, is the lead singer of a band called Sadie & The Hotheads.


10. Season 1’s storyline in which Turkish diplomat Mr Pamuk dies and is dragged back to his room was in fact based on a true story. Downton writer Julian Fellowes revealed that it was inspired by the diary entry of a friend’s great aunt.


11. Rob-James Collier and Joanne Froggatt, who played Thomas and Anna, both appeared together in long-running British soap opera Coronation Street before joining Downton.


12. Allen Leech’s character Tom Branson was only originally intended to appear for just three episodes.


13. The bedrooms of Cora, Mary and Edith were in fact all the same set, redecorated every few days during shooting. The show’s production designer, Donal Woods, admitted to PBS: “By the end of the season it’s quite thick with paint and wallpaper. If you’re very smart, you’ll look out the window and it’s always the same view.”


14. Just as Downton Abbey became a recovery house for troops in the second season, the real Highclere Castle was also turned into a hospital during World War 1 by the Countess of Carnarvon.


15. At its peak, Downton Abbey was watched by approximately 120 million viewers in 200 countries and regions.


16. Downton creator Julian Fellowes wrote the parts of Robert Crawley, Mr Bates and Violet Crawley specifically for actors Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Coyle and Maggie Smith.


17. Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Sybil, was a professional ballet dancer with the National Ballet as a teenager, before taking up acting after an injury.


18. Actresses Lily James (Lady Rose) and Sophie McShera (Daisy) were reunited in Disney’s Cinderella movie in 2015, except this time their Downton roles were reversed, with Lily playing a servant and Sophie playing an aristocrat.


19. At the time of Downton Abbey‘s final season, Maggie Smith still hadn’t watched a single episode of the show. It’s not known if she’s gone back and watched it since, but she revealed in a 2015 interview that “they gave me the box set” when filming wrapped on the last ever episode.


20. Downton Abbey is the most nominated British TV series ever at the Emmys, with 16 Emmy nominations in 2012. It received a total of 59 nominations over the years, winning 12.


21. Hugh Bonneville, who played Robert, jokingly once described Downton Abbey as “Breaking Bad with tea instead of meth.”


22. Despite only running for six seasons over five and a quarter years, the storylines in Downton Abbey take place over nearly 14 years, from April 15, 1912 to January 1, 1926.


Find out more Downton trivia about the movie here.

Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection box set is available on DVD on Amazon.