The popular British television series "Downton Abbey" gets a lot of the touches right when it comes to set design and historical accuracy. Apparently a lack of touching between characters is also an important period detail.
Alastair Bruce, an etiquette and accuracy adviser for the drama, said that there was "no physical contact" and "no hugging" in the early 20th century, a time before antibiotics when disease was easily spread. Bruce's comments to BBC Radio 2 were reported in The Telegraph.
"I don't want any hugging, no physical contact; they just didn’t do that in those days," Bruce said. "The reason they didn’t is because it wasn’t that long before then that disease was spread so much more easily."
Certainly there are scenes that have required plenty of "Downton" favorites to touch and kiss and then some. But remember when the Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk visited Lady Mary Crawley's bedroom late at night? He didn't come out alive! (OK, it was a heart attack, but still.)
The Telegraph points out that Mary's sister, poor Lady Edith, barely gets any physical comfort from her family as she is constantly coping with a series of hardships.
Perhaps a modern-day Edith could elicit a little more bodily contact from her granny, the Dowager Countess. Bruce said the "Downton" demeanor is long gone. Thanks, modern medicine!
"We hug, kiss — good Lord you meet somebody now and they kiss you within minutes — and it’s because we’ve got antibiotics," Bruce said. "But I don’t think people realize how distant natural life was for the British in that period."
The fifth season of "Downton Abbey" returns to "Masterpiece" on PBS on Jan. 4.
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