Has the arrival of Julian Fellowes’ new drama series been cunningly timed to coincide with the coronavirus pandemic? What better way for a mild sufferer to occupy herself during a spell of self-isolation than a cosily censorious wallow in the social mores of the past?
Fellowes’ international hit, Downton Abbey, demonstrated that the many calibrations of social class are an abiding fascination not only in Britain but all over the world. Here he revisits the theme: in fact, one might say that class is the drama, that the action is moved only by Fellowes’ apparently obsessive interest in a social pyramid that is permanently on the brink of collapse. The middle classes are always at the gates of the aristocratic citadel, rudely rattling to get in.