Now that we’ve all had a chance to digest the near-perfection that was Downton Abbey: A New Era, let’s talk about what comes next for the Crawley family. While a World War 2 story may not be in the immediate future, Downton Abbey: A New Era does perfectly set the Crawley family up to get caught up in the events that changed Europe and the world forever. We may see the Crawley family in the 1930s first, if the typical timeline through the Twentieth Century is to be continued. That said, there’s ample opportunity to continue the story further against the backdrop of World War 2.
With Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) now the de facto head of the family, there’s even further opportunity to highlight how societal upheavals would impact one family like the Crawley’s. The show’s second season saw this cast of characters totally upended by the world-changing devastation that was World War 1. It was clearly a turning point for the Crawley’s and their entire household. The War may have been fought on distant shores, but it made a tangible impact on these characters’ lives.
The biggest setup for a World War 2 Downton entry has actually already happened. Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) first love, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), was murdered in 1923 by Nazi thugs as part of the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Clearly, although the turmoil of pre-World War 2 Germany is taking place on distant shores, the Crawleys already have at least a small foreshadowing of what’s to come. Edith’s newspaper and her journalistic experience are also going to be needed during this time period.
Any World War 2 Downton story will more than likely focus on the next generation. If Downton Abbey: A New Era was about passing the torch from the old guard to the new, the trend could absolutely be continued. Downton hasn’t shied away from showing how the tumult of world events impacted real people and families. So, would we be up for seeing Sybbie, George, and Marigold come into their own? Absolutely, no questions asked.
With all of that in mind, let’s explore what a World War 2 period piece centered around the Downton characters might look like, and some stories that could potentially be explored.
Location, Location, Location
Now that the Crawleys will be spending at least some of their time in the south of France, it only makes sense that they will be caught up in the storm of World War 2 that’s coming. After the German invasion and occupation of France, there was still the unoccupied zone, known as the Zone Libre, which held until 1942. Parts of southern France were also invaded by Italy. Could the Crawleys living in the South of France during the War get involved in Resistance activities, or at least shelter those who were? World War 2 would no doubt bring a jarring halt to the paradise that is the Bransons’ new villa.
This story would likely focus on the Branson family, and that’s absolutely a good thing. Tom (Allen Leech) and Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) have a new baby at the end of A New Era, and we love to see it. This family deserves at least some of the focus since they represent the combination of previous generations and the future in the best possible way. With Tom’s revolutionary history, he’s perfectly placed to go up against a tyrannical regime with his family.
Sheltering Blitz Children
Downton Abbey could take a page from Narnia’s book, and spotlight the stories of the many British children who were sent to the British countryside during the Blitz of London and other British cities. The Crawleys would likely have no problem opening their massive estate to children in need. While these children may not find an enchanted wardrobe leading to a magical land with a talking lion, there are sure to be many adventures to be had.
If Downton could be turned into a hospital, it could certainly be turned into a place of refuge for those seeking safety. While the Downton children may not be children any longer in a World War 2 movie, there’s clearly always a place at Downton for them in the new age.
Nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Poland, and the then-Czechoslovakia were evacuated from their countries and were given residence in Britain during World War 2. This is another way that Downton can be open, and made to be useful, rather than simply standing as a relic of past generations.
Perhaps a story involving the Kindertransport would also be a venue for Rose (Lily James) and Atticus (Matt Barber) to return to the Downton universe. They could be involved in the Central British Fund for German Jewry (today known as World Jewish Relief), which was instrumental in implementing this program. It’s been a shame that Rose and Atticus haven’t returned since getting married and moving to the United States. Their return is long overdue, and this would be the perfect way to bring them back into the fold.
Spotlight on Thomas Barrow
This one, I’m conflicted about. On one hand, I’m thrilled that Downton Abbey gave their sole LGBTQ+ main character, Thomas (Robert James-Collier), a happy ending, or at least implied that that’s where he’s heading with Guy Dexter (Dominic West). However, if the Downton universe were to continue to expand, there’s potentially an opportunity to show these two in Weimar Germany, which had a thriving LGBTQ+ scene before the War.
This would be a prelude to a Downton World War 2 movie. If we can’t see these two thriving in the height of Weimar, they should just be left alone. We don’t need to see constant trauma inflicted on open LGBTQ+ characters on-screen.
Of course, there are nearly infinite possibilities to have the Downton families exist in World War 2. As mentioned, the children will be adults. Perhaps Sybbie will follow in her mother’s footsteps and join the Nursing Corps. Someone could be involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Perhaps Harry Styles or Tom Hardy could even make a guest appearance. And the chaos of the abdication may land squarely on Downton’s doorstep. The Crawleys have interacted with the British monarchy before, after all.
Although a World War 2 Downton movie may not be in the immediate future, the set-up is clearly there. From the TV series, to both movies, the door has been opened for more stories exploring the Twentieth Century. Downton Abbey may be with us for some time yet.
Do you want to see a World War 2 period piece featuring Downton Abbey? What do you want to see from it? Let us know in the comments below!