The legend of Downton Abbey is set to grow with the upcoming film adaptation, out Sept. 20, and the movie will be adding a few new faces to the English country estate. Among the biggest additions are King George V and Queen Mary, who pay a visit to Downton Abbey in the film. Everyone at Downton must try and pull together to ensure a pleasant royal visit, but fans of course should expect the visit to go any which way but smoothly. The royal couple are portrayed by Simon Jones and Geraldine James, respectively, but what about the real King George V and Queen Mary?
As you no doubt deduced, King George V and Queen Mary were indeed in power during the real time period in which the fictional Downton Abbey takes place. George was the grandson of Queen Victoria, the famed British monarch to whom we owe the Victorian Era, and the son of King Edward VII, the namesake of the Edwardian Era. Unfortunately for George, the term Georgian Era was already in use to refer to the reign of Georges I-IV in the 18th and 19th centuries. Sorry about that, old chap. George V took over the crown in 1910 upon the death of his father, and doing so made his wife, Mary of Teck, Queen Consort of the British Crown.
The pair ruled Britain during World War I, which saw the United Kingdom and the other Allied Powers emerge victorious — but heavily battered — in their fight against Germany and the Central Powers. But the reign of George V and Mary is perhaps most notable for founding the House of Windsor. This is the Royal House that has ruled the United Kingdom for the past century, with their latest ruling member being Queen Elizabeth II, and it all kicked off with George V and Mary of Teck.
As for how exactly George V and Mary fit into Downton Abbey, their onscreen visit to the fictional Yorkshire estate was actually inspired by a trip the royal couple took to a similar (but real) estate in the same county, per Vanity Fair. In 1912, King George and Queen Mary paid a royal visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, which at the time was owned by Earl and Lady Fitzwilliam. According to Downton Abbey's creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, the reason for this royal visit was to show that the British Crown still mattered after WWI. "The First World War had ended with a lot of the European crowns falling — the Austrian Empire, the Russian Empire, the German Empire," Fellowes told Vanity Fair. "[The British Crown] needed to restate the importance of monarchy in the country, and restate the kind of link that binds the crown and the people. And they were very successful in doing it."
Although the Downton Abbey movie takes place well after WWI, in 1927, Fellowes believes the royal visit still makes sense for the film. "Downton is also in Yorkshire, so it seemed to me quite a good parallel." Fellows told Vanity Fair. "This seemed to be an event where the servants would be just as excited as the family — that would affect all the characters."
Even though King George V and Queen Mary never visited Downton Abbey — because it doesn't exist — they did pay a visit to a similar Yorkshire estate, and over 100 years later that visit has helped inspire the Downton Abbey movie.