In order to justify Downton Abbey's move from the small screen to the big screen in the upcoming Downton Abbey movie (out this Friday), this new plot needs to pull out the big guns. That means that. in addition to bringing back the bulk of the cast from the acclaimed series, the movie is also bringing in some real-life royalty — well, actors portraying real-life royalty, that is. A visit to Downton from King George V and Queen Mary is at the heart of the new film, but the royal couple isn't coming alone. They're bringing along Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles, who also get involved in the household's drama.
The real Princess Mary, who also inherited the title of Countess of Harewood after marrying her husband, was the only daughter and third eldest child of King George and Queen Mary. Born during the reign of George's grandmother Queen Victoria, Princess Mary would have been 30 years old in 1927 — the year the Downton Abbey movie takes place. Her husband, Henry Lascelles, was 15 years her senior, and their 1922 wedding was the first royal nuptials to be featured in Vogue. Lascelles held the title of Earl of Harewood, which he inherited from his father in 1929. Harewood is a village in Yorkshire, England, the same county where the fictional Downton Abbey is located. So if Downton Abbey were a real place, there's a good chance that the real Princess Mary and Lord Lascalles would have been familiar with it, given their geographical proximity.
In the film, Andrew Havill plays Lord Henry Lascelles, while Kate Phillips portrays Princess Mary. Phillips noted to Digital Spy that she's "quite a shy and modest character" who "draws on her inner-strength and personal struggles as a member of the royal family." The real Princess Mary was also known to be shy, according to Town & Country. However, the movie plays it fast and loose with some other details about the princess' life.
In the film, Mary and Henry are shown to live at Harewood House, which is still called home by the Lascelles family today, in real life. Some filming for the movie even took place at the estate, adding a real sense of authenticity. However, while Downton Abbey takes place in 1927, the real Princess Mary didn't move to the estate until two years later, in 1929.
Princess Mary was an extremely well-liked royal, most likely due to her charitable tendencies. In 1914, during the First World War, then-17-year-old Mary came up with the idea of giving a Christmas gift to all active British Empire service members. She established the Princess Mary Christmas Fund, which raised a great sum of money and sent gift boxes to over two-and-a-half million soldiers. She then took a nursing class in 1918 and went on to work two days as a week as a nurse for the next two years. In 1922, she offered her patronage to the then-four-year-old Royal Air Force Temporary Nursing Service, which was subsequently renamed Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service — the name it still goes by today. Henry, meanwhile, fought in WWI, where he sustained several injuries and became a highly-decorated Lieutenant-Colonel. He later entered politics by becoming a member of the House of Lords.
Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles made a big impact on British life in the early 20th century, and it's likely they'll make a big impact when they visit Downton Abbey as well.