Downton Abbey Jewish Rose and Atticus

Downton Abbey, The Hoity-Toity Crawleys Meet The Mishpochah

In Culture & Style, News by Laura Goldstein

Downton-Abbey-Jewish-Family

The ‘mishpochah’ posing in front of Lord and Lady Sinderby’s shtetl. Photo courtesy iTV

Spoiler Alert:  Mrs. Patmore is currently consulting “The Art of Jewish Cooking” trying to master matzah ball soup.

If you are all a ‘Twitter’ because our favourite British saga, iTV’s  Downton Abbey has introduced a rather hunky Jewish character into the storyline, (Ephraim) Atticus Aldridge, Lord and Lady Sinderby’s son (played by actor, Matt Barber,) don’t say mazel tov just yet.

In the developing plot, Atticus quickly becomes the love interest of Lady Rose MacClare, (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham’s cousin,) who first encounters him in a romantic rainstorm and he offers to carry her packages. What a mench! When Lady Rose informs Atticus that she is doing charitable work and is going to serve tea to former Russian aristocrats who are refugees from the Russian Revolution, he responds that his family also immigrated to England from Russia, and that the name (a mystery) was changed to Aldridge to sound British. Lord Sinderby was an ‘acquired’ title just like Conrad Black’s!

When Atticus later shows up unannounced to see Lady Rose in the shelter where she serves the tea, she introduces him to two members of the Romanov family. But before he can stop her, she blurts out that Atticus’ forebears came to Britain from Odessa in 1859 and 1871.

Oops, the cat is out of the bag. One of the refugee aristocrats angrily declares, “He’s not really Russian!” and storms off.

Cue the music – we can guess what’s coming….

Atticus then explains to a puzzled Lady Rose (a beautiful fashion plate but let’s face it, never the brightest bulb in the room,) that the former aristocrat does not consider him to be a ‘genuine’ Russian because he is Jewish, and, he admits, his family was forced to flee Odessa due to pogroms.

Anticipating her negative response, Aldridge suddenly looks like he’s just inhaled the worst smell in the room! But when Lady Rose reacts like she doesn’t care, he is absolutely beaming.

When Lady Rose hears that his family acquired a massive fortune through banking (so what else is new?) she is absolutely beaming.

What the dashing Atticus doesn’t know is that:

  1. Rose is no wallflower, having had a fling with a married man and an African American jazz bandleader.
  2.  She has never heard the word Jew in her life never mind met one.
  3. So chances are she has never heard of a brit milah either. But let’s leave some surprise for the wedding night.

Interestingly, as reported in The National Post, there is a real-life Jewish inspiration for Downton’s Lady Crawley, (played by American actress, Elizabeth McGovern) whose father’s name in the show is Isidore Levinson. Her character was modeled after the half-Jewish fifth Countess of Carnarvon, a descendant of the wealthy Rothschild family and philanthropist, who funded expeditions to Egypt and to early army hospitals. The series is also filmed on location at Highclere Castle, now owned by the eighth Earl of Carnarvon.

But you’ll have to watch the rest of Downton Abbey, Season 5 on PBS/Vision TV and Channel 1 in Israel, to find out who caters the wedding and how many snide bon mots Granny, Dowager Countess of Grantham (the incomparable, Dame Maggie Smith) utters, leading up to the nuptials. And keep an ear out for Lady Sinderby – she’s no slouch in the zinger department either.