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Happy enough: Downton Abbey’s fairy-tale ending

Roll up the red carpet: It's all over, and now where are we going to get our fantasy helping of noblesse oblige?

Sunday, bloody Sunday: and now, after all that, what are we going to do with our Sunday evenings?

Here at ArtsWatch World Headquarters we freely confess we’ve been captivated by the grand soap opera/slash/fairy tale that is Downton Abbey, and we – alright, I – watched it trot off into the fox-hunting sunset with just a trace of a tear in my eye. Sunday’s wrap-up after six seasons on American television screens was also a bit of an unwrap, actually, tying up loose ends but also opening little gifts, unveiling a neat little dollop of happiness for just about everyone. Then again, the show’s British, so it’s happy with a footnote. As the crisp and cutting and utterly essential Lady Violet remarks after damp-mop spinster-with-a-kid Edith finally snares her fabulously wealthy Bertie and waltzes down the aisle of her storybook wedding, “They’ll be happy enough. Which is the English version of a happy ending.”

All in the upper-crust family: It' been swell. Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited for Masterpiece

All in the upper-crust family: It’s been swell. Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited for Masterpiece

Way back in January 2011, when the whole escapade was just about to begin on American home screens, I looked on the series hopefully in this column as a showcase for the American actor Elizabeth McGovern, whom I assumed would have a leading role as the mistress of the estate. As it turned out, McGovern was key, and charming, a kind of quiet glue for her wayward and trouble-prone upper-crust clan, but only part of what truly has been an ensemble show (although more than once it might have sunk without the witty presence of the great Maggie Smith as the imperious and eminently quotable Violet).

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