When one thinks of Downton Abbey, the names of Julian Fellowes, Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery immediately come to mind. Right up there are the likes of Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle and Jim Carter. Probably the one with the least visibility who should get much of the credit for making Downton Abbey as it appears on your home telly is the series historical adviser, Alastair Bruce.
While you may not be familiar with the name Alastair Bruce, you see his work every moment that Downton is on the air and, sometimes, you even see him as a ‘supporting artist’. In the first series, in 2010, Bruce played a butler for the Dower House, where Dame Maggie Smith lives as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. In the second series, Bruce was in the car beside the General visiting Downton Abbey during the First World War and then returned as a guest for the Downton shoot in that year’s Christmas Special. For series 3, in the Christmas special shot at Inveraray Castle in Scotland, Bruce was disguised with an incredibly itchy beard and acted as the river ghillie and stalker for the Duneagle Estate. And, in last year’s Christmas special, Bruce played the Lord Chamberlain to King George V in the scenes where Lady Rose is presented at Court.
As the individual that is in charge of both historical accuracy and etiquette on Downton Abbey, Bruce’s primary purpose is to make sure every period detail is correct, which means such things as being able to advise on the minutiae of early 20th century protocol, in such subjects as dress, posture, the serving of food and even on matters that might initially appear trivial, such as the use of vocabulary or the correct way to walk out of a car. It also should not be overlooked that every time the Downton Abbey credits roll, those are Alastair Bruce’s hands holding the ruler over the knives and forks on the table! How great is that!
Viewers can get an up close and personal look at the painstaking work of Alastair Bruce on the set of Downton Abbey when The Manners of Downton Abbey comes to PBS’ Masterpiece series on Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 8pET / 7pCT immediately preceding the season 5 premiere of that little drama series, we call, Downton Abbey. Set. DVR. Now.