Arts & Culture

The Royal Visit in the Upcoming Downton Abbey Movie Is Based on Real-Life Events

The royal visit in the film is based on a true story.
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The most famous family in England is headed to Downton Abbey. The upcoming film adaptation of the popular period drama centers around a royal visit to the majestic country house and explores exactly what it takes to prepare for such a grand occasion.

Before you see the story unfold on the big screen with actors Simon Jones and Geraldine James portraying the British monarch and his wife, and Kate Phillips playing their only daughter, here's what you need to know about the real-life King George V, Queen Mary, and Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood.

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KING GEORGE V AND QUEEN MARY ARE THE GRANDPARENTS OF THE CURRENT BRITISH MONARCH, QUEEN ELIZABETH II.

Then Princess Elizabeth rides with her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary during a visit to Balmoral
Photo by MIRRORPIX / GETTY IMAGES.

But much like his granddaughter, George never thought he'd become monarch. It wasn't until his older brother Prince Albert Victor passed away unexpectedly during an influenza pandemic in 1892 that George joined the direct line to the throne.

When his father, King Edward VII died in 1910, George became both the king of Great Britain and Ireland and the Emperor of India.

For George V's full family tree, click right here.

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THEIR ONLY DAUGHTER PRINCESS MARY FEATURES PROMINENTLY IN THE FILM.

The Princess Royal with three of her brothers and her parents in 1918
Photo by W. AND D. DOWNEY / GETTY IMAGES.

No spoilers, but actress Kate Phillips describes her character as "quite a shy and modest character, she draws on her inner-strength and personal struggles as a member of the royal family."

Indeed, Mary was reportedly quite shy, but she was still a popular public figure, and even late into her life represented Queen Elizabeth, her niece, both at home and abroad. The Princess Royal's marriage to Henry Lascelles, the 6th Earl of Harewood, afforded her the title of Countess of Harewood, and while she was rumored to have a difficult relationship with her husband, her son George refuted that speculation in his memoir. According to historian Marlene Koenig, he wrote that his "parents got on well together and had a lot of friends and interests in common."

More explicitly he wrote, "Our mother was never so happy in our eyes as children as when she and my father were embarked on some scheme together."

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Princess Mary and her husband Viscount Lascelles
Photo by PRINT COLLECTOR / GETTY IMAGES.

George also reflected on Mary's difficulty following her husband's death in 1947. She "found it hard to cope," he said. Mary lived for more than a decade longer than her husband, passing away in March of 1965. When she died, her New York Times obituary, remembered her as a bit of a tomboy and a public servant, and recalled how her winter wedding in 1922, helped lift the public's spirits in the middle of a depression following WWI. "She embodied the image of public service that the royal family cultivated this century," it reads.

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MARY'S HOME, HAREWOOD ESTATE, ALSO MAKES AN APPEARANCE IN THE FILM.

A beautiful scene of Harewood house
Photo by EPICS / GETTY IMAGES.

The property, which is located in Yorkshire, has confirmed that it was a filming location for the Downton Abbey movie, though the plot of the film fudges history ever so slightly. While the film takes place in 1927, Princess Mary didn't move into Harewood House until 1929, after her father-in-law passed away.

When she and her husband inherited the house, the New York Times described it as "one of the stateliest of English baronial homes, with its furnishings among the richest in England." Prior to 1929, Princess Mary lived at Goldsborough Hall near Knaresborough.

Should you like to see Harewood House yourself, the estate is open to visitors most days. For more information on planning a trip, visit Harewood.org.

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THE VISIT IN THE 'DOWNTON ABBEY' FILM WAS INSPIRED BY KING GEORGE AND QUEEN MARY'S 1912 VISIT TO WENTWORTH WOODHOUSE.

A portrait of Queen Mary taken circa 1912
Photo by HULTON ARCHIVE / GETTY IMAGES.

Creator Julian Fellowes was looking for "a central story strand that would bind everyone together—that would affect the characters upstairs and downstairs and in the village," when he started reading about George and Mary's visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, a stately home in Yorkshire.

"Downton is also in Yorkshire," Fellowes told Vanity Fair earlier this summer.

"And so it seemed to me quite a good parallel, [and something] that the servants and the family would be equally as excited about. In a film, every story has to be resolved within that film, and you want a unifying bond in a film—so it isn’t too scattered in its focus. That’s what the royal visit has provided us—an event that involves everyone in the house. And they all have different responses and different duties, but they’re all in that sense working towards the same end, which is that the visit should be a success. So we feel that being played out."

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It should also be noted that King George V and Queen Mary also visited Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed. In February of 1917, they traveled to Highclere to visit the hospital during World War I.

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THE 'DOWNTON ABBEY' FILM WILL TAKE PLACE IN 1927, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF KING GEORGE V'S REIGN.

Queen Mary and King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1926
Photo by PA IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES.

His time as monarch was one of great change in Britain, and included not only WWI and its aftermath, but also the establishment of a free Irish state. He died on January 20, 1936, at the age of 70, and while he had been in poor health for many months, it is widely believed that his death was hastened by fatal doses of morphine and cocaine, which were administrated by the royal physician.

His wife Queen Mary would go on to live several more decades. She didn't die until 1953, outliving her son King George VI, as well.

The Downton Abbey film hits theaters on September 25, 2019, in the Philippines.

WATCH THE TRAILER BELOW:

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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