British Masterpiece series Downton Abbey is now “history,” but the popular show’s historical adviser says its executives banned any mention of Christianity in the drama—which would have been a central element in the lives of British aristocracy.
Downton Abbey’s final season will be aired in the United States on PBS in January of 2016, but, according to Alastair Bruce—whose job it has been to ensure historical accuracy of the series—executives ordered producers of the show to “leave religion out of it,” in order to prevent “alienating an increasingly atheistic public,” says The Telegraph.
Careful Downton Abbey viewers may have noticed the Crawley family is always shown in the midst of a meal at the dining table—and never at its start. Bruce states that this in order to avoid being forced to show the family saying grace.
“In essence you hardly ever see a table that isn’t already sat at,” Bruce told The Telegraph. “We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said, and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace.”
“I think that the view was that we’d leave religion out of it, and it would’ve taken extra time too,” he added. “I suggested a Latin grace, but they decided that was too far, and no one would’ve known what was going on.”
Bruce said the series executives and producers were so fixated on not having any reference to religion in the show that he was even barred from folding the dinner napkins in the shape of a bishop’s mitre and had to settle for a triangle instead.
Earlier in the year, Peter Fincham, British network ITV’s director of television, even revealed that his network had considered renaming the show simply because of the Christian association with the word “Abbey” in the title.
“I can remember discussions that almost seem comical now,” Fincham reportedly said. “We talked about the word Abbey. Would people think it would have nuns or monks in it and be a religious series? But we satisfied ourselves they wouldn’t and did a bit of marketing around it.”