Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Downton Abbey—a look back

Downton Abbey was a delight as a TV series, and I hope to see the movie. But have you ever wondered why the Grantham family were living in an abbey? Definition of an Abbey: a monastery under the supervision of an abbot or a convent under the supervision of an abbess. I don't claim to know anything about the British aristocracy or what the titles Countess, Earl, or Lady mean, but I do know they aren't priests, nuns or abbots. Our status symbols in the U.S. are all about money and celebrity, not titles--Jeff Bezos for instance is the richest man the world--and that means more power than a title handed down from his father. Even the wealthiest and most admired dynasties in the U.S. disappear in a flash when the money is gone, or the government takes it away. Movie stars who have a different admired status become wrinkled and don't get the good roles.

So why did Anglican British royalty and lesser folk live in buildings built by Roman Catholics? It goes back to the English Reformation and is one of the nastiest and unloving chapters in Christian history. King Henry VIII stole the wealth of the monasteries, had the owners killed off, chased off or imprisoned, and gave the lands and buildings to his supporters. The church had traditionally taken care of the poor and sick (as Jesus told them to do)--they were turned out also, and we had the seeds of the terrible poverty, wealth and abuses of the industrial revolution.

No comments: