During the final countdown of Mary and Matthew's courtship on Downton Abbey, I started screaming at my television for them to just get a room — hell, even a broom closet — so that they could FINALLY have the hot and heavy feel-up (or even just a prolonged under-the-table handholding!) that their yearning glances were obviously leading to. Turns out, my wishes were never going to unfold because Downton has a ban on modern-style touching. Well, fuck.
Rarely if ever will you see Downton characters hug or even touch because, outside of private romantic moments (so I could have made a case for Matthew and Mary) and periods of grief, people during the early 20th century did not show physical affection, mostly because it was seen as a way of spreading disease.
As Downton Abbey's historical expert Alastair Bruce told the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show:
"I tell the actors not to touch each other. I don't want any hugging, no physical contact; they just didn't do that in those days. The reason they didn't is because it wasn't that long before then that disease was spread so much more easily. We hug, kiss – good Lord you meet somebody now and they kiss you within minutes – and it's because we've got antibiotics, but I don't think people realize how distant natural life was for the British in that period."
Unfortunately, this means that Lady Edith and the Dowager Countess will never play that long awaited game of pat-a-cake.
Image via Downton Abbey/PBS.