Downton Abbey and a Tale of Two Georges

Digging in to the fourth season of my favorite soap opera for fancy folks, PBS’s Downton Abbey, which premiered last night, I was reminded of how very happy I am to be living in 2014 instead of 1922. Seeing the misery in the Grantham/Crawley crew 6 months after baby George’s birth made me think of that other much happier nonfiction family, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their own baby George.

Let’s take a look at some key differences between the two famous Georges, HRH Prince George of Cambridge and the baby George Crawley born to Downton’s Lady Mary and her late husband. (You’d have to be living under a rock not to know what befell poor Matthew but stop reading now if you’re putting off Season-4 viewing for a future binge-watch.)

For one thing, HRH George can look forward to a long, healthy life. A boy born in Downton George’s day had a life expectancy of only 56 years, whereas life expectancy at birth for males in England is now hovering at a robust 80. In Downton’s era thousands were still dying of tuberculosis. So let’s hear it for progress, specifically vaccines and good hygiene practices, which have fought back so many infectious diseases.

Consider the progress that has been made in other areas of parenthood:  The Duke was by Kate’s side when she gave birth; had he been able to get to the hospital in time, poor Matthew undoubtedly would have been banished to an anteroom or sent down to the pub.

Then there’s breastfeeding. The Duchess is reportedly breastfeeding her son. Not so sure about Mary. All the fun and memorable moments of Downton babycare seem to be left to the chilly Nanny West, who tells Mr. Barrow that he isn’t allowed to touch the baby without her permission. (Who can blame her, given that the influenza pandemic was only just winding down.) The Duke and Duchess, on the other hand, have said they want to be hands-on parents, and although they apparently have Will’s childhood nanny helping out, the fact that Will drove his little family home from the hospital himself signals an active role for everyone’s favorite royal father.

But far and away it’s the conditions for women that are most troubling in this comparison.  The Duchess graduated from university, whereas in Downton days, only about a quarter of students of higher education were women. And yes, the Duke and Duchess had a boy, but had their child instead been a daughter, the newly published Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 altered the rules of succession to the throne so that male heirs can no longer kick women out of place in the line for the throne. Poor Lady Mary is out of luck there as well. Baby George inherited two-thirds of the estate while Mary inherited only one-third. The baby and Lord Grantham thus have the controlling interest. Wait ’til little Downton George gets wind of that–imagine how hard it must be to discipline a majority shareholder!  Maybe a lot like disciplining a future king?

George isn’t the only regal name for a baby boy. Check out our baby name finder for more inspiration.

Plus: Nanny West not really your style? Learn how to choose a good nanny in this video:.

Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny
Child Care: Tips for Choosing a Good Nanny

Image courtesy of PBS.

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