It’s toff at the top: the moment Julian Fellowes saw how privileged he was
The ‘Downton Abbey’ writer explains how he developed such a keen eye for privilege – and he definitely ought to know
Julian Fellowes is perhaps one of the UK’s keenest observers of class, but his latest exploration of high society sees it through a lens far from the sprawling estates of Highclere.
Multimillion-pound drama Belgravia, dubbed “Downton in the city”, concerns the goings-on behind the elegant doors of 19th-century London’s most fashionable postcode. The TV series opened on Sunday night with a tragic, cross-class love affair between the beautiful Sophia, daughter of a wealthy and socially ambitious tradesman, and a dashing young officer who just happens to be the nephew of the Duchess of Richmond. Their romance begins at her famous ball on the eve of the Battle of Quatre Bras, a preliminary to the decisive Battle of Waterloo, and sets in motion a series of fictional events that have consequences for decades to come.
“There’s something about glamour and romance in peril that is very beguiling,” says Fellowes, 70, who learnt much about high society from his own experiences as a “Debs’ Delight”, during various coming-out seasons. “I found myself being invited to a lot of house parties, dances and things by people who I didn’t really know. It was a wonderful opportunity to be someone else and observe,” he says. “Really, that was the start of the rest of my life because I never went back to that little, shy, tongue-tied person that I had been; this sad little fat boy in the corner of a dance.”..