Downton Abbey travels to the South of France

In 2019 the Crawley family made the big leap to the movie screen, through a play written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Simon Curtis. Now for the 2nd time they appear, in this 2022, with a new adventure; as part of the family travels to the south of France, as the matriarch has inherited a Villa, which will unveil a truth from the past. 

Downton Abbey: A New Era, announces the return of the worldwide hit TV series about the Crawley family in the early 20th century, but now in the French Riviera, bringing together again its great cast. We are talking about a beautiful Belle Epoque style mansion, with spectacular gardens and very close to the Mediterranean Sea.

Until now the family had not left their country, and its producer, Gareth Neame, always had the desire to extend the story of this family, venturing to Europe, in the French Riviera, since in his time it was a very visited area by the upper classes of the English.

Why was the Côte d’Azur area chosen? 

Julian Fellowers chose this area not by chance, but rather for a historical reason. The Riviera had a great influence in its genesis from the English aristocracy, as it was the preferred and exclusive destination to escape the harsh winter in 1928; but just at the same time this spot became a vacation spot during the summer.

Where exactly does this new Crawley plot unfold?

East of Toulon and in Le Pradet, a French commune and town, in the region of Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur and department of Var, is located the Villa Rocabella, which met the requirements needed for this film that takes place in a Belle Epoque style mansion; a very different contrast to the sobriety of Downton Abbey or Highclere Castle.

The art director of this film, Donald Woods, says that they were impressed, as the mansion had beautiful gardens and views of the Mediterranean Sea; in addition to the private beach of about 150 meters long. It also had plenty of outdoor spaces and places where the Crawley family could share, although they were not used to it.

In general it is a villa with lots of light, sun, sea, relaxed air and abundant vegetation that surrounds it; plants and flowers of Mediterranean beauty. As mentioned in the film, it is a house to enjoy and gatherings in summer time; for the whole family. Likewise, any other place that would have been found had to be shown to be more or less in the 1860’s, in order to function with the time of the film.

And precisely the Villa Rocabella finished its construction in 1890, the last decade of the 19th century, very close to what was required. Built on a plot of 3 hectares with a lot of wooded land. It was the industrialist Patin Jules who decided the elaboration of an exceptional mansion for the time, with a lot of elegance and coexistence with the mentioned nature; combining the neoclassical and romantic styles.

The exterior of the house is decorated with Ionic columns, originally designed by the Danish architect Hans-Georg Tersling, but restored in 2000 by another interior architect named Nouriiat Patrice. Internally, there are 2000 square meters on 3 floors, plus some suites and a beautiful garden between the rooms, as well as a good library.

It has large vaulted windows, which allow views of both the external palm trees and the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea. A beautiful marble staircase and vaulted ceiling with a special decoration, among other facilities. The external part has a heated swimming pool, some terraces and gardens, where new species of flora have been added. 

But it is from 2020 when this villa takes its place as an exclusive vacation spot, with a lot of luxury and according to the demands of the Crawley family. Many lives were lived in this Villa Rocabella before it became the perfect setting for the filming of this family group’s vacations. This also includes its operation as an art salon and children’s resort.

Currently, interested parties can make reservations for private events. In addition, it can accommodate up to 42 people or guests; perfect for a Downton Abbey-style experience.

What is the plot that unfolds in this second Crawley adventure?

The Countess and widow of Grantham has learned that she has inherited a villa towards the south of the French country; and, of course, she is curious, as is the whole family, to know from whom the inheritance comes. Then, Violet confesses that long ago and before they were all born, she had known a man, and that inheritance came from the Marquis de Montmirail, who has just passed away. 

So, the matriarch thinks that this villa is ideal to leave it as an inheritance to Sibby, since she is the only one of her great-grandchildren who will not have access to the inheritance through natural law. But there is a major obstacle: the widow of the Marquis does not intend to give up the villa so easily, which means that the Crawleys will have to fight for the inheritance. But at the same time, it will also unveil the secret of Violet’s past.

Meanwhile, at Downton Abbey, the filmmaker has already obtained Mary’s permission to start shooting a film on the premises. Robert is not very happy about this, but some members of the family and their servants are. So, to get away from the hustle and bustle and not be present at what he calls “the dreadful film”, he decides to take advantage of this trip to the south of France with his family and servants.

But, at the same time, he must find out why this person left the villa to his mother. Upon arrival they get an impressive mansion in neoclassical style, and very close to the sea. Then Lady Violet’s oldest secret begins to unravel. It turns out that in 1864 the matriarch travels to the south of France for a vacation and there she meets the Marquis Montmirail, and they fell in love; keeping this secret throughout her life. 

He also assures that in that week nothing happened between them, they simply shared company; but Violet had to return to Downton Abbey, her home, next to her husband Patrick Crawley. But the marquis remained very much in love with her, unable to forget her; to the point that his wife, Madame Montmirail, knew his feelings perfectly well, but did not accept it. So, in 1870 the marquis gave her the villa, but Lady Violet did not believe it.

When the marquis died in 1928, Lady Violet realized that the villa was in his name since then. And that is when Robert begins to think that this marquis could be his father, since he was born just 9 months after they had met. Of course, Robert enters into an existential crisis, fearing that he was a fraud, like the Earl of Grantham. 

As already known from the previous 2019 film, the widow suffers from a terminal illness, so she is dying, and at the end of the film she worsens her illness. However, Violet assured Robert on the deathbed that he is not the son of the marquis. She then begins to receive visits from relatives and servants to say goodbye before her departure. As the owner of the villa, she inherits it to her great-granddaughter Sybbie, as she had intended.

The film ends at Violet’s funeral, with the entire family gathered. The old woman is fondly remembered and loved by her servants and relatives, who are aware that Violet’s fearful and fussy demeanor held hidden secrets.

Posted in Europe, France.