I received a book about Queen Victoria’s staff, “Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household”, by Kate Hubbard, for Christmas and as a huge Downton Abbey fan I am enjoying it very much.
I can relate with Ms. Pattmore, the Downton cook, as she struggles with new technology in a world that is changing from the old order she’s familiar with to one of new-fangled electric lights, telephones, and even an electric mixer! I find changes in technology (like learning Windows 8) just as stressful and off-putting.
I’m quite experienced in food preparation when the open hearth or wood stove were standard and I can sympathize with her plight of desperately holding on to the job that is absolutely essential to her well-being while decades-old methods she’s expert in are being replaced at a frightening pace. I am more at home in my kitchen – in any century – than in trying to figure out new software and keep up with much younger co-workers. Daisy, Ms. Pattmore’s underling, readily accepts the new gadgets and seems born with an understanding of how to use them, while Ms. Pattmore is charming but clueless.
The program does a remarkable job at providing insight into the daily lives of a large staff and the struggles of one kind or another that face them all. Daisy, for instance can immediately grasp the use of the electric mixer, but is just as clueless when it comes to romance and understanding the young men on staff and how they interact with her and a prettier and more-worldly fellow staff member.
In closing, I’d like to share this paragraph from my book as some of my readers may also enjoy the program and find comparing the fictional staff to the real world staff of Queen Victoria intriguing.
“She marveled at the below-stairs world, glimpsed whilst accompanying Her Serene Highness of Oldenburg on an inspection of the ‘plate’, including the kitchen with 24 cooks and 17 pieces of meat roasting and the confectionary, a very world of jellies and jams. Besides the kitchen with its two great open fires, and a huge steel table with hollow brass legs, steam-heated to keep food warm, there was a green room (for preparing vegetables), a confectionary and a pastry kitchen. The twenty-four cooks included a head chef, three master cooks, two yeomen of the kitchen, two roasting cooks, four apprentices, two larderers and storers, a storekeeper, two green office men, three kitchen maids and two men to supervise the steam apparatus, while the confectionary boasted first and second yeomen confectioners and three female assistants”.