The Dowager Countess of Grantham shares the stories behind her favourite photos

The Dowager Countess of Grantham (pictured) shares the stories behind her favourite photos

The Dowager Countess of Grantham (pictured) shares the stories behind her favourite photos

The Dowager Countess of Grantham (pictured) shares the stories behind her favourite photos

1848: I must have been six years old when this portrait was painted. Goodness knows where Papa found the money to pay the painter, because although he was a baronet he was not a wealthy man at all. I don’t know why my granddaughters imagine I am opposed to female emancipation, because anyone can plainly see here that I am teaching my dolly to read

1848: I must have been six years old when this portrait was painted. Goodness knows where Papa found the money to pay the painter, because although he was a baronet he was not a wealthy man at all. I don’t know why my granddaughters imagine I am opposed to female emancipation, because anyone can plainly see here that I am teaching my dolly to read

1848: I must have been six years old when this portrait was painted. Goodness knows where Papa found the money to pay the painter, because although he was a baronet he was not a wealthy man at all. I don’t know why my granddaughters imagine I am opposed to female emancipation, because anyone can plainly see here that I am teaching my dolly to read

1860: When my husband Patrick took this photograph I never dreamed it would be published. Such décolletage! But now it’s 1927 and anything goes – and anyway, I am rather proud of it. I can perhaps see why some noble gentlemen – such as Lord Hepworth, who was notoriously badly behaved – sometimes appeared to forget I was married at all

1860: When my husband Patrick took this photograph I never dreamed it would be published. Such décolletage! But now it’s 1927 and anything goes – and anyway, I am rather proud of it. I can perhaps see why some noble gentlemen – such as Lord Hepworth, who was notoriously badly behaved – sometimes appeared to forget I was married at all

1860: When my husband Patrick took this photograph I never dreamed it would be published. Such décolletage! But now it’s 1927 and anything goes – and anyway, I am rather proud of it. I can perhaps see why some noble gentlemen – such as Lord Hepworth, who was notoriously badly behaved – sometimes appeared to forget I was married at all

1874: As a traditionalist I do think a woman’s place is in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there. I let my sense of fun run away with me when I met Prince Igor Kuragin at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. I was 32 and about to elope in this photo. Thank goodness the prince’s wife found out and sent me back to my husband. Years later, I met dear Igor again, but he had fallen on hard times – the Russian Revolution, you know

1874: As a traditionalist I do think a woman’s place is in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there. I let my sense of fun run away with me when I met Prince Igor Kuragin at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. I was 32 and about to elope in this photo. Thank goodness the prince’s wife found out and sent me back to my husband. Years later, I met dear Igor again, but he had fallen on hard times – the Russian Revolution, you know

1874: As a traditionalist I do think a woman’s place is in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there. I let my sense of fun run away with me when I met Prince Igor Kuragin at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. I was 32 and about to elope in this photo. Thank goodness the prince’s wife found out and sent me back to my husband. Years later, I met dear Igor again, but he had fallen on hard times – the Russian Revolution, you know

1910: Patrick and I had two children, Rosamund and Robert – this is me with Robert and his wife Lady Cora. I was a devoted mother… in my own way. The children would be washed, starched and ironed by the servants and sent to spend an hour with me – and it was an hour every day. I saw less of them when Patrick and I were travelling, which we did a lot. Patrick died about six years after Robert married his American heiress in 1890. I can’t say I approved, but Cora’s money was required to save the estate – and then the couple really did fall in love. I am prepared to concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose of pumping blood

1910: Patrick and I had two children, Rosamund and Robert – this is me with Robert and his wife Lady Cora. I was a devoted mother… in my own way. The children would be washed, starched and ironed by the servants and sent to spend an hour with me – and it was an hour every day. I saw less of them when Patrick and I were travelling, which we did a lot. Patrick died about six years after Robert married his American heiress in 1890. I can’t say I approved, but Cora’s money was required to save the estate – and then the couple really did fall in love. I am prepared to concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose of pumping blood

1910: Patrick and I had two children, Rosamund and Robert – this is me with Robert and his wife Lady Cora. I was a devoted mother… in my own way. The children would be washed, starched and ironed by the servants and sent to spend an hour with me – and it was an hour every day. I saw less of them when Patrick and I were travelling, which we did a lot. Patrick died about six years after Robert married his American heiress in 1890. I can’t say I approved, but Cora’s money was required to save the estate – and then the couple really did fall in love. I am prepared to concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose of pumping blood

1912: Here I am with my granddaughter Lady Mary. She’s quite an English rose, I suppose – but let me draw your attention to the sublime roses here, from my own garden. For many years I won the Downton Village Flower Show, although one year I arranged for Mr Molesley, my butler’s father, to win, because the poor man looked so disappointed to come second

1912: Here I am with my granddaughter Lady Mary. She’s quite an English rose, I suppose – but let me draw your attention to the sublime roses here, from my own garden. For many years I won the Downton Village Flower Show, although one year I arranged for Mr Molesley, my butler’s father, to win, because the poor man looked so disappointed to come second

1912: Here I am with my granddaughter Lady Mary. She’s quite an English rose, I suppose – but let me draw your attention to the sublime roses here, from my own garden. For many years I won the Downton Village Flower Show, although one year I arranged for Mr Molesley, my butler’s father, to win, because the poor man looked so disappointed to come second

1916: I do so approve of candlelight. It flatters a lady’s complexion and some ladies, such as my dear friend Isobel, do require it. (I am still not quite used to the idea that Isobel, having married Lord Merton, is now a baroness.) Candles are a rarity in many homes nowadays, owing to the popularity of gas lamps and electric light bulbs – but I couldn’t have electricity in my house. I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapours seeping about!

1916: I do so approve of candlelight. It flatters a lady’s complexion and some ladies, such as my dear friend Isobel, do require it. (I am still not quite used to the idea that Isobel, having married Lord Merton, is now a baroness.) Candles are a rarity in many homes nowadays, owing to the popularity of gas lamps and electric light bulbs – but I couldn’t have electricity in my house. I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapours seeping about!

1916: I do so approve of candlelight. It flatters a lady’s complexion and some ladies, such as my dear friend Isobel, do require it. (I am still not quite used to the idea that Isobel, having married Lord Merton, is now a baroness.) Candles are a rarity in many homes nowadays, owing to the popularity of gas lamps and electric light bulbs – but I couldn’t have electricity in my house. I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapours seeping about!

1920: I can pay Lady Cora’s mother Martha no greater compliment than this: when I am with this native of New York, I am reminded of the virtues of the English. And that is all I have to say about this photograph, thank you

1920: I can pay Lady Cora’s mother Martha no greater compliment than this: when I am with this native of New York, I am reminded of the virtues of the English. And that is all I have to say about this photograph, thank you

1920: I can pay Lady Cora’s mother Martha no greater compliment than this: when I am with this native of New York, I am reminded of the virtues of the English. And that is all I have to say about this photograph, thank you

1927: I thought I’d never be able to rise again after I curtsied to greet the King and Queen at Downton. Here are my granddaughter Lady Edith and I getting ready to meet them. I have not lived this long without picking up a few rules. One is to never complain, and never explain. Another is to take everything as a compliment. And treat life as a series of problems to be solved, first one and then the next and then the next, until at last we die. Which I haven’t yet

1927: I thought I’d never be able to rise again after I curtsied to greet the King and Queen at Downton. Here are my granddaughter Lady Edith and I getting ready to meet them. I have not lived this long without picking up a few rules. One is to never complain, and never explain. Another is to take everything as a compliment. And treat life as a series of problems to be solved, first one and then the next and then the next, until at last we die. Which I haven’t yet

1927: I thought I’d never be able to rise again after I curtsied to greet the King and Queen at Downton. Here are my granddaughter Lady Edith and I getting ready to meet them. I have not lived this long without picking up a few rules. One is to never complain, and never explain. Another is to take everything as a compliment. And treat life as a series of problems to be solved, first one and then the next and then the next, until at last we die. Which I haven’t yet

Adapted from the Dowager Countess’s own words, by Christopher Stevens. With apologies to Julian Fellowes and Maggie Smith.

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