Downton Abbey

The official Tumblr for Downton Abbey, Carnival Films / Masterpiece costume drama, written & created by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes. Starring Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter and more.

All about Lord and Lady Grantham…

All about Lord and Lady Grantham…

Lord and Lady Grantham are the bedrock of the Crawley family. As the heir to the Downton Abbey estate, Robert Crawley married Cora Levinson – a young, forward-thinking American, partly at the will of his father who wanted to secure the financial future of the great house with her family’s money. However, after years of marriage, the pair now happily presides over Downton Abbey in partnership.

At the beginning of Series 1, we meet the pair amidst a rather serious family drama. As Cora reads about the sinking of The Titanic in The Lady magazine, Robert reveals the bad news that his cousins Patrick and James were on the passenger list and are now most likely to be dead.

Believing her daughter, Mary, loves Patrick, Cora is extremely worried on her behalf; meanwhile, Robert is concerned that James and Patrick were the heirs to Downton Abbey so it is now unclear who the actual heir is.

As women are not allowed to inherit the estate, Robert decides not to break the entailment and so the money and Downton Abbey will fall to Matthew Crawley – a distant relative. An awkward introduction ensues, with Cora attempting to welcome both Matthew and his mother Isobel to the household; but Robert is concerned and impresses upon the pair the importance of Matthew accepting the inheritance and the responsibility of running Downton Abbey.

Maintaining the Crawley family connection to Downton Abbey is of the utmost importance to Robert, as it was to his father. Indeed, the reason why Robert and Cora married in the first place was to ensure that Cora’s inheritance would supplement Downton Abbey and continue its survival.

Thus, Robert is delighted when it seems that Mary and Matthew are considering marriage. Mary has different ideas from her father, though, and throughout the series she tells Cora that she isn’t certain about her feelings for Matthew. This comes to a head when Mary confides in Cora about Mr Pamuk’s death in her bed, prompting Cora to swiftly arrange a ‘cover up’ and help her carry his body back to his room.

Ever the doting mother, Cora always wants the best for her three daughters and continues to think of suitors for Mary, including Evelyn Napier. When Lady Edith meets Lord Anthony Strallan, Cora champions the relationship far more than Robert who is hesitant about Strallan’s age in comparison to Edith’s.

Consequently, it is during Series Two that Cora and Lord Grantham become characters in their own right. Robert shows his deep held allegiance to the country in his dismay and guilt at not being allowed to serve on the front line in the First World War, while Cora takes charge of Downton Abbey as it is turned into convalescence home. Although separate in their roles and duties, the pair remains a strong team throughout, often maintaining a united voice on matters of the family (even if one of the pair concede defeat to the other).

During the series, Matthew is seriously injured in battle and returns to Downton Abbey to recover. It is during this period – when Mary is helping him to recuperate – that Cora and Robert notice her love for him starts to blossom. Cora has always wanted them to marry and so the announcement of their engagement at the end of the series delights her no end. Meanwhile, Robert and Matthew have formed a firm friendship over Estate matters, and although Matthew is more forward-thinking than traditionalist Robert, he concedes defeat on a few occasions, maintaining equilibrium between the pair.

The major moment of weakness in the couple’s marriage is shown during this series. Jane Moorsum, a housemaid who came to work at Downton after Ethel Parks was forced to resign, develops feelings for Robert – which he returned – and the pair kiss. The affair is short-lived, however, as Jane swiftly leaves Downton Abbey. Interestingly, Cora has never found out about this brief encounter.

It is during Series Three, that we first meet Cora’s mother – the exuberant Martha Levinson. Visiting from America, Martha soon picks up on the traditional habits of Downton Abbey and her impatience towards The Dowager Lady Violet is plain. The couple mediates between the mothers, while Cora learns that Lady Mary is planning to ask Martha for money to save Downton Abbey since it is in danger of collapse.

The most difficult event for the couple, however, is the death of their daughter Sybil. Having had a tumultuous relationship with Sybil’s husband Tom Branson – previously a chauffeur at Downton Abbey – Robert had welcomed the pair to live at the house during the final stages of Sybil’s pregnancy. The pair had fled Ireland after Tom was involved in an attack on an aristocratic building. Cora, who had warmed to Tom more quickly than her husband, is now very fond of the pair and is delighted to have her daughter at home once more.

Her delight is tragically short-lived, however, as during labour Sybil becomes gravely ill and dies soon after giving birth to her daughter. An overwhelming sense of loss then permeates the entire Crawley family as well as the staff. Robert in particular is ravished with guilt as it was his decision to agree with Sir Philip Tapsell and ignore Dr Clarkson’s advice about Sybil’s treatment – a decision that ultimately contributed to her death. For the first time throughout the series, Cora cannot abide Robert and blames him for the death of her beloved daughter. The couple then faces a difficult period of mourning that is further exacerbated when Matthew dies in a car accident at the end of the series.

Finally, during Series Four, the couple returns to their roles as steadfast, dependable and reliable parents and grandparents. Dear baby Sybbie has grown and as Mary is still heavily in mourning for Matthew, baby George needs looking after.

Cora soon takes charge of her grandchildren’s care, firing the nanny after hearing her insult Sybbie for being the daughter of Tom Branson – a man of lower class. Meanwhile, Robert and Tom are settling into their roles running the estate in the way that Matthew championed. Soon, discussion turns to Mary’s involvement in the estate. However, Robert doesn’t want her to become involved before she is ready and able – a thought-process which Tom and Cora feel to be a little overbearing. Robert’s attitude is shown most poignantly following the discovery of a letter from Matthew. In it, Matthew has outlined his wish for Mary to take over the running of the estate in the event of his death. Cora defends Mary’s desire to become involved and contradicts Robert’s protestations at dinner – she is after all a Levinson and never shies away from sharing her opinions.

Similarly, the pair disagrees over Lady Edith’s new love interest – Michael Gregson. Following Lord Strallan’s dramatic abandonment of Edith at the alter, Robert fears for her in this new relationship but keeps his opinions to himself. It is Cora to whom Edith shares her concerns about Gregson’s whereabouts when he goes missing in Germany. However, surprisingly, Edith chooses to confide in her aunt Rosamund about her pregnancy and the series finishes with neither Cora nor Robert knowing about Edith’s baby.

While their journey together has been anything but easy, Robert and Cora remain the backbone of Downton Abbey into the fifth series, where many more dramatic events will undoubtedly occur….

All about Daisy…

All about Daisy…

Dear Daisy has been a steadfast part of the servants at Downton Abbey since the very first series. Beginning her career as a kitchen maid, she was thrust into the very heart of the home from the outset and had to learn on the fly…

During the first series, she often rises before any others, working around the clock to help prepare meals for the Crawley family and her fellow servants. Her days are long and laborious and she often makes mistakes, having to face the wrath of a scornful Mrs Patmore. However, the most dramatic moment for Daisy during the series is when she witnesses Lady Mary carrying Pamuk’s body down the corridor. Unaware that Pamuk had died from a heart attack and that Lady Mary was moving his body back to his bedroom to cover up any wrongdoings, she is shocked and shaken by what she sees. Eventually, due to Miss O’Brien’s prompts, Daisy divulges everything to Lady Edith; and, unfortunately for Mary, Edith then uses this information to seek revenge on her sister and writes to the Turkish Ambassador about the event.

Meanwhile, Daisy becomes further integrated into the team downstairs, often observing others as they discuss the various happenings in the house. Younger than the majority of her colleagues, Daisy’s impressionable nature means she soon succumbs to the charms of Thomas Barrow. During the first series we see her become quite taken with the teasing footman, while William Mason plucks up the courage to talk to her.

When the fair comes to Downton Village, William wants to ask Daisy to accompany him, but Thomas swiftly jumps in and Daisy accepts his offer. Naïve in affairs of the heart, Daisy fails to listen to Mrs Patmore as she tries to explain why Thomas isn’t right for her and why William is; she continues to grow fonder of Mr Barrow.

William’s affection for Daisy also grows during Series Two, despite Daisy’s notion that they are just friends. During a discussion about the tension between William’s desire to go to war and his inability to do so, she attempts to cheer him up, briefly kissing him on lips; little does she know that William would take this as a sign of her love for him. Exclaiming ‘Does this mean you’ll be my girl?’, he startles her. She confides in Mrs Patmore that she doesn’t truly love William and so when he proposes to her before leaving for war, she doesn’t know how to respond. Mrs Patmore, worried about what her rejection will do to William, says that she “can’t send him off to war with a broken heart”. Begrudgingly therefore, Daisy accepts his proposal and William is elated. Again, Daisy’s impressionable nature means she is steered to do things she may not otherwise have done.

Initially, Daisy plans to break off the engagement while William is away but her plans are thrown somewhat awry when he returns severely injured. Although Downton Abbey has been turned into a convalescent home during the war, William is not an officer and therefore cannot be accommodated – a situation that angers Edith, Lady Violet, and all the servants.

What happens next defines Daisy’s character as one of the kindest and caring of all at Downton Abbey. Knowing that his death is imminent, William asks Daisy to marry him so that she will be able to receive a pension, and that he will have died a wedded man. Although she knows she does not love him as a husband, she does love him as a friend. With support from Mrs Patmore and Lady Violet, she agrees to the marriage that takes place around William’s deathbed. She remains with William until he dies, six hours or so later, and is wracked with guilt about letting him think she loved him as a husband. Feeling emotionally unstable, it is only with the support of Mrs Patmore that she is able to continue her demanding job at Downton.

As is often the case for poor Daisy, the opinions and decisions of others influence how she feels about herself, and towards the end of Series Two it is Lady Rosamund’s maid Miss Shore who prompts Daisy to think twice about her job at Downton Abbey. Exclaiming that for the amount of work she does in the house, she could be a sous chef in London, Miss Shore puts ideas of promotion into Daisy’s head. However this idea is quickly curtailed as, after asking Mrs Patmore for a promotion, Daisy gets put back firmly in her place.

We meet Daisy at the beginning of Series Three amid a flurry of anger. She hasn’t yet been awarded a promotion, partly because of the Estate’s financial difficulties, and she is growing stronger in her belief that she deserves one. This feeling becomes further exacerbated when a new kitchen maid – Ivy – joins the house. Unable to hide her bitterness, Daisy is at first rather cold and brash towards her new colleague, often causing an awkward atmosphere downstairs, until she is eventually given a promotion. Thankfully for Ivy this eases the tension downstairs and the pair becomes better acquainted. Later, during the fourth series, Daisy’s role in the running of the kitchen becomes truly established. While Mrs Patmore is afraid of technological progress, Daisy encourages her to incorporate some new devices into the kitchen.

It isn’t just the equipment that has caused drama downstairs, however, as the arrival of a new foot servant during Series Three led to quite a stir among the kitchen maids. Alfred Nugent – an enthusiastic young man – is not dissimilar in character to Daisy. Both are impressionable, eager to please and kind-hearted, so it is little surprise that dear Daisy sets her heart upon him. However, he only has eyes for Ivy and although both Daisy and Ivy receive Valentine’s Day cards; only Ivy’s is from Alfred. It transpires that Mrs Patmore wrote Daisy’s, feeling sorry that she may not otherwise open one at all. At first, Daisy struggles with her feelings but eventually, when Alfred moves to London to train as a chef, she makes amends with him and the pair part on good terms. Throughout all of this, the motherly relationship between Mrs Patmore and Daisy grows stronger as each invests emotionally in the other for support and compassion.

Although Daisy knows she could leave Downton Abbey, as many other servants have done so before her, at the end of Series Four she remains at the great house alongside her mentor, friend and manager Mrs Patmore. And what a formidable team they make!

All about Tom Branson…

All about Tom Branson…

From chauffeur to gentleman, Tom Branson has traversed the English class system to become an integral and much loved member of the Crawley family. However, his journey has not always been a smooth one…

Having moved from Ireland at the age of 23, Tom began his journey at the great house as a chauffeur to the Crawley family. He soon became interested in Sybil Crawley, the youngest of the three sisters, recognising in her a similar thirst for change and interest in politics.

As these passions became more developed in Sybil, she began to confide in Tom, knowing that no one else in the family shared her interest in politics, let alone women’s rights. He happily discussed all manner of opinion with her, chiefly his belief that the gulf between the English aristocracy and the working classes needed to be changed. This was an awkward topic of discussion for Sybil – her father Lord Grantham is exactly the type of aristocrat Tom believed should not have so much wealth. He swiftly made amends, telling Sybil he thought her father a good man.

During Series Two, Tom and Sybil became ever closer as her political opinions began to flourish. The outbreak of the First World War prompted a desire in Sybil to train as a nurse and he looked on in admiration as she attended baking lessons with Mrs Patmore. She also wanted to attend many a political meeting, to Lord Grantham’s dismay. This culminated in a rather dramatic event, when she lied to her family and attended a political rally in secret – only telling Tom the truth once he had driven her there. Political activists became violent during the gathering and Sybil was hurt, prompting Tom – along with Matthew – to rescue her from the crowd. A furious Lord Grantham believed Tom to be the cause of the situation and he found himself almost without a job. However, Sybil convinced her family that she had tricked him and that he had no part in the protest whatsoever.

Later in the series, Tom’s feelings for Sybil were truly revealed when Sybil was just about to leave to train as a nurse. Seizing the moment, Tom told her how much he loved her. Unfortunately, though, her reaction was not what he had hoped for, as she did not return his affections, saying instead that she was flattered by them. A hurt Tom replied, “Don’t make fun of me. It’s cost me all I’ve got to say these things.”

Despite this apparent rejection, Tom continued to follow his heart, his love for Sybil never wavering throughout the time she was training as a nurse away from the great house.

Consequently, Tom was called up for service and had to decide whether or not to go to war. Sybil rushed to beg him not to leave, affirming to him that her feelings were strong. However, much to Sybil’s relief, Tom – ever steadfast in his political views – decided he didn’t want to fight for the British Army and would conscientiously object. Luckily, he didn’t have to go through with this decision and risk the shame it would bring as a heart murmur meant his call to service was repealed.

Throughout Series Two, Tom and Sybil attempted to figure out their places within society, both as individuals and as a pair. He became increasingly frustrated with the machinations of the aristocracy and at one point almost poured a container of slop over an army General who was attending a dinner at Downton Abbey, only stopping short for Sybil’s sake. His love for her was the only thing keeping him at the great house, prompting him expressly to tell her his feelings again, asking whether or not she loved him in return. Sadly, again she didn’t give him the answer he hoped for and the discussion turned into an argument, culminating in one of Tom’s most memorable lines: “Look, it comes down to whether or not you love me. That’s all. That’s it. The rest is detail.”

Tom told her he would wait forever for her. Fortunately for him, he only had to wait until the war was over before Sybil realised how strongly she felt for him. Her ‘normal’ life as a Lady bored her and she found a sense of true belonging with Tom. The pair promptly decided to run away together to marry, but were stopped in their tracks by Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Tom was now a journalist and Sybil no longer wanted the life of a Lady, so although they decided not to run away, the pair announced their relationship to the Crawley family. As expected, the reaction was not positive and Lord Grantham demanded they break off the relationship. But after waiting so long for Sybil, Tom wasn’t willing to relinquish his love so easily; Sybil’s resolute decision meant that eventually, after an amicable goodbye, the pair departed, to wed in Ireland.

Having already faced a plethora of challenges, Tom faced the most heartbreaking challenge of all during the next Series. At the beginning of Series Three, he and Sybil returned to Downton Abbey for Lady Edith’s wedding, having stayed in Ireland over Christmas. Tom struggled to accept the aristocratic life at the great house and his relationship to his former colleagues downstairs. They in turn struggled to accept his presence as Sybil’s husband and a member of the family, especially since his return was amid a flurry of drama - having been involved in the destruction of property in Ireland, he was wanted by the police.

The Crawleys were horrified to discover that he had left a pregnant Sybil in Ireland while he fled to England. However, she arrived the next day, safe and sound, much to the relief of a worried Tom. Although he was outraged, Lord Grantham agreed to help Tom and all charges were dropped against him, on the condition that he never return to Ireland. This development meant that he and Sybil remained at Downton Abbey throughout her pregnancy and he had to learn to live in an environment in which he felt most out of place.

Having said this, Tom was blissfully happy to be wedded to Sybil, and the couple grew more and more in love. Complications arose, however, when Sybil fell dreadfully ill during and after the birth of their baby. While the whole family was concerned, it was Tom whose entire world revolved around his wife, so when Sybil tragically took her final breath and passed away, she left a distraught husband in total disbelief. Grief engulfed him and he struggled desperately to understand how life could continue without her.

Now Tom had to reimagine his place within the Crawley household. He agreed to be the agent on the Downton Abbey estate, much to Matthew’s joy, but still struggled to understand how he fitted into the structure of the family as a whole. He had to stay strong, though, for the sake of Baby Sybil – whom he had painfully and poignantly named after his beloved wife.

At the beginning of Series 4, we meet Tom in a state of melancholy. Whilst he isn’t as deep in mourning as Lady Mary, he is reminded every day of what he has lost, whenever he looks at his daughter. It remains to be seen whether Branson will be able to reconcile his positions within the Crawley family, as a member of the team in charge of running the estate and as a father, son and brother-in-law. Will his political leanings raise their head and challenge his situation once again?

All about Isobel Crawley…

All about Isobel Crawley…

The journey that Isobel Crawley has taken has not been a simple one since she first arrived at Downton Abbey. A distant relative of the family, she was shocked and somewhat uncomfortable at the idea that her son Matthew was Robert Crawley’s heir and therefore next in line to inherit the Downton Abbey estate.

Matthew was a solicitor and Isobel trained as a nurse, so neither was accustomed to the Crawley family’s more luxurious lifestyle; at first Matthew considered turning down the inheritance. But on learning that the estate and title were automatically conferred, the pair moved to nearby Crawley House and began forming relationships with the family. This, however, was more difficult than Isobel first thought, as was made plain during her first encounter with Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.

Isobel Crawley: What should we call each other?
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: Well, we could always start with Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham.

The ingrained traditions of Downton Abbey soon began to irk Isobel, whose more pragmatic, forward thinking demeanor propelled her to challenge what she saw as strange and, at times, unfair customs. One such tradition with which she took issue was the yearly tradition of Lady Violet winning the Downton Village flower competition. Having voiced her opinions rather forcefully – Isobel is never one to hold back – Lady Violet was persuaded to be fairer and award the prize to another gardener.

Isobel really found her place, however, once she established an interest in the Downton Cottage Hospital, and her profound knowledge of medicine shone through when she saved the life of a farmer, John Drake, who was dying of Dropsy.

During Series 2, Isobel further exercised her medical expertise and forward-thinking attitude. After the onset of World War I, she persuaded Robert and Cora to turn Downton Abbey into a convalescent home for injured soldiers. Taking up a position of authority for the first time since she arrived at the great house, Isobel came into her own, inspiring Sybil to follow suit and volunteer as a nurse.

However, her new-found authority wasn’t always well-received by members of the Crawley family, and Isobel found herself clashing with Cora on how best to run the home. Things turned from bad to worse, and Isobel eventually left to work in France for the Red Cross, feeling as though her services would be better appreciated overseas.

On returning from France, Isobel was introduced to Matthew’s fiancée, Miss Lavinia Swire. Ever supportive of Matthew, Isobel suggested that their wedding be delayed due to Lavinia falling ill with Spanish Flu. Tragically, soon after, she passed away.

Now very much a part of the Crawley family, alongside other family members Isobel supported Anna Bates during the trial of her husband John. Offering help and advice, her nurturing tendencies were out to good use and much appreciated.

Then came, at last, the engagement of Matthew and Lady Mary. At first, Isobel was unsure of Lady Mary’s feelings, since she hadn’t been entirely certain of how she had felt about Matthew in the past. However, she shortly developed a love for the couple and applauded Matthew’s decision to have Tom Branson as his best man, to the surprise and dismay of Robert.

Forever looking for her next challenge, Isobel began helping poor and destitute women in the village. On finding that one of Downton Abbey’s former housemaids, Ethel Parks, had been reduced to prostitution, she took it upon herself to try and elevate her circumstances, with the help of Mrs Hughes. She took Ethel in as her housemaid and attempted to ease the tense relationship between Ethel and her son Charlie’s adoptive parents.

Relishing the opportunity to help others, Isobel was a rock to many at Downton Abbey, until the tragedy that occurred at the end of Series 3. The death of her son, Matthew, plummeted Isobel into a spiral of grief and reclusion and we meet her at the beginning of Series 4 still suffering from this loss. Unsure of her place within the Crawley family, Isobel’s next challenge is to establish her new identity as a grandmother without a son.

Composing for an ever-changing series.

Guest post by John Lunn, the Emmy Award winning composer of the theme and soundtrack music for Downton Abbey.

When a TV series starts out nobody really has any idea how long it will run for or how it will evolve. With Series 1 of Downton Abbey I think I had the scripts for the first four episodes so I had a rough idea of the developing story lines. In the possibility that it might be successful, Julian Fellowes had written what’s known in the industry as a ‘Bible’ which is basically a sketch of ideas that might be explored were a second or even a third series to be commissioned. So while working on Series 1, we knew that Series 2 would involve the First World War, but that was about it.

Writing music for such a series does require a certain amount of flexibility. Each thematic strand must stand out and be distinctive, but ideally each one must be able to transform itself into another. There are always a few constants - the House, the Crawleys, although even they change, and the Masters and Servants; but the development of the music is about the relationships between people.
Inevitably the title music is associated with the house itself but it didn’t start out that way. In a previous blog, I described how the music was originally composed from the very beginning of the first series - the train, the telegram, the lone man - and how the same music also fitted the subsequent scene where the servants are seen bringing the house to life early in the morning. There’s an underlying harmonic movement and several distinctive themes that I knew would lend themselves to further development. And that proved to be the case - the material is still extremely useful even now after four series, but sometimes I have to admit I’m relying more on instinct than design.

For example the music that became associated with Sybil and Branson actually started out as a theme for her maid, Gwen, who didn’t want to spend her life in servitude and trained herself to become a secretary. Sybil was very sympathetic and decided to help her. The music began to encompass Sybil as well as the concept of emancipation and then finally developed into a love theme between her and Branson. Even now in Series 4, long after the death of Sybil, it is used to conjure up the ghost of her as she continues to haunt Branson.
Likewise, after the death of Matthew, who unfortunately has taken most of my best tunes with him to the grave, I have been able to use distant strands of those melodies to help establish the gradual emerging of Lady Mary from her grief, by allowing them to disappear and finally metamorphose into an entirely new melody unassociated with him.

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Downton Abbey Fabrics: The Dowager Countess

Downton Abbey Fabrics: The Dowager Countess

The Long Road to Downton

Capturing the essence of an era, especially one as grand and rich in tradition as that of Downton Abbey, takes a historic approach, a lot of research and inspiration. Andover Fabrics’ Creative Director Kathy Hall had no small task or journey (literally) ahead of her when she set out to create the first collection of Downton Abbey fabrics. Over the course of the collection’s creation, Kathy would travel from New York to the set of Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle, bringing with her relics of an elegant, adorned past.

Uncovering Beauty

Just as in the Downton manor itself, everything about the fabric collection needed to be just right. Historical accuracy was of utmost importance to the Downton Abbey production team, with whom Kathy worked extensively to procure each individual pattern.
Before Kathy made her trip to London, she therefore exhaustively researched hundreds of historical prints from the early twentieth century. Dresses, accessories, home décor and even wallpapers from the era served to inform what she would eventually bring across the sea as inspiration. When the time finally came to make the trip to meet with the production team on set, there were just over 70 patterns from the era to choose from.

Creating the Characters

After a tour of the Downton set, Kathy sat down with the head costume designer of the show, who selected each individual pattern and coloured them to fit the characters’ styles and personalities.

The Dowager Countess

The Dowager Countess’ prints date back furthest of any of the characters’ designs, from just before the 1910s. Her collection is one of traditional yet timeless beauty and it reflects the values of an older and sometimes often wiser generation. Often dressed extravagantly in crowns, diamonds, and jewellery, The Dowager needed to be represented similarly in fabric.

The Dowager’s Damask

The Dowager’s Damask is drawn from the woven patterns and embroidery from The Dowager Countess’ apparel. Big and bold prints were a must in order to match The Dowager’s immeasurable personality and attitude.

The Dowager’s Lace

The Dowager is also quite partial to dressing in floral and lace. This paisley print, The Dowager’s Lace, was inspired by embellishments on The Dowager’s clothing and hats.

Just as the Dowager dresses in black and purple throughout the show, the fabrics in her collection are similarly coloured. As Kathy explained to us, “Violet was in mourning after the death of her husband. Black was worn for a year of mourning, and after that purple was worn for half mourning. For this reason, these colours were chosen for all of her prints.”

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