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The Story Behind the Cover (January/February 2014)




A good portion of our January/February 2014 issue is dedicated to the popular PBS television series Downton Abbey. It should come as no surprise to our readers that the cover, showing a scene from our Book Club Tea, also has a connection to the British drama.

Last summer when we decided to create a Downton Abbey tea to celebrate the premiere of the series’ fourth season this January, we first did our research. Photo stylist Lucy Herndon and associate editor Betty Terry watched and rewatched the first three seasons of the show, freezing the frames and studying the images to identify how the Downton Abbey folk took tea. We decided to base our Downton Abbey tea on a scene from the first season, second episode, in which the Dowager Countess of Grantham has tea with her daughter-in-law. The Battenburg lace tablecloth, silver tipping kettle, and Royal Crown Derby Old Imari china are all nods to that occasion. But we had also identified the china that ladies’ maid O’Brien used to serve breakfast in bed to the current countess, Lady Cora. We liked it so much we chose to use the pattern, Herend Chinese Bouquet in Rust, for the Book Club Tea.

Ironically, in researching the information for this edition of The Story Behind the Cover, we discovered that Chinese Bouquet was not introduced until 1930, making it out of place in time in the Downton Abbey series, which begins in 1912 and is currently in the mid-1920s. But as fans of the show know, Downton Abbey is a visual feast for the eyes. The set decoration and props combine to create the mood of the early 20th century, and we have no reason to complain. We’ll forgive them this one small slip.




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