The Royal Wedding(s)

1 May

Rather than offer my own view of the most recent royal wedding – although it was lovely, wasn’t it? – I thought it might be nice to direct you all to some rather fine posts from elsewhere on royal weddings throughout history. Great lazy Sunday reading for those in the mood for pomp and pageantry.

Madame Guillotine (updated: also this glorious new post on 29/4/11)

Duchess of Devonshire

Oh, go on – a couple of Catherine and William posts then too:

Enchanted Serenity of Period Films

The British Monarchy’s Flickr

XCity (written by yours truly)

And a link to some great royal wedding gifs I found:

Twitter links

What was your favourite part of the wedding?


The Crimson Petal and the White – spoiler alert for US

17 Apr

Image courtesy of Romaryka under Flickr Creative Commons license

Have any other UK period fans been watching the BBC’s adaptation of The Crimson Petal and the White? What are your thoughts?

Adapted from Michael Faber’s book (which I haven’t read, but intend to), two of the four episodes have been broadcast and I’m…well, ambivalent to say the least.

True, it’s not the most serene and ‘pretty’ of period dramas – prositution in Victorian London is shown in all it’s pustulent glory – and it’s hardly an Austenesque tale of courtship. It’s not these elements that I’m having trouble with.

Nor can I critique the excellent acting (Romola Garai plays a wonderfully dead-eyed Sugar, Chris O’ Dowd breaks his I.T. Crowd shackles and Gillian Anderson is as magnificent as ever) or high production values. The problem is that I just don’t care what happens.

Let me be clear. The character are rounded in that there are no heroes or villains – which I believe to be a good thing. However, if I’m meant to invest four hours of my time in a drama, I should feel encouraged to keep watching. And I don’t. As I mentioned earlier, I would like to read the book – firstly because I believe the book is always better than the adaptation – but also because I want to know if it the dramatisation or the story that is lacklustre.

You can learn more about the programme here.

Have you watched or read it? What are your thoughts? Should I persevere?

Oh Mr Darcy!

22 Mar

Maybe not the Mr Darcy you were thinking of though.

Hit UK show The Only Way Is Essex (think The Hills with Estuary accents and more fake tan and bling) is back on our screens and has introduced a new character: Mr Darcy the micro-pig, who I can’t help but love for the name alone. In fact, I’m thinking of getting a pet *just* so I can call it Lady Catherine.

Has anyone else out there named a pet (or cuddly toy perhaps?) after their favourite period drama star or character?

EXCLUSIVE interview with Hugh Bonneville

6 Mar

As a huge fan of Downton Abbey, I was thrilled to get the chance to natter with the Earl of Grantham himself, Hugh Bonneville. Of course, I couldn’t keep what he said to myself, so please read on to find out what he thinks of Downton‘s huge success in the U.K. and the States.

Why do you think Downton Abbey has enjoyed such huge success?

“I’ve been involved in projects that have felt equally strong and confident and then they’ve not caught the public’s imagination, but something happened with this. I think it’s a combination of factors: superb writing, it was extremely well cast, the production values were ambitious, the attention to detail and an aspiration to authenticity was absolutely forefront in Julian’s mind – as it was in Gosford Park – which is what lifted that film above the ordinary. I think attention to detail is certainly one of the elements as to why this was successful.”

Did you always know you had a hit on your hands?

“When I first read the scripts, I thought this project was very different, very special. The scripts were pretty much immaculate when we came to the read-through and they changed very little after that. It’s a rare experience to go into shooting with everything feeling watertight in terms of story.”

Have you enjoyed the public’s reaction?

“I’ve had people come up to me in the past, saying ‘I love the film or the show’ or whatever. But I’ve never had people come up and grab me by the hand and say ‘Thank you for my Sunday nights’. It’s a very different feeling. Also, people have said they watch it as a family. That experience is all too rare these days. We on the production were all blown away by the reaction. Most of us watched the last episode together as it went out live and that was rather special, because we did enjoy making it and we’re really excited about doing it again.”

We’ve seen a revival of period dramas – Upstairs, Downstairs and South Riding have come along on the coattails of Downton and – of course- The King’s Speech has been hugely successful. Have we fallen back in love with the genre?

“It was an era of empire, where the cogs in the machinery of that empire worked and were in no doubt about how they worked.  Now, with hindsight, we might say that it’s a pretty crap system, where some are born into luxury and some are born into circumstances from which they feel they will never be able to pull themselves up, because they’ve been born into the wrong strata of society. With that to one side, it still was a system that had confidence in itself. I think we’re in a time now where we don’t know how society works; we aren’t confident as a nation, or as Europe, or indeed, as a globe. I know those sorts of pressures were there then, but they seem to be much more immediate to us now.

“I think the show wrongfooted those who thought this sort of drama had had its day, because it’s very character-led – bearing in mind in one episode the most exciting thing that happens is somebody loses a snuff box, so we’re talking about the minutiae of relationships.”

As the Earl of Grantham, you play a man living in a house full of women – would you say it replays your role as Mr Bennet in Lost In Austen?

“I don’t have daughters so I don’t know, but everyone tells me daughters are wilier than sons. Sons fall over, graze their knee, cry and it’s all over. Daughters sort of wheedle their way around the situation and lay traps for the grown ups. I don’t know if that’s a fair generalisation. I hadn’t even thought about the parallel with the Austen story, but of course it’s an encircled father trying to battle with all these women, and in Downton with the mother as well! So I think all fathers and daughters will recognise the dilemmas Robert Crawley faces.”

I’d like to add that Hugh is a very nice man and you can find out information about his work for medical charity Merlin here.

Please contact me at bonnetsandbustles[at] if you wish to reproduce to any part of this EXCLUSIVE interview and credit any links to me. Thanks.

Dance like Darcy – guest post

5 Mar

“You’re a very good swinger,” my partner enthuses before grabbing me from behind, one hand squeezing my waist tightly. There is a perfectly innocent explanation for this; it’s not a scene from some bacchanalian love-fest but merely a brief flirtation with the recent renaissance of English Dancing. Swinging is a dance move; I am a swinger, pivoting around on my right food and bobbing up and down to the twangs of the mandolin.

English dancing is enjoying a comeback of sorts. BBC Four broadcast a special Christmas documentary on clog dancing, whilst last year saw a threefold increase in the number of blogs and forums dedicated to the quirky hobby. So, always one to follow up a hype, I find myself at the home of folk dancing, Cecil Sharp House, to sample the delights of the English Country Dance. Indeed, Cecil Shap was the ultimate Comeback King of folk-dancing; travelling worldwide during the mid-19th century reviving the phenomenon.

Needless to say, I am in the hands of experts as I walk through the doors into the old, wood-panelled hall. Although the class is in the throes of a ‘Riverbank Ramble’ it is not long before their circle formation disperses and I find myself approached by an older gentleman: “Would you care for the next dance dear?” As a girl who is normally propositioned with a wink and a cheeky grope, I am rather taken aback. I forget that this elegant dancing was inherited from ladies and gentlemen of the court of Queen Elizabeth I and continued to grace ballrooms throughout the Baroque and Regency eras.

My partner leads me to the centre of the room where I take my place in the line of women standing parallel to their partners. “And now for Mr Beveridge’s Maggot,” announces the instructor. We all run through the skeleton of the dance before launching into the full shebang; violins, mandolins and all. After a customary bow, I am instructed to take my partner’s hand on the diagonal and walk in a circular motion, clockwise then anti-clockwise. Next we pass around each other in a figure of eight, ending up where we started- not somewhere across the room, as befell many.

The line splits in half, the women pass their partners on the underside and resume a position one head further down the original parallel line. This sequence of moves is repeated as you work you way down the line. It sounds complicated but after the standard initiation process of toe-crushing and limb-lashing, the experience becomes far easier. As long as you listen to the phrasing of the music you can place where you are in the routine and recover any bodged moves.

Over the course of the evening I am introduced to a whole host of dance terms that, to my surprise, become second nature to me promptly. An hour in and even I astonish myself by springing into a polka when the instructor cries, “Rings and Swings!” Although many of the class were experienced jiggers, there was plenty of time for beginners to practice their moves without feeling like an inconvenience. Frequently members of the class sidled off to perfect their do si do’s and chassé s, rejoining when they felt confident enough to last the whole routine.

Once you get the hang of it, the dancing itself is massively enjoyable albeit exhausting. I wonder how Lizzie Bennett managed to hack it whilst playing coy with Darcy and battling a corset. Indeed with all the prancing about and sticking to the routine, the dance requires an incredible level of energy and mental engagement. It’s far better than any yoga class I’ve ever been to.

The final dance has us all stood in a large circle, weaving past one another before stopping at the seventh person along. On instruction I launch into a jig, swinging my left leg waist-high and hopping, then repeating the move to my right. All is well until my partner coos “Ooh don’t grab there.” I turn a bit pink and chant “What would Lizzie do,” to myself a few times. About time for the cream tea methinks.


Where? The beginners English Country Dance class meets every Thursday, 7.30pm at Cecil Sharp House, Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1 7AY

How much? The class costs £4.50 for adults, £3.50 for concessions

How do I book? Call up in advance on 020 7485 2206 or email info[at]efdss[dot]org

Did you know? The cast of the BBC production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice were taught their English Country Dancing by experts from Cecil Sharp House – the scene can be viewed here.

Examples of the dance from 2005’s Pride and Prejudice can be viewed here



This post is by Olivia Wakefield – you can read her blog Olive On A Plain and talk to her on Twitter: @OlivesW

John Phwoar-ton is back!

10 Feb

Hot off the press: Richard Armitage will be back on our screens in a new series of Strike Back on Sky. With this and his role in the upcoming Hobbit movie, his legion of fans (including us!) will have a lot to look forward to….

Ok, this was basically an excuse to post the dreamy pic above….

(Spooks fans should look at my other blog here for more Armitage-y goodness).

Tweet your favourite period star!

6 Feb

For the modern period drama fan, there are plenty of online resources to feed the addiction: blogs (such as this), Facebook fan groups, downloadable/streamable dramas from foreign lands and Twitter.

Not only are their blogs, fellow fanatics and official publicity feeds to follow though: you can also read all about what your favourite period drama stars are up to when not decked out in frills and ruffles.

Check out our list (a work in progress) here and add any of your own in the comments below!

[tweetmeme source=”perioddramasuk” only_single=false]