Is Downton Abbey real? Origins of the hit series, movies, and what to expect next

Is Downton Abbey real? As 'Downton Abbey: A New Era' hits cinemas, we delve into its origins - including links to ancient Egypt!

Highclere Castle, is pictured in Highclere, southern England, on May 12, 2016. As Britain mulls questions of identity and its possible exit from the European Union, 2016 is an anniversary year for three of its most potent symbols: the queen, Shakespeare and gardener "Capability" Brown. Lancelot "Capability" Brown is credited with having created over 170 gardens, among them the grounds of Highclere Castle, made famous as the set of the hit television series Downton Abbey. / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE'N / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY FLORENCE BIEDERMANN
(Image credit: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images)

Is Downton Abbey real? Well, the answer is yes and no. Although the show's characters are totally fictionalized, the stunning building itself is real - but goes by a different name. In fact, some may think the true history of the stunning building is more interesting than fiction.

The Downton Abbey sequel trailer heralded the movie's cinema release on April 29, 2022, in the UK and May 20, 2022 in the US. Devoted fans to the hit series welcomed the second chapter in the life of the Crawleys after the TV show ended back in 2015.

As the whole world fell for the beautiful country pile, the show's protagonists - both upstairs and downstairs - many wondered where is Downton Abbey filmed and, more importantly, is Downton Abbey real?

Is downton abbey real?

Lady Carnarvron and Lord Carnarvron attend the launch of new book "At Home At Highclere: Entertaining At The Real Downton Abbey" By The Countess Of Carnarvon at The Ritz on March 23, 2017 in London, England.

(Image credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Downton Abbey isn't real, but it's filmed in a real-life location, Highclere Castle. Highclere Castle is a Grade I listed country house in Berkshire, built in 1679 and largely renovated in the 1840s, with a park designed by the famous landscape gardener Capability Brown in the 18th century. The castle covers 100,000 square feet and has a total of 300 rooms.

Similar to the estate in the Downton Abbey TV show, the castle was repurposed during the First World War, becoming a hospital for wounded soldiers. The 5th Countess of Carnarvon ran the hospital, and when the country was at war again during the Second World War Highclere Castle became a home to children evacuated from London.

The castle has had many famous residents and guests throughout the years, including Windsor Castle's famous residents the Queen and Prince Philip. However, this isn't their only relation to a historic monarchy - as they're directly connected to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in human history.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh watch a cricket match at Highclere Castle, Highclere, Hampshire, 3rd August 1958.

(Image credit: Victor Blackman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Just like the fictional 7th Lord Grantham, the 5th Lord Carnarvon also married a wealthy American heiress, Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell, who helped bail him out of dire financial straits. According to Forbes, her father, the millionaire banker Alfred de Rothschild, "paid off Carnarvon's standing debts and bestowed a modest £500,000 (equivalent to about $81 million in 2019) settlement on his new son-in-law."

Although Lord Carnavon wasn't entirely sensible with his new wealth, enjoying his penchant for racehorses and fast cars a little too much, he did use some of it to fund one of the best-known archaeological digs ever. The Carnarvons provided the much-needed funding for archaeologist Howard Carter's dig at Egypt's Valley of the Kings. During which, the tomb of King Tutankhamen and all its treasures were discovered.

Super fans of the show are able to visit the stunning home, which is open to the public and a huge tourist attraction in Berkshire.

What is Downton Abbey about?

Downton Abbey: A New Era. Still of the film featuring lead cast members.

(Image credit: Ben Blackall/Focus Features/LLC)

Downton Abbey was initially a TV series, written by Julian Fellowes, that tells the story of the people living and working on a fictional Yorkshire country estate. Set between 1912 and 1926, it depicts a time of rapid change in society, as the aristocracy's power begins to wane and huge country houses struggle to keep up.

The show included important historical moments including the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War, the Spanish Flu pandemic, and the King's first speech on the radio. Since the series ended, there have been two films, the first simply titled Downton Abbey and the second - Downton Abbey: A New Era.

Will there be another Downton abbey film?

Although nothing has been confirmed yet, one of the Downton Abbey: A New Era cast has hinted that there's definitely a chance of another trip to the much-loved country house.

Previously, Downton Abbey's Elizabeth McGovern revealed why she was a 'little bit worried' about working with her director husband on the latest movie, but that doesn't seem to have put her off. Speaking to Digital Spy she said, "We'll wait and see. I always say I'll read the script."

Julian, who created the Downton universe, spoke about a potential third installment, during a chat with the Mail Online .

"In this business, it's very foolish not to give people what they want," said the Downton creator. "I've said goodbye to these characters more times than I can number. Each time I think: 'This is the end, goodbye'. Then I'm writing another series or movie."

"I don't mind if it's run its course," he added. "I think that's fair enough, too."

Aoife Hanna
Junior News Editor

Aoife is an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly woman&home's junior news editor and a contributing writer at Bustle, her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica and EVOKE.

Her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.