Downton Abbey ‘banned God for fear of alienating viewers’

Downton Abbey’s historical advisor has revealed that religious references were deliberately left out of the show for fear they would alienate increasingly secular audiences.

Alistair Bruce, whose role is to ensure historical accuracy in the drama, said that the beginning of a meal is never shown because “no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said”.

“I think that the view was that we’d leave religion out of it”, he explained.

Everyone panics

Describing how he was even stopped from featuring napkins folded in the shape of a bishop’s headpiece, Bruce said: “Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on the telly”.

Downton Abbey is set between 1912 and the mid-1920s, and focuses on the dramas of an aristocratic family and its servants.

Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on the telly

Alistair Bruce

Commentators have noted the absence of religion in Downton Abbey, which would have been a key element in the life of aristocratic families at the time.


Programme-makers had even discussed whether the title of the show may put viewers off.

ITV’s Director of Television Peter Fincham said: “We talked about the word Abbey. Would people think it would have nuns or monks in it and be a religious series?

“But we satisfied ourselves they wouldn’t and did a bit of marketing around it.”

The sixth and final series of the programme finished airing in the UK earlier this month ahead of a Christmas special.

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