|Hail to Mrs. Patmore, |
ruler of the Downton Abbey kitchen.
Dh & I have been (re)watching (and hugely enjoying) reruns of "Downton Abbey" on weekday afternoons this fall on CBC TV (which should be wrapping up next week).
One of my favourite characters is Mrs. Patmore, the cook. "Mrs." was a courtesy title traditionally given to the cook & housekeeper of great houses like Downton, whether they had ever been married or not. All indications are that neither Mrs. Patmore nor Mrs. Hughes (the housekeeper) were ever married or had children -- that is, until Mrs. Hughes married Mr. Carson, the butler -- after which Mrs. Patmore observes, a bit wistfully, "I suppose (Mrs. Hughes) knows the mystery of life by now, which is more than I can say for myself.” (lol)
Nevertheless, it recently struck me that Mrs. Patmore is probably the most "motherly" figure on the show.
She tutors Lady Sybil in some basic cooking skills before she heads off for nurse's training during the war. She also encourages footman Alfred's culinary ambitions, and he eventually lands a spot in a prestigious chef's training program at the Ritz in London.
She lobbies both Carson and Lord Grantham to have her nephew Archie's name included on the local war memorial, and is crushed when it's excluded because he was executed for desertion. (Today, Archie would probably be diagnosed with PTSD and sent home for mental health treatment.) Lord Grantham comforts her by commissioning a special plaque dedicated to Archie, mounted on a wall near the town memorial and unveiled at the same time.
But it's Mrs. Patmore's relationship with Daisy the kitchen maid (who, under her tutelage, becomes the assistant cook) that best demonstrates her nurturing qualities. While she barks at Daisy and prods her to do better -- as any mother probably would -- her bark is far worse than her bite, and she is clearly Daisy's biggest champion. She encourages Daisy to accept footman William's proposal as he heads off to war (to give him something to look forward to while he's "over there") -- and then to marry him as he lays on his deathbed, even though she never truly loved him. She also encourages Daisy to befriend William's lonely father, Mr. Mason -- and there are hints of a romance between herself & Mr. Mason by the end of the series!
When Valentine's Day comes along, she sends Daisy an anonymous card, to ensure that Daisy doesn't feel left out. When Daisy gently turns down Alfred, Mrs. Patmore tells her, "I couldn't be prouder of you if you were my own daughter." Perhaps most importantly, she encourages Daisy to pursue her education, and pays for schoolteacher Sarah Bunting to serve as Daisy's tutor. And she's devastated when Daisy briefly considers leaving Downton to seek her fortune in London.
Mrs. Patmore may be a fictional character, but she's beautifully written, and beautifully acted by Lesley Nicol. Couldn't all of us benefit from a Mrs. Patmore in our lives??