As his latest period drama The Gilded Age lights up the winter, we look back on a long and fruitful career.

He may be most famous as the creator of Downton Abbey but Julian Fellowes has many more strings to his bow. Draped in award-winning work, he is at once a screenwriter, director, producer, novelist and actor.

After schooldays spent at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire, he read English Literature at Cambridge and then went to the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

He hit the ground running with a long acting career. His list of credits includes Knights of God, Our Friends in the North and Aristocrats – and I’m sure I remember as a child gleefully watching him decked out in a tweed suit as Toad of Toad Hall in a stage production of The Wind in the Willows (but I cannot find anything to verify this online).

He has also turned his hand to some of the greatest screenwriting of our time – including The Young Victoria and Vanity Fair movies – as well as three novels and countless plays. Like many of his characters, he is a member of the House of Lords and does a good deal for charity.

His relative flops – over which we shall gloss – include the TV miniseries Titanic, which starred the fragrant Sophie Winkleman; both the novel and TV adaptation, Belgravia; and Netflix’s nostalgic football-fest, The English Game.

Here, as we revel in his latest programme, we celebrate the greatest moments of his career.

Main Image: Mingle MediaTV, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Acting As Monarch Of The Glen’s Lord Kilwillie




In Monarch of the Glen, the BBC series that ran from 2000 to 2005, Fellowes was perfectly and unforgettably cast as the mischievous red-faced rival and best friend of Archie’s father, Hector. If you know, you know. Monarch of the Glen, which follows a young Scottish heir as he moves from London to take over his crumbling ancestral castle, is well worth a revisit, by the way. Watch it.


Snobs




A Sunday Times bestseller, Fellowes’s 2004 novel, Snobs, is so good, you want to take it down in a gulp. Those of you haven’t read the classic tale – which intricately charts Edith Lavery’s journey from the very aspirational middle classes into the aristocracy – must waste no more time. With its exquisitely drawn characters and heavenly analysis of the human condition, Snobs proves Fellowes to be a master of social satire. Buy it.


Gosford Park





Fellowes wrote the script for this corker of a movie, which went on to win the 2002 for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Getting to the heart of the British class system, it did in a feature-length movie what Downton went on to do in a long TV series. It bears all the typical Fellowesian hallmarks. Set in the 1930s during a shooting weekend at an English country house, it has lies, infidelity, excruciating snobbery and, of course, murder on its menu. Starring Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and Clive Owen, it includes many faces you’ll now know and love, too. Watch it.


Downton Abbey




It is hard not to see this creation as Gosford Park’s natural successor. It may not be for everyone but with its pitch-perfect cast, glorious costumes, to-die-for sets and razor-sharp jokes, Downton Abbey (the TV series and its spin-off movie) is as good as any period drama there’s ever been. Fellowes says: ‘Downton Abbey has been an extraordinary adventure, no question, and if anyone had foretold it ten years ago when we began to kick around ideas for a new series about an English country house, I would have thought they were mad. I’ve often been asked if we expected the show to do so well when we began making it. The answer must, of course, be no.’ Watch it.


Mary Poppins





Lest you’re beginning to think that Fellowes is all about class, though, he isn’t. He wrote the fabulous script for Cameron Mackintosh and Disney’s staggeringly popular Mary Poppins: The Musical. The show, which began on Broadway and has since hit the West End and toured extensively, has won Olivier and Tony awards and over 11 million fans. Watch it.


The Gilded Age





Though Fellowes insists that the two are not connected, it is fair enough to see The Gilded Age, on Sky Atlantic now, as a sort of American version of Downton Abbey. This lavish, opulent, silly spectacle chronicles the whims of high society in 1880s New York. There, class doesn’t matter but money does. Fortunes are made and lost; friendships are forged and frozen; the old guard loathes the newcomers. Trust us: this programme will see you through until spring. Watch it.


By Becky Ladenburg
February 2022

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.

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