Jessica Ellis
March 05, 2016 10:17 am
PBS

In a tradition that the dowager countess would no doubt approve, Alastair Andrew Bernard Reibey Bruce of Crionaich, OBE, historical adviser for all six seasons of Downton Abbey, cares a lot about beds. Once, a scene had to be re-shot because Bruce noticed that Lady Granthem’s bed included an anachronistic blanket “To forget a bed, what an awful thing,” he told the LA Times. “People don’t make beds now. They just throw a duvet over everything and hope for the best.”

Being the historical adviser on one of the most exquisite period dramas of the century sounds like an amazing job, yet Downton Abbey is far from Bruce’s only gig. The British renaissance man has a distinguished career that starts to sound a little like he’s the Dos Equis guy: he fought in the Falklands, was the Queen’s herald (we didn’t know that was a real thing,) and serves as a TV commentator on Sky News. Along the way, he picked up an expertise in British period behavior that influences his thoughts about the modern world.

His thoughts on our posture are a sharp lesson in decorum, referring to the way modern people stand as “crotch grabbing” and insisting that, “if only we could take one lesson out of this otherwise terrifyingly starched era and just stand up straight…All men would be more handsome and all women more beautiful.”

Bruce is deeply beloved on the set of Downton, where he is known as “the Oracle.” Presiding over a kingdom where every spoon is placed correctly and every stride is measured against his knowledge of the time period, you would expect him to be as refined as can be. Yet according to the LA Times article, he’s occasionally known for outbursts, such as during a scene where Lady Grantham walked at a “ludicrous” pace. Still, show-creator Julian Fellowes finds him indispensable, saying “Alistair is my luxury.”

Don’t think that his passion for making the drama period-perfect means Bruce wants a return to the heavily class-structured early days of the 20th century, however. He’s quite clear and vocal about the downsides of the 1920s: “It was a period when everyone knew their place…We live in a world where, thank the Lord, none of us know our place.”

But there is one issue on which this charmingly cantankerous expert insists on the old way being better: waiting on tables. “You bloody well started this, you Americans: I can’t go to a restaurant in London anymore without some fellow or girl who flounces up and says, ‘Everything all right with your meal?’ It’s like a car crash has just landed on the table. Can you imagine Carson asking whether you were happy with your food?”

So heads up, servers of the world, should you see Mr. Bruce coming, best stand up straight and don’t ask if he likes his food- your tip could be on the line!

Advertisement