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Belgravia (TV series 2020): John C Adams Reviews

Show name: Belgravia

Release date: 2020

Genre: Period drama

Starring: Tamsin Grieg, Philip Glenister, Harriet Walter, Tom Wilkinson

Created by: Julian Fellowes

Studio: ITV/Epix

Length: 6 episodes, total four and a half hours

Rating: 5/5

Belgravia is a period drama adapted by Julian Fellowes from his novel of the same name.

Both are named after a district in central London synonymous with wealth and privilege.

Or as Victorians would have described it, ‘Society’.

I first watched this series on my flight back from America in 2022.

With an imploding relationship to bid farewell to, and a last-minute cancellation of my flight by BA, to contend with I wasn’t in a good place.

Thankfully, Aer Lingus got me safely home via Dublin to Newcastle. They took great care of me.

I really needed a compelling drama to take my mind off my personal affairs during the overnight flight. Belgravia rose to the challenge!

Belgravia opens on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. James Trenchard (Philip Glenister) has just secured a coveted invitation to the Duchess of Richmond’s ball.

His wife Anne (Tamsin Greig) is less than delighted, feeling that their daughter Sophia (Emily Reid) should put her flirtation with Viscount Bellasis (Jeremy Neumark Jones) behind her.

Despite their reservations, the Cinderella spirit triumphs and the Trenchards will go to the ball!

The event is broken up by the announcement that fighting will begin at dawn, and Edmund and Sophia say goodbye.

Edmund is killed in the fighting, leaving Sophia (who believed herself to be married to him) pregnant.

The Trenchards conclude that the marriage was a fake designed to seduce Sophia and decide that the whole affair must be kept secret.

Sophia dies in childhood and James arranges for his grandson to be raised by a childless couple under the pretence of being their own son.

Twenty-five years later, early in the reign of Queen Victoria, Anne meets Edmund’s still grieving mother, the Countess of Brockenhurst (Harriet Walter) at an afternoon tea event.

Anne is struck by how devastated Caroline and her husband (Tom Wilkinson) are at losing their only son.

She is still grieving for Sophia and cannot resist writing to Caroline afterwards to tell her that Sophia and Edmund had a child.

Caroline acts upon the information and meets their mutual grandson, who is called Charles Pope.

He is a fledgling businessman and it soon becomes clear that James, while keeping Anne in the dark, has met their grandson and helped him with his investments in his new business.

Attention is quickly drawn to Caroline’s urge to help Charles and everyone is soon speculating about why and who he really is.

The premise of Belgravia was complicated but strong. It provided plenty of dramatic tension to take the plot through the next four and half hours, particularly when the action expands to include the supposed heir (Adam James), his fiancée (Ella Purnell) and her mother (Tara Fitzgerald).

Julian Fellowes’ focus as actor, screenwriter and novelist has been to merge the lives of servants and those ‘above stairs’ together into a single drama.

He is best known for creating Downton Abbey, but also used the same strategy with an earlier film called Gosford Park.

Here, the focus shifts to life above stairs but the servants in the Trenchard household play an integral part in helping the heir to the Earl of Brockenhurst track down who Charles Pope really is.

This includes Paul Ritter as butler, who acted with Tamsin Greig in Friday Night Dinner, and Saskia Reeves as Anne’s maid.

Seeing Philip Glenister on the eve of Waterloo reminded me immensely of his role in Vanity Fair, and in many ways the plot around Amelia Sedley and her husband George is an inspiration for the opening elements of Belgravia.

Belgravia did what British period dramas do best: offer a stellar cast reflecting on Victorian or other historical periods, lives and torments, while always staying true to the central love story.

I enjoyed every moment of this second watch through and found the treatment of parents losing their children but having to go on with their lives as best they could for decades afterwards immensely moving.

It was a great story and really original. It was an excellent production with amazing actors. Loved it.

Thank you for reading my review.

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