The Duchess of Duke Street: The Outsiders

A man with a battered suitcase makes his way into the foyer, instantly removes his hat, and looks around like he’s never seen such a place before. There’s nobody there to greet him, but Fred soon raises the alarm, bringing Starr running. Starr asks the man what he needs and the man asks where the check-in desk is. Starr instantly realizes this guy’s out of his league at the Bentink and he suggests another hotel nearby. The man protests that he doesn’t want to go to this other hotel, he wants a room at the Bentink. Starr shortly tells him to get lost, because they’re full, and the man goes to leave, but then rethinks and says he doesn’t believe Starr. Starr tries to persuade the guy to go, because he knows this man can’t afford the Bentink, but the guy gets belligerent, and right about then Charlie comes down the stairs and the guy assumes he’s the manager. Because Charlie’s an affable guy, he offers to help out, introducing himself as Charlie Hazlemere, rather than using his title. The guy finally introduces himself as Stanley Parker. Charlie asks why the guy’s so determined to stay at the Bentink and Parker says he’s heard it’s the best hotel in London.

Louisa comes in, fresh from a shopping trip, to make this little confrontation even more fun. Starr fills her in on Parker. She tells Parker he’ll be more comfortable elsewhere, but Charlie steps in and basically forces her to let the guy stay there. She tells Starr to show him to a room. Once he’s gone, she asks Charlie what he was thinking, because the staff and other guests will look down on Parker and make him uncomfortable for his whole stay. She hisses that he meant to be kind, but it was the cruelest thing he could have done. Charlie follows her into her office and easily says this is really no big deal, and she really should chill out.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: Trouble and Strife

Louisa emerges from the hotel, apparently on her way to a cross-channel trip. She fires off some last-minute instructions to Mary, kindly predicts she’ll come back to a huge mess, and then sets off in her new car with the Major behind the wheel. Mary and Starr wave her off, and Starr takes note of a frizzy-haired woman watching them from across the road before he and Mary go inside.

They’re not in the door two seconds before some bird-faced woman comes downstairs with her equally pinched maid to complain about the maid finding a cockroach in her room. Mary apologizes and Starr offers to give their rooms a sweep. Mary returns to the kitchens and Merriman comes in to hand Starr a letter a young woman just left for him at the back door. Starr asks him to keep an eye on things and steps out.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: A Lady of Virtue

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa Trotter bought a hotel, worked herself almost to death, and managed to make a success of it after all.

We can hear loud cheering from one of the upstairs rooms as Merriman comes down the steps with some empty champagne bottles. Starr asks what’s up and Merriman says it’s some Liberals celebrating their victory in a Yorkshire by-election, with Louisa in attendance. Merriman shoves off with the recycling, just in time for Fred to start losing his little terrier mind over a basket held by a well-dressed lady who’s just come in. The woman holds the basket out of reach, looking alarmed, and Starr jumps into action, shoving Fred into his little bed and greeting the lady. He snootily asks the woman if there’s an animal in the basket and she tells him there’s a cat in there. Starr says that explains it, because Fred doesn’t usually freak out that way. I think this might be a good time to offer the lady an apology for your dog’s behavior, Starr. He does not, which irks me a bit. I love my dogs to death, but you can be sure I apologize all over the place if they behave badly towards someone. The lady’s a lot nicer than I am towards Starr and tells him she’s there to meet with a Sir James, who’s up with the partying Liberals. The lady, who introduces herself as Mrs. Strickland, asks Starr to tell Sir James that she’s arrived. Apparently, Sir James is lending her his rooms. Starr asks Merriman, who’s passing by on his way back upstairs, to tell Sir James that Mrs. S has arrived.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: For Love or Money

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa and Charlie started an affair that resulted in a daughter who was adopted by one of the grooms on Charlie’s estate. Louisa realized mothering wasn’t really in her genes and promptly returned to the hotel.

Louisa proudly shows a new guest, Sir George, to a room in the hotel. He seems inclined to be critical, but Louisa’s either really good at faking being cheerful with guests, or she’s in a really, really good mood. He asks if there’s a parlor room open, but she tells him they’re all taken, including Charlie’s, because they’re expecting a friend of his.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: A Bed of Roses

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa almost worked herself to death trying to pay off Gus’s debts and was rescued by the very timely re-introduction of Charlie Tyrell, erstwhile seducer of maids and rescuer of red-headed damsels in distress. He bought out the lease on The Bentink, filled it with fancy stuff, and proudly stood by with champagne as Louisa relaunched.

Charlie’s helping Louisa vet inquiries for rooms as she fusses around with some flowers and comments that there have been lots of inquiries but nobody’s actually checked in yet. Charlie easily says it’ll take time and she shouldn’t worry. Particularly since he’s talking the place up with all his high-class buddies.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: The Bargain

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa and Gus buy a hotel, mostly to give Gus something to do besides drink all day and act surly. He promptly runs the place into the ground, runs up debts all over the place, and still drinks all day, so Louisa unceremoniously kicks him out.

The morning after the Trotter Bust-Up, Mary and Merriman are clearing up the trashed office as Mary gossips away about the previous night’s goings-on. Merriman keeps telling her that he heard everything—as did the people down the street, I’m sure, it’s not like Louisa was trying to keep her voice down. Mary frets that the hotel might close, and Merriman agrees that it’s a possibility. His sang froid is admirable here. Mary, like a rather bitchy dolt, says that if they were chucked out, she’d probably find a job, but he never would, because he’s so old. She keeps going on and on about it. How old is Mary supposed to be? Because she certainly looks like she should be old enough to have basic manners and a filter of some kind.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: A Nice Class of Premises

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa’s dream of being the best cook in England got derailed slightly when the Prince of Wales decided he wanted to have her for a mistress. She was duly married off to former butler Gus Trotter and decamped to a lovely house in a nice area of town, where the prince could visit her discreetly.

Louisa’s got her own cook now, and the woman’s pretty indignant when a maid brings down dinner, uneaten. Louisa herself comes down a second later, railing about the crappy, curdled mayonnaise and starts lecturing the cook on proper technique. The cook gets snippy and goes to toss the mayo, but Louisa’s a proper middle-class girl who doesn’t deal well with waste, so she separates a couple of eggs and starts rescuing the mayo while the cook and the young maid watch. After a few moments, the maid screws up her courage and asks if she and the cook (Mrs. Wellkin) could go watch the queen’s funeral procession, so I guess we now know it’s 1901, sometime between January 22 and February 2, if you want to get really exact about it. Louisa gives them leave to watch, but she won’t be amongst the gawkers because, as she says, she takes no pleasure in funerals.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: Honor and Obey

In her room at night, Louisa’s studying French cooking terms when Mary comes for a visit. Louisa invites her in and puts her to work as a study buddy. Well, she tries to. Turns out Mary can’t read, which shocks Louisa. Mary asks if Louisa can teach her, but Louisa’s kind of busy these days. And so’s her room—Ivy comes in next, to be nosey and bitchy and ask what’s going on. Louisa kicks both her and Mary out and gets back to her lesson.

The following day, Lord Henry’s reading the paper in his study when a footman comes in and announces Major Farjeon. The Major is, apparently, the Prince of Wales’s unofficial messenger, and Lord Henry thinks he’s come to deliver a scolding for having offended the prince the previous evening. That’s not why the Major’s there at all, though, because apparently no offense was taken by Lord Henry falling asleep on the billiard table. The Major’s come to request Louisa’s services for the prince’s upcoming dinner with the Kaiser (who was his nephew). Ooooh, M. Alex is going to be pissed about this! Lord Henry’s surprised, though honored, and worries that she might not be up for the job, but he gives the Major his blessing to make the necessary arrangements.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: A Present Sovereign

Ok, I’m going to be totally honest with you: I didn’t care for Upstairs, Downstairs (at least, not the two first episodes I watched). I can’t say why, because it should have been right up my alley. I think it was because one of the main characters, Sarah, was so damn annoying that I couldn’t stand to watch another minute of her acting like a moron. I’ll go back to it someday and give it another go, and I am genuinely excited about the new U-D episodes coming out in the spring, but right now, I actually prefer the Duchess of Duke Street, which was BBC’s answer to U-D. There’s something about the gruff, up-by-her-bootstraps Louisa Leyton that I find interesting and entertaining. Season two, in my opinion, wasn’t as good as season one, but I still loved it, and I figured it’ll help get me in the Edwardian frame of mind ahead of the premiere of Downton Abbey on PBS in January. So, here we go…

London 1900. A nice looking young woman with reddish hair emerges from a brick rowhouse, pinning her hat into place as a horse-drawn bus rumbles past. She flags it down and climbs inside, where she pulls out a letter and starts reading it, smiling and looking excited and a little nervous.

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