'Belgravia' airs on BBC Brit on Mondays at 8pm. Picture: Supplied
'Belgravia' airs on BBC Brit on Mondays at 8pm. Picture: Supplied

'Belgravia' is laced with intrigue, secrets and scandals

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Jan 26, 2021

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BBC Brit’s newest period drama, “Belgravia”, created by Julian Fellowes, is a compact story laced with intrigue. A story of secrets and scandals amongst the upper echelons of London society in the 19th century.

“Belgravia” tells a sweeping story that begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo as the upwardly mobile Trenchard family accepts an invitation to a ball held by the Duchess of Richmond.

Decades later, the events and secrets of that fateful evening continue to echo in London's fashionable “Belgravia”.

Writer Julian Fellowes chats more about the limited series.

Tell us about the origin of “Belgravia”.

Orion had had success with earlier novels by me and they wanted another one, so I was invited to a meeting with them, and we tossed around various suggestions.

We had the idea of the double time frame and it seemed interesting to start with the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of Battle of Waterloo.

I'd long been interested in that, particularly since I adapted “Vanity Fair”.

Why was starting at the ball so significant?

The ball was an extraordinary acme for a certain kind of tragic privilege. Uniquely entitled young men with their nice fiancées, wives and sisters were dancing at the Duchess's ball.

They then left the dance floor to go straight to the battlefield. Many of the details fascinated me. As the men left and the women were weeping, some people carried on dancing.

Some of the young officers were still in their dress coats when they died at Waterloo two days later.

There's something about that image that is both glamorous and incredibly sad.

How did you find the process of adapting your own novel for the screen?

As an adapter you think differently from a novelist. You can't allow characters to talk for as long on film as they do in a novel.

You have to limit that. But I’ve worked so much in film and television that I have a visual concept of telling a story.

As I'm writing, I'm seeing the film in my head. Quite a lot of “Belgravia” slipped into a series form easily. It was already halfway there.

What is at the heart of the story?

It's about two very different women, played marvellously by Tamsin Greig and Harriet Walter.

I thought, "What can they have in common? How can I make it believable that they have a relationship?”, and it occurred to me that if they have a joint grandchild, that would make for a relationship they couldn't escape from.

The story is based on secrets. The audience needs to be constantly surprised. If there are no surprises, then a drama lacks energy.

Why do audiences connect so well with period dramas?

Period dramas have to tell us about ourselves to catch on.

There is something quite interesting when you demonstrate that human nature doesn't alter.

Crinolines and carriages may change, but audiences see people with impulses they recognise, making choices they would make.

The fact that those characters are in a top hat or a tiara doesn't make any difference.

What do you hope that viewers take away from "Belgravia"?

I will be very happy if people enjoy it. But if every now and then something in the story prompts an extra thought on the way into work, that would be great too.

“Belgravia” airs on Mondays at 8pm on BBC Brit.

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