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'Downton Abbey' baby shower, season 4 sneak peek hosted by British Ambassador

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Britain's Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott on Dec. 19 hosted a special screening of "Downton Abbey" Season 4, tea and scones included, for about 800 contributors to the Washington-area PBS TV channel WETA.

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"How could we possibly wait until the season premiere Jan. 5 -- oh, no, no no...impossible...," Ambassador Westmacott told the preview audience that included Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn and other notables. Some wore "fascinators".

"We have to find out about Lady Mary ... Branson ... poor Lady Edith -- we've trashed her throughout...," said the ambassador.

With typically wry, dry British humo(u)r, Sir Peter gave a swift summary of the entire first three seasons of "Downton Abbey" (D.A.).

"Shame on Matthew (Dan Stevens) for disappearing so quickly in a car crash." The ambassador said that when he asked the newly widowed Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) about this, she replied, "'Dan wanted to go on to other things, you know.' That put me in my place," the diplomat said.

Sir Peter cited another comment that also put him in his "place" -- Dowager Countess of Grantham's (Dame Maggie Smith) "most memorable comment of last season, 'What's a weekend?'"

The ambassador explained that the comment "reminded me to take work-life balance more seriously at the British Embassy."

"On a slightly more serious note, we wallow in nostalgia," and he enumerated:

  • "...looking for an American heiress to prop up British houses about to fall..."
  • "The Titanic sinking is a rather bizarre look at our celebrating disasters."

But D.A.'s cast also looks forward. About half a dozen of them "put together a clip for (then-departing Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton on the controversial theme 'The Best is Yet to Come'," Sir Peter said. The video tribute was presented at a British Embassy dinner for Clinton, hosted by her counterpart, British Foreign Minister William Hague, last January. The embassy had honored D.A. cast members at a dinner in Dec. 2012.

In another forward-backward-sorta awkward political-historical comment, the British ambassador said he warned House Speaker John Boehner that "If the U.S. Congress doesn't get its act together, Her Majesty might have to rescind the Declaration of Independence."

On a more charitable note, the "baby shower" celebrating the birth of the precious heir to Downton Abbey benefits two charities in suburban northern Virginia, home base for WETA. Gifts of diapers ("nappies") and other ditties like blue and white blankies, blue bibs, etc. were taken to the National Center for Children and Families and HOPE, instead of to new mum Lady Mary Crawley.

As Lady Mary's grandmother Violet tells the widow in the first hour of Season 4, "You have a straightforward choice to make -- death or life."

Will the lady rejoin the land of the living? No spoilers here.

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