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© Danielle Harwood-Atkinson 2002-2021. All rights reserved.

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Author's Note: This is historically inaccurate, as the Earls of Shrewsbury survived the wars, but they have an interesting history, especially the 20th Earl (1860-1921), who went to court in order to prove his right to inherit the Earldom and started Clement-Talbot Motors in 1902. A Talbot car achieved a speed of 113.28 mph at Brooklands in 1912. His son and heir, born in 1882, died of influenza and pneumonia in 1915, leaving the Earldom to his grandson, who lived from 1914-1980. The current Earl was born in 1952.

 

"What sort of Talbot is he?" Dowager Countess Crawley

"Shrewsbury. But he's nowhere near the earldom. About 40 strong men would have to drop dead." Lady Shackleton

" Well, nothing is impossible. " Dowager Countess Crawley

Downton Abbey Season Six, Episode Four.

Forty Strong Men.


Mary woke to find her husband was gone from their room, a rare occurrence even during the war.


Rising, she dressed and made her way downstairs, finding him in the library by the phone, seated at the desk.


"What's wrong, darling?" She asked him.


"My solicitor called this morning," Henry replied. "Apparently, I'm the new earl."


"But I thought your aunt said that forty strong men would have to drop dead before you inherited the title," Mary recalled.


"And they did," Henry replied. "At various times during the war."


"How do you feel about inheriting the title then?"


"A lot of things," he replied. "Relief we had William," thinking of their son who they had a few years after Charlotte. Like George, William was too young for enlistment. George could have joined but the family did their best to ensure he didn't, worried he would not survive to inherit his grandfather's title. 


Marriage to Mary had given him a sense of responsibility in the passage of lands and titles and he felt some now he had inherited the Shrewsbury earldom. He had seen what it did to his father in law, being unable to pass on to a son what he inherited. Even though Robert had come to peace with it, Henry was unsure he could if he was in the same position. Inheriting the title now was a profound shock to him, he was still coming to terms with it. "Guilt that I wasn't out there."


"I'm glad you were not," Mary remarked, thinking of Matthew. "I couldn't have gone through that again. But you did your bit, supplying the vehicles."


Henry and Tom's company had flourished before the war, allowing them to offer their services to the war for logistical supplies. Downton became a convalescent home once more and the family adjusted to living with soldiers again.


Now the war was over, their home was theirs again and the country was still coming to terms with the end of the conflict, the enormous loss of life and the new peace so recently established by treaty.


"I think it will take time for me to fully come to terms with it," he added. "I never expected to inherit the earldom. I feel like everyone will expect me to become the typical earl, give up running the company, and manage my estates as my predecessor did. Yet I don't feel I should, not if I want to pass it on to our son."


"The war has changed so much," Mary said. "I don't think you should worry about conforming to people's expectations. We realised a long time ago that Downton needed to be a going concern, so should the Shrewsbury estate if it is to survive."


"So, we need to see the solicitor," he decided. "Find out what condition the estate is in, whether the war office has requisitioned it, what it will take to get it back if they have, and put someone in charge who is capable of managing it as a going concern."


"All good, sound decisions that we can easily accomplish," Mary agreed.


"Yes," he concurred. "It's the outcome of those decisions that will take longer to determine."