Belfast Telegraph

Christmas treat as Northern Ireland's TV royalty sample the grandeur of Downton Abbey life

Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford

By Eimear McGovern and Sarah Tulloch

Television royalty Gloria Hunniford, Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford swapped presenting for aristocracy in a glitzy Christmas Downton Abbey inspired photoshoot.

Gloria (79) took on the role of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Dame Maggie Smith in the iconic drama. She said: "Downton Abbey was one of my favourite programmes and I wouldn't have missed it. I didn't get to play one of the young characters, did I?

"We all had great fun. Laura Tobin, who played Lady Mary in the photoshoot, looked very much like her."

The Portadown-born star said it gave her the chance to reminisce on a visit she paid to Highclere Castle in aid of her daughter Caron Keating's foundation, established after she died of cancer.

"At one of our auctions for Caron's foundation, we were given a marvellous prize to visit Downton Abbey and spent the day with the cast and crew. My friend who paid £10,000 for the prize very kindly asked me to go with her," she said.

"We had a great day with the actors and it was funny seeing them eating their lunch while dressed in all their finery.

"I never usually wear the type of clothes that I'm wearing in that photograph. They were hired especially for the day and I so enjoyed wearing them. Countess Grantham is one of my favourite characters, she really had those acid drops on her tongue."

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Meanwhile, Eamonn and Ruth took on the roles of Downton Abbey's Lord and Lady Grantham for the Christmas special of showbiz magazine Best.

Eamonn and Ruth (both 59) are big fans of the historical ITV period drama, penned by Julian Fellowes.

Speaking about Downton Abbey, Eamonn said there's "no doubt" Ruth would be a servant living downstairs if they were alive in that era.

TV legend Gloria Hunniford and weather presenter Laura Tobin
TV legend Gloria Hunniford and weather presenter Laura Tobin
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford
TV legend Gloria Hunniford

"She may think she's upstairs, but she's definitely downstairs and I'd be upstairs," said Eamonn, who grew up in the New Lodge area of Belfast.

"The difference is, I'm council house born and bred but I always had big aspirations. I can genuinely say I have no difficulty mixing with anyone - be they paupers or royalty. I'm not intimidated. Ruth, mind you, would be happy running the ship downstairs."

He added: "She'd find me upstairs, smoking cigars. She could have married up though ... and let's face it, with me she did."

The Belfast-born star said he enjoyed how Downton Abbey, set in the early 20th century, represents a time of manners and standards, as well as class.

"The way you dress, how you address people - it's a system of respect," he said. "It's nice to see how people took pride in things, like their cars - even if they got someone else to clean them. Nowadays, it's very much a throwaway society, even when it comes to relationships."

This Morning presenters Eamonn and Ruth, who were wed in 2010 after 12 years together, revealed they are still in the process of deciding how they will spend Christmas this year.

Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford

Read the full interview with Eamonn and Ruth in the latest edition of Best magazine, which is out now

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