Why hugging and kissing is banned on the set of Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey's historical adviser Alastair Bruce reveals that physical contact is forbidden for the cast of the popular ITV period drama

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The set of Downton Abbey is a hug-free zone. Kissing is off the cards, too. In fact, physical contact of any kind is something of a no-no. 

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The Crawleys and their staff are a little stiff when it comes to physical closeness. Aside from Lady Mary’s illicit “sketching trip” and Lady Edith’s tactile relationship with her daughter Marigold, series five – which came to an end on Sunday night – was something of an affection-free zone. 

Yet it turns out that Downton’s characters aren’t the only ones who remain firmly within their own personal space. The show’s historical adviser Alastair Bruce has banned the cast from getting too close to one another on set, to ensure the drama stays true to the period.   

“I tell the actors not to touch each other,” Bruce, a royal commentator and army reserve officer, said on BBC Radio 2 Arts Show. “I don’t want any hugging, no physical contact; they just didn’t do that in those days.”

“The reason they didn’t is because it wasn’t that long before then that disease was spread so much more easily,” he continued.

“We hug, kiss – good Lord, you meet somebody now and they kiss you within minutes – and it’s because we’ve got antibiotics. But I don’t think that people realise how distant natural life was for the British in that period.”

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Downton Abbey returns for a Christmas special later this year