Serving at an English formal dinner serve is an exiting affair. Beverages move around the table in the opposite direction of the food but at the same time. A servant ought to hold the center of a plate on his palm, so the he never touches the top or edge of the plate until after the mal has already been eaten. The diners have rules, too: In order to prevent overeating during a dinner of many courses, nobody is allowed seconds.

I’m tougher than I look.

-Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham

I’m so sorry. I thought you were a waiter.

-Violets, Dowager Countess of Grantham

A dinner jacket - a black r white tailless coat first introduced in the mid-1800s - was originally seen as casual evening wear, as opposed to the more traditional white tie and raincoat.  The first dinner jacket won by Prince Albert (who would become King Edward VII) was the inspiration for an American copy med in Tuxedo Park, New York - as pat of a suit now known as, of course, the tuxedo.

From the Kitchen: Melba toast, named after the turn-of-the-century Australian opera singer Nellie Melba, has graced many a tea table. To make your own melba toast, cut bread - day-old French bread works well - into very thin slices, butter and bake on a rack over a baking sheet.  (The bottom of the toasts must be exposed so the slices fully dry out an get nice and crispy.) Preheat the over to 325°F and bake the toasts for about a quarter of an hour, depending on the thickness of your slices.  If you don’t have a rack, do not butter the bread an put them on a baking sheet, turning the toasts midway.

Culture & Customs: A lady’s rank is determined by birth and - if she marries nobility - marriage.  Paradoxically, if a lay marries a man outside the aristocracy, she does not lose her title.  However, if she marries a lesser noble (anyone below an earl) her rank would slip.

Poor Matthew.  What must he o to persuade you he’s in love with Lavinia? Open his chest and carve her name on his heart?

-Lady Mary

Culture and Customs: The patent for the telephone was issued in 1876 to Alexander Graham Bell.  Soon after, Queen Victoria had her own line installed to communicate between royal residence. In 1912, the General Post Office took over most English phone service, replacing and consolidating private companies.  At the time, the newly formed National Telephone Company had ore than 500,000 subscribers.  In the years immediately following, use of telephones in the United Kingdom spread rapidly.

On This Day: In 1912, the Titanic inquiry conducted by the British Board of Trade is concluded, finding that the ship met all safety regulations prior to its iceberg crash, including having a sufficient number of crew members on board and an efficient wireless communication system.  However, in the report released by the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, it is declared that the captain could have taken the liberty of changing the ship’s course and tat the ship was traveling at “excessive” speed at the time of its collision with the fateful block of ice.

I have to go where I am useful. Ad that place, I’m afraid, is no longer Downtown Abbey.

-Isobel Crawley

England at War: The Battle of the Somme begins on July 1, 1916. The standoff will not end until November 18, and more than 400,000 Britons will lose their lives.