Isis-gate: Why dogs are out at Downton

Isis-gate: Why dogs are out at Downton
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It's been a bad month for dogs, first there were reports of the fatal poisoning of a prize-winning Crufts dog, and now there will be no canine lead in the new series of Downton Abbey.

Downton fans were left outraged last year after the Grantham family's beloved Labrador Isis was killed off during the fifth series of the period drama. Conspiracy theories soon developed claiming that the poor dog was the latest victim of the Islamic State, suggesting that the dog had been axed as a result of the unfortunate name similarity between her and the terrorist group. However, Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Grantham, says that anyone who believes that this is the reason Isis was killed off is a 'complete berk'.

Now a new theory has come to Steerpike's attention, posing that rather than a terrorist being behind Isis's exit, mere inter-canine relations could have been to blame. A well-placed source says that a contributing factor in the dog's departure was the fraught relationship between the dog who played Isis and the owner of Highclere Castle's two Labradors:

'Let's just say Lady Carnarvon's dogs never took to the Labrador that played Isis and this resulted in a lot of barking, as well as her pets sometimes having to be kept away from the dog. The feeling was that it would be a lot less hassle all round to just not include a dog as a regular cast member in the new series.'

This isn't the first time dogs have caused an issue on the set of the period drama. In 2013, the ITV cast were told not to bring their dogs to work as they were running riot across the house. 'I took my two dogs along and Lady Carnarvon didn’t want those anywhere near the place, but anyway I did,' guest star Dame Kiri te Kanawa revealed at the time.

The Downton Abbey press office, however, suggests that Steerpike is barking up the wrong tree. 'This has never been an issue and we do not comment on story lines,' a spokesman says. Still, Mr S suspects that this isn't the last we will hear of this shaggy dog story.

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  • Save Isis (the dog on Downton Abbey… not the terrorists in Iraq and Syria)
  • Written bySteerpike

    Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from London and beyond. Email tips to

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