Some of the criticisms were pretty spot-on. They ran a spoof of clichés usually encountered in period dramas; they questioned the sentimentalisation of history that prompts more sympathetic characterisation in situations which otherwise would reflect badly on them by modern standards. A Downton Abbey example of this would be Mrs Patmore's failing eyesight which is benevolently rectified by the Earl of Grantham in the first series. There is a danger that we're imposing our values on a society that wouldn't recognise them because we feel uncomfortable with the reality of our past. Nevertheless, I think the inaccuracies are overwhelmed by the sheer quality of the drama.
I wrote a piece last year about why Downton Abbey is a master-class in story-telling. I stick by that wholeheartedly. It doesn't matter what period a television series is set in: what matters is how the story is told and who the characters are. Downton Abbey had excellent scripts, an exceptional production team and a cast perfectly suited to their roles. Critics may sneer at the success but isn't it all a matter of taste?
People who complain about the abundance of 'bonnet dramas' are within their rights to complain, of course. However, their criticism that we should focus more on modern society misses the richness of our heritage. I am happy to watch modern drama, I thoroughly enjoy some of it. But I don't appreciate the implication that just because a drama is about something old it's nothing to be interested in. That kind of mentality has thrown us into a fame-solves-all mentality where much of the youth in this country believes that if they get famous then they can live comfortably without having to do much. Watch some period drama; have your interest in a historical time or event piqued and go research it for yourself. We have precious few ways of connecting ourselves with our past but period dramas can become that connection.
But, most of all, I would ask people not to criticise something that is obviously filling a vacuum in British society. We like 'bonnet dramas'. So what? Your nectar may be my poison but I have to suffer. If you don't like it, don't watch. It's simple.