THE PATH OF DUTY was the fourth episode of the first season (series in the UK) of the UK period drama, Upstairs, Downstairs.
The episode was written by John Harrison and directed by Joan Kemp-Welch.
This episode introduces the Bellamy family's youngest daughter, Elizabeth, as she returns from being abroad for finishing school.
The Path of Duty was one of the six episodes of the first season that were filmed in black and white as the result of a technician's strike that paralyzed the entity now known as ITV.
Mr. Hudson is headed out to see his bed-ridden mother, and as such, he puts Alfred Harris in charge of serving the tea. The rest of the household staff is preparing for the imminent homecoming of the youngest Bellamy child, Elizabeth. She was attending the famous Frau Beck's Finishing School in Dresden, Germany and was slated to return at any time. Downstairs, Mrs. Bridges is preparing the tea and refreshments for a welcome home party for the upstairs.
A few moments later, Elizabeth returns. She was a seventeen year old, who was finished with her schooling, but she was known for her radical views and her wild quoting of German philosophy. Alfred, who was operating in the stead of Hudson, orders Mr. Pierce, (Brian Osbourne) the coachman, to drag an extremely heavy trunk of books to Elizabeth's room.
Entering the Morning Room, Elizabeth meets Lectern Watson, but immediately shoots down any interest in him, as she felt she did not like him. This appalls Lady Marjorie, Aunt Kate and James. Her mother and Aunt Kate admonish her for her behavior.
Hours later, Elizabeth sees her father, Richard Bellamy, after he comes home from the House of Commons. He comes in while Rose Buck, who, besides her main duties as House Parlor Maid, is also serving as Elizabeth's lady's maid, is having a difficult time fixing up Elizabeth's hair.
It is revealed that Elizabeth was closer to her father than her mother, because they were so much alike. Elizabeth, like her father, was very shy and could get very nervous in social settings. It is clear that Elizabeth is her father's girl. It is also clear from the outset that Richard understood her better than anyone else.
He tells his daughter that in spite of the nervousness they share, they have to conform to their life. She concedes that she will try, for his sake at least.
At the time Elizabeth was home, the Londonderry House Ball was coming up, and it was where Elizabeth would make her debut into society. Lady Marjorie is teaching her how to behave like a lady, and she, along with Rose and the dressmaker, a French couturier named Madame DuBois (Elma Soiron), are preparing her for the grand ball.
Meanwhile, Rose's extra duties as Lady's maid has been hampering her main role as a house parlor maid, resulting in her usual duties being left undone. Hudson mildly admonishes Rose on this, as well as complaining about Elizabeth's coming out as more disruptive as a session in Parliament; and makes her realize that she needs to focus on her primary job as house Parlor maid. Rose promises to and does mend her ways.
At that same time, Richard arrives and tells his wife and daughter that at the Londonderry ball, the King and Queen will also be in attendance, and Elizabeth was to be announced and introduced to the Royal Majesties. While Lady Marjorie and Richard are thrilled with this news, a more downcast Elizabeth's sullen reply to this announcement was "Du lieber Gott!"
The next evening, the entire household staff, including Mme. DuBois, are allowed to see off Elizabeth on her grand evening. The family begins with dinner at Carlton Gardens, and then they arrive at the Ball. Meanwhile, the downstairs staff celebrate their triumph with a bottle of champagne.
When the Royal Majesties arrive, Elizabeth is nowhere to be found. She later is discovered that she had run away from the ball in a fit of absolute fear and nervousness. Needless to say, Aunt Kate, Marjorie and James are angered by her actions, believing that her actions were for her own selfish means; and while Richard is disappointed by her behavior, he is not angry with his daughter, understanding why it happened.
At 4 AM, Elizabeth returns and comes into the house by way of the Servants Hall. There, she is confronted by Rose, scolding her about her antics and how she disappointed her family. And how that her father will forgive her, but her mother and Rose never would.
Rose tells her the facts of life in their house. That Hudson ran the house like a clockwork machine; that Mrs. Bridges, although she could be a trial and an old cow (in Rose's words) at times, cooked beautifully and her meals were a pleasure to serve at table. Rose further explained that they were the wheels of the cart, and were happy to be as such. To end it off, Rose explained that if she would not mend her ways, she would not want to be Elizabeth's lady's maid.
At first, annoyed by Rose's scolding, Elizabeth later sees that the House Parlor Maid was correct in what she had said. She then apologizes to Rose and tells her that she loves her very much and tells her that she is more like her sister than a servant which stuns Rose, and laughingly scolds Elizabeth when she says "oh, damn your place!". Then Elizabeth announces that she will be brave and face her father.
Rose and Elizabeth immediately mend their friendship, and Elizabeth says, "lead me to the slaughter". Rose accompanies her upstairs. Rose then gently reminds Elizabeth that no matter what happened, her father loved her.
When she sees her father, who had been waiting for her in the Morning Room, Elizabeth goes to his arms. Rose then shuts the door in the Morning Room and then goes to bed herself.
In the novelizations of the first series by John Hawkesworth, it was shown that like the TV series, Richard wasn't angry about what Elizabeth had done. The novelization went into more detail and it was shown that he figured, correctly, that she wasn't used to the tight corsets and life as a debutante. He would not take her to task over what happened; but Lady Marjorie was not in agreement with her husband, and demanded that Elizabeth be punished for her antics at the ball. Lady Marjorie then wept in her boudoir and lamented that she had an ungrateful daughter. Aunt Kate Castleton was brought in to intervene, and she sided with Richard, blindsiding her niece. Elizabeth was sent off to Ireland to stay with some cousins for a time to get her rebellion out of her system and allow everyone to cool off, which was successful. The reason was the family did not want a repeat performance of the Londonderry House disaster.