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The Crawleys of Downton Abbey

     Robert Crawley 

The Right Honourable Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham

Portrayed by: Hugh Bonneville

"My fortune is the work of others, who laboured to build a great dynasty. Do I have the right to destroy their work, or impoverish that dynasty? I am a custodian, my dear, not an owner. I must strive to be worthy of the task I have been set."

  • Aesop Amnesia: How many times now has Robert learned not to underestimate his social "inferiors" when they save his bacon.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Lady Sybil's blossoming relationship with Branson, and the inherent danger she faces in his company causes him to blow his stack on several occasions.
  • Benevolent Boss: He presents a firm but fair approach to managing his staff, and won't hesitate to defend them with everything he's got. Highlights include sending Mrs Patmore off for eye surgery, defending William from the "white feather girls" who were trying to shame him into enlisting for World War I, using the full weight of his reputation and his personal lawyer to defend Bates from a murder charge, lying to the police to protect Thomas from being arrested for homosexual activity and organising a special War memorial plaque for Mrs Patmore's late nephew.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The head of it, in fact.
  • Blood from the Mouth: In shocking scenes during a dinner party in Series 6, Robert tries to excuse himself from the table, but reels forward in agony and projectile vomits blood across the room, spattering the table and many of those assembled, before collapsing. Dr Clarkson rushes to his side, immediately realising his stomach ulcer has burst. Robert is rushed to hospital, where a gastrectomy is performed, and thankfully, he begins recovery. The scene was immediately dubbed the Series' most shocking yet by the press the next day.
  • Blue Blood: An earl is a member of the British peerage, ranking below a marquess and above a viscount. A feminine form of "earl" never developed, so "countess" is used as the equivalent feminine title. Robert's title originates from a place-name (Grantham) and he is thus referred to as Lord Grantham, and his wife, Cora, as Lady Grantham.
  • The Chains of Commanding: He made many personal sacrifices to maintain the family's position, and will brook no complaints from his children; these are things to be borne.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Having had to endure Simon Bricker's flirtations with Cora for half of Series 5, Robert gives him a much-needed thrashing after he discovers that Bricker has pushed his way unannounced into his wife's bedroom.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Absolutely dissolves into cooing and baby-talk when he meets the retriever puppy his mother got for him before she left for France in series 6. The upper class are well known for their love of dogs (more than their own children, it is often joked) and he is no exception.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: His grandchildren start calling him "Donk" after a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Sybil's liberal politics, avant-garde fashion sense, and particularly her choice of husband are utterly alien to Robert, a complete folly in fact—so much so that he threatens to cut her off financially lest she fail to toe the line. Thankfully for her, in Series 3, he wearily relents.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: He keeps a large library and is keen that staff, as well as his family, be allowed to borrow his books. While he's hardly an intellectual, he does appear to actually read what's in his library (many British aristocrats mostly kept their library because "you have to have a library").
  • Get Out!: Having endured Miss Bunting's over-zealous politicking and constant snide back-chat for the first half of Series 5, he explodes with rage at a dinner party in episode 4, and justifiably tells her to get the hell out for good.
  • Good Old Ways: Robert is resistant to modernisation and social change, a trait he shares with his mother. When he's confronted with it, he tends to take a level in jerkass before he accepts it. He clearly feels troubled by changing times, because everything he was taught to believe and stand for is being tested, and he simply doesn't know how to cope with it.
    • As the series goes on, the fact the aristocracy are losing their traditional place, respect and influence in modern society, is something he really has trouble accepting.
      • Like much of the other aristocracy in the post-war years, he runs the estate at a loss rather than try to modernize. He lets farming fields lay fallow, lets tenants of village cottages he owns live there rent free, and ignores opportunities to increase the estate income, even after losing the large trust that sustains the household, just because in his view a gentleman doesn't go grubbing for money.
    • In Series 2, he derides Sir Richard Carlisle's modernisation plans for Haxby Park, including all mod-cons and an ensuite bathroom in every bedroom, as "like living in a hotel".
    • In Series 5, he's troubled by the election of a Labour Government, and the fact that Carson is asked to be head of a committee for a village war memorial, whereas a generation ago, the village would have almost certainly asked his father.
    • He considers the idea of wirless radio, a fad. He only buys one when the King is about to make a speech that will be broadcast by it.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In Series 5, he's understandably wary of Simon Bricker's clear interest in Cora, and in episode 3, he's very hurt and angry when he finds out that she and Bricker had enjoyed a dinner together in London.
  • Happily Married: After thirty-three years (with a brief wobble during the war and another when Sybil dies) both he and Cora remain very much in love. During their 34th wedding anniversary dinner in the Series 5 premiere, he makes a touching speech, describing Cora as "the best companion in the world". They have another wobble in Series 5, thanks to Simon Bricker's attentions on Cora. They fix it, and Bricker is stuffed. He and Cora flout convention by refusing to sleep single, as was usual for aristocratic couples.
    Lady Mary: I hope you know that really smart people sleep in separate rooms.
    Lord Grantham: I always keep the dressing room bed made up so I at least pretend we sleep in separate rooms. Isn't that enough?
    Lady Mary: No. Never mind.
  • Idle Rich: It's hinted that he wanted to do other things with his life, other than being a gentleman of leisure. His tenure in the military was the closest thing he had to a calling, but those days are long behind him. This is exemplified when, during the War years of Series 2, his position as a Lord Lieutenant is explained to him as being nothing much more than a courtesy role, much to his chagrin.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Before his marriage. This was quite common in Real Life, and during the nineteenth century, many impoverished British aristocrats married American heiresses to maintain their wealth. One of these heiresses was Winston Churchill's mother. This prospect threatens again when, in Series 3, his inability to understand basic finance catches up with him. It's down to Matthew to step in and save the estate.
  • Manly Tears: Following Cora's miscarriage in Series 1, and in Series 3, firstly when he has to tell Cora that almost all her dowry is gone due to his bad investments and then when Lady Sybil dies from post-partum eclampsia.
  • Marriage Before Romance: As it was mentioned above, he marries Cora for her fortune. He falls in love with her only after their wedding.
  • Mistaken for Servant: By his own mother hilariously, when he is forced to wear black tie after O'Brien hides his white tie to get back at Thomas.
    Violet: Might I have a drink? Oh, I'm so sorry, I thought you were a waiter.
  • Nerves of Steel: In the Series 5 premiere, a fire that starts in Lady Edith's bedroom threatens to burn his ancestral home to the ground, but Robert remains firmly in charge and thoroughly proves his mettle by organising and coordinating the rescue, whilst bravely tackling the fire himself.
  • Nobility Marries Money: He's an English aristocrat who married his wealthy American wife for her dowry in order to save his ailing estate. He subsequently came to love her and feels very ashamed about his initial motivation.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: He served in The Second Boer War, prior to Series 1. In Series 2, his military role is purely symbolic, much to his chagrin.
  • Papa Wolf: He's incredibly protective of his daughters, but Sybil in particular. He's not keen on the idea of having his granddaughter Sybbie being brought up in an American slum, either.
    Robert (To Branson): If you mistreat her, I will personally have you torn to pieces by wild dogs.
  • Parental Favoritism: Mary is his favourite and Sybil is a close second. Edith clearly brings up the rear.
  • Precision F-Strike: He calls Sarah Bunting, a "harpy" which given the period is quite a big deal.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Rich in Pounds, Poor in Sense. When it comes to financial matters. We get hints in the second episode; he gives Charlie Grigg twenty pounds—that's the equivalent of nearly two thousand today—to buy him off, at a stroke. He literally had that much in his pocket. This is, however, at its most evident in Series 3 — first he loses Cora's fortune in an all-or-nothing investment (and wonders about reinvesting with "this chap called Ponzi"). Next, it's revealed he's been mismanaging the estate for years, and its haemorrhaging money. Then he refuses to consider Matthew's improvements, even though Downton could be lost again if he doesn't. By Series 4, he's started to come around, and in Series 5 he's fully willing to consider (and usually agree with) Tom and Mary's ideas for managing the estate. Listening to Matthew is the only reason the Crawleys didn't wind up in the same situation as the MacClares, i.e. losing absolutely everything.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: In Series 3, his entrenchment to the traditional old ways of running the Estate puts him at odds with Matthew, who has plans for a more modern, efficient Downton.
  • Silence, You Fool!: In the Series 5 premiere, during his anniversary dinner, he's outraged when firebrand socialist Sarah Bunting openly derides plans for the proposed village War memorial (a highly sensitive issue), and justifiably shuts her up.
  • Sorry to Interrupt: In the Series 5 premiere, he (of all people) catches debauched house-guest Lady Anstruther and his own footman, Jimmy Kent, in bed together when he bursts into her room to warn her of a fire raging around the upstairs landing. He immediately dismisses Jimmy over such unthinkably inappropriate behaviour.
  • Subtext: After he clocks handsome house-guest Simon Bricker smooth-talking Cora, Robert offers us this little gem:
    Robert: Tell your friend Bricker to stop flirting with Isis! There is nothing more ill-bred than trying to steal the affections of someone else’s dog!
    Cora: Very well, I'll tell stop flirting.
  • Succession Crisis: He has no son of his own, meaning that his first and first cousin once removed, James and Patrick, were to inherit the estate — until they were killed on the Titanic in the first episode. As a result, distant relation Matthew is the new heir, a development that drives much of the series's plot.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: Series 6 decides to fill in some sudden background detail of Robert and Cora having travelled to Egypt previously, and that Robert has a strong interest in Egyptology. Before Series 6 all there was to hint at this was that he named his dogs Pharoah and Isis.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: He's generally a very even tempered sort of chap, so this only occurs when he gives his daughters a bollocking, and when Isobel's pushiness becomes too much...
    Robert: Now I think perhaps I should make one thing clear. Downton is our house and our home and we will welcome in it any friends or relations we choose and if you do not care to accept that condition then I suggest you give orders for the nurses and the patients and the beds and the rest of it TO BE PACKED UP AND SHIPPED OUT AT ONCE!!
    • Again in series 5, when very outspoken socialist schoolteacher Miss Bunting pushes him one time too many at dinner. Complete with violently throwing down his napkin (the equivalent of flipping the table over for a man of his upbringing and background) and storming from the dining room in fury.
    Robert: THERE IS ONLY ONE THING I would like, and that I would like passionately. It is to see you leave this house and NEVER COME BACK!!
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: Given the trials, tribulations and traumas many of the series' characters have been through, even Robert himself appears surprised with how his Downton story concludes — "We'll do it. The Estate is safe in Mary's hands with Henry and Tom to help her. Edith has risen from the cinders and the hearth to be kissed by her very own Prince Charming — what more can we ask?"
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Over the running of his estate — with Matthew in Series 3, and then Mary in Series 4.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • He gets an unfortunate dose in Series 3, once we learn his management of the estate (ie, the one tangible contribution his existence gives to the world) will soon run it into the ground. And it takes the entire series for him to be convinced to see reason and accept that there's a better way to run it.
    • He briefly gets even worse in Series 4 when he considers hiding from Mary that she may legally own half of Downton, but comes to his senses.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He (and Violet) can be justifiably blamed for bringing up Sir Anthony's doubts about marrying someone younger and his disability, which leads to Edith getting jilted at the altar.

     Cora Crawley 

The Right Honourable Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (née Levinson)

Portrayed by: Elizabeth McGovern

"No one ever tells you about raising daughters. You think it’ll be like Little Women, and instead they’re at each other's throats from dawn til dusk."

  • Ambiguously Jewish: Her father Isidore Levinson was Jewishnote  but her mother, Martha Levinson, is not. Cora and her brother Harold were therefore raised as Episcopalians.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: She is probably one of the calmest, sweetest and most tolerant characters in the series, but if you do manage to anger her, you will be surprised at how fierce she can be.
  • Good Parents: Considering her own mother is decidedly over-bearing, Cora is a very good mum to her three girls.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: As the chatelaine, she is bedecked out in the fanciest of hats, dresses and jewellery. As a married woman, she also wears very grand tiaras for dinner and other social occasions.
  • Happily Married: She even confirms it when asked by Robert. After thirty-three years - with a brief wobble during the war and another when Sybil dies - both she and Robert remain very much in love.
  • Heroic BSoD: Following Sybil's death in childbirth, for which she initially blames Robert, at least in part. She pleads Please Wake Up over and over again as poor Sybil succumbs to post-partum eclampsia.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: She's blind to O'Brien's malicious side, despite everyone else at Downton being horribly familiar with it. In the first two series she clearly dislikes Bates for no reason other than she wants Robert to have a traditional valet. Robert several times calls her out. She's also completely taken in by Simon Bricker's oily charms, even after he outright tells he's looking to start an affair.
  • I Was Quite the Looker: As she mentions to Simon Bricker:
    Cora: My father was Jewish and the money was new but there was a lot of it. And I was pretty — I suppose I can say that now I'm an old lady!
  • Idiot Ball: She naïvely continues her friendship with Mr. Bricker in Series 5, even after he flat out tells her that he wants to have an affair with her. It's only after Bricker barges his way into her bedroom (and is walloped by Robert) that she gets the message.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: She contracts a rather nasty bout of Spanish Flu in Series 2, and it looks like she won't make it at one point, especially after she starts coughing up blood. She gets better though — as Dr Clarkson says, it's a strange disease.
  • Mama Bear: Disparaging the status and situation of birth of her granddaughter is a bad idea, as Nanny West finds out the hard way. She calls Sybil's daughter and Cora's granddaughter a "filthy half-breed"note  and Cora is, most assuredly, displeased at this, sacking Nanny West immediately.
  • The Matchmaker: Keen to get her daughters (especially Mary) married and settled as quickly as possible.
    Mary: How many times am I to be ordered to marry the man sitting next to me at dinner?
    Cora: As many times as it takes.
  • Milholland Relationship Moment: After her terrified maid Baxter finally comes clean to her about her shady past (she was imprisoned for theft, having stolen jewellery from her previous mistress), rather than sacking Baxter on the spot, Cora remains composed, and considers her current conduct to be of a high enough standard to warrant keeping her on.
  • Non-Idle Rich: At the beginning of the series, Cora spends most of her time hosting dinner parties, working at her embroidery, and attending local events. This begins to change in Season 2, when the war ends and Downton reverts back to a private house from a convalescent home, leaving Cora somewhat bereft; she deals with this by looking for more ways to get involved in the community. She continues this up until the end of the series, when she becomes the new president of the local hospital.
  • Nouveau Riche: Her father seems to have been a Self-Made Man, though of course she exhibits none of the negative aspects associated with this trope and is consummately ladylike, fitting in perfectly with the British upper crust—although she is perhaps a bit more diplomatic than others. She's part of something that happened a fair amount at the time: he brought class and tradition older than America, she brought much-needed money to the estate.
  • Parental Favoritism: She's more diplomatic than Robert, but it's pretty clear that she, too, shows more interest in Sybil and Mary over Edith.
    Cora: You were a great success in London, Sybil darling.
    Edith: You never say anything like that to me...
    Cora: Really? Well you were very helpful, Edith dear.
  • Proper Lady: She's elegant, dignified and compassionate.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Which is where her daughters Mary and Sybil get their looks from. Edith, with her fair hair, is the odd one out.
  • Sacred Hospitality: She takes her role as a gracious hostess very seriously, and is always keen to host community events at the Abbey, including the village bazaar for example.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Cora and her brother Harold don't appear to be particularly close (having not seen her for what must have been years, he greets her with a simple "hello" in the Series 4 Christmas Special) — most likely because she is an elegant, considerate sort who has openly embraced the regimented upper-class lifestyle of a foreign nation, whereas he is something of a boorish, flashy rascal who openly admits to hate being away from the USA.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: She displays all of the genteel propriety expected of an English chatelaine, but also a good deal of inner strength and, unlike the rest of family, a good deal of flexibility in the face of adversity.
    Cora: Don't worry about me, I'm an American — have gun, will travel.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Cora's father was a dry goods millionaire from Cincinnati, making her less like the NY old guard and more like the rest of the Buccaneers - American heiresses who couldn't get into the American elite, so they came over to England and France where their wealth could be, ah, appreciated.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: At the end of Series 1, she and Robert are both shocked when she finds herself pregnant, sixteen years after giving birth to Lady Sybil. However, tragedy strikes when O'Brien, mistakenly thinking she is about to be sacked, maliciously plants a bar of soap on the floor next to Cora's bath-tub, which causes her to slip and miscarry the baby.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: She's often seen working on her embroidery sampler.
  • Token Minority: She's American, a fact that her mother-in-law and even her own daughters rarely let her forget.
    Lady Mary: You're American, you don't understand these things.
  • Tranquil Fury: Cora keeps herself reserved even at moments where screaming outrage is suitable.
    • When she discovers the abuse her eldest grandchild is suffering at the hands of her nanny, Cora walks in, hits the call button to summon another servant, denounces and verbally lacerates the nanny's opinions. Not once does her voice rise above soft speaking voice she commonly uses, but the vitriol is palpable.
    • When she discovers that Robert permitted Carson to make a world-famous opera singer to dine alone in her room, she pulls Robert aside and rips Robert a new one while in the company of others, commenting on how Melba has dined with royalty but he thinks her so beneath him because she is an opera singer.
  • You Know I'm Jewish, Right?: After Rose and Atticus' wedding, Lady Manville comes up to Robert and Cora and commends them for 'putting on a brave face' regarding their cousin marrying into a Jewish family. Cora smiles serenely, and gently points out that her own father was a Jewish man. Lady Manville scurries off, mortified.

     Lady Mary Talbot 

Lady Mary Talbot (née Crawley)

Portrayed by: Michelle Dockery

"Well, it's nothing to me. I've bigger fish to fry."

  • '20s Bob Haircut: Mid-way through Series 5, having been inspired by the racy new looks at a couture exhibition she attends with her aunt, Mary takes the plunge and gets her waist-length hair all chopped off and styled into a chic, sleek bob. The importance is derived from the fact that the mid-twenties represented the first time that British women had ever sported such (voluntarily) short hair for fashion.
    Isobel: Pola Negri comes to Yorkshire!
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Of the Crawley girls — she exhibits a cooler, haughtier demeanor than eager-to-please, lovelorn Edith and adorably earnest Sybil.
  • Alpha Couple: Her and Matthew. From the start, the romance between them has been one of the primary focuses of the series, and the back and forth nature of their relationship has served as a major conversation topic between the rest of the characters.
  • Babies Ever After: In the Series' grand finale, Mary's story concludes with her finding herself happily pregnant with her new husband Henry's child.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Unashamedly so. She's considered a striking beauty, and as the eldest daughter of a high ranking English peer, she's about as elite as it gets.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between her and Matthew in Series 1 through 2, then with Charles Blake, one of her new potential suitors, in Series 4 through 5.
  • Big Sister Bully: Quite a bit to Edith, especially in Series 5 where she is at her lowest ebb and doesn't have the strength or wit to answer Mary back (which she almost certainly would have done in Series 1-3).
  • Big Sister Instinct: She exhibits this to Sybil in spades, referring to her as "my darling" most of the time and sticking up for her to their parents. Never to Edith, however.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: At the close of the Series 3 Christmas Special, scenes of Mary happily cooing over her and Matthew's new baby (and heir) are inter-cut with Matthew speeding along in his roadster, which collides with an on-coming lorry, leaving his lifeless, blood-soaked body by the roadside.
  • Blue Blood: As daughters of an Earl, Mary and her sisters are styled Lady [first name] Crawley.
    • Due to Matthew dying before he had the chance to succeed Robert and take over the Earldom, she will never get to hold the title Countess of Grantham. Upon Robert's death, the Earldom will pass straight to her son (and his direct heir), George.
    • As is convention, Mary retains the style of "Lady" upon marrying a man with no title of his own, but takes his last name. (Technically, this happened when she married Matthew, but given that his surname was Crawley it was six of one, half a dozen of the other.)
  • Break the Haughty: Handsome foreign house-guest Kemal Pamuk scandalously dies in her bed during an illicit encounter, after he manages to barge his way into her room. The ensuing scandal this causes throughout Series 1 & 2 (after Edith leaks the story) thoroughly shatters her confidence. In fact, this event marks a turning point in her overall character — prior to her encounter with Pamuk, she exhibited a disaffected attitude towards her station, particularly with regard to the fact that as a woman, she cannot inherit. However, after the scandal, she appears to trench far more to the traditional values of her class, perhaps in repentance for her actions, but also to provide herself with a sense of comforting stability.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Mary is seduced by the charming Pamuk... and in minutes is left with the problem of how to dispose of his body.
  • Daddy's Girl: Tends to take her father's approval the most seriously and views herself as the natural heir to his values, if not his estate. When the Pamuk scandal erupts, Robert is the one she is most afraid to disappoint.
    Mary: Not Papa. Please don't say Papa, I couldn't bear the way he'd look at me.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: After Matthew manages to thaw out her heart. Mary is an interesting example, as she will typically revert back to her frosty side when meeting new people (particularly men), and only drops the haughty, icy facade (or not) once she's sussed them out.
  • Devoted to You: She creates an inescapable devotion in nearly all of her suitors throughout the series (Matthew, Evelyn, Sir Richard, Anthony, less so with Charles but it's still there, and Henry) which is a little surprising, given her slightly frosty, aloof character. She does of course warm up a lot, once she gets to know them, but all of these men seem to fall instantly in love, even if she treats them with initial ambivalence or even downright incivility.
  • Dude Magnet: She's a proud beauty who has attracted many, many gentlemen. In Series 4, she is the subject of the affections of no less than three potential suitors at once — Anthony Foyle, Charles Blake and Evelyn Napier.
    Rose: What's the group noun for "suitors"?
  • English Rose: She's a statuesque, porcelain-skinned beauty and possesses the easy confidence and social charm typical to her class — although she can, at times, reveal something of an ambitious streak and is definitely quite the contrarian.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    Mary: Do I have to be in full mourning?
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress: When she marries Matthew, her dress is pure 1920's style — a close fitting, drop-waist number all in purest white.
    • The outfit she wears when she marries Henry Talbot is more mature, reflecting that it's her second marriage, and is more of a cream colour, rather than purest white.
  • Fallen Princess: Following the Pamuk scandal, detailed above.
  • Family Honor: Her number one priority — protecting and preserving the family's status and position.
  • The Fashionista: She and her aunt Rosamund take front row seats for a catwalk show of couture fashion in Series 5, and her eyes light up at the avant-garde ensembles displayed.
  • Femme Fatale: Men find her intriguing, beguiling and sexy, and seem to enjoy her playful, slightly dangerous side — which she of course encourages.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Following an emergency on one of the estate farms involving some sickly pigs in Series 4, she and Charles Blake bond when she must necessarily muck-in (literally) to save the livestock. She even cooks for him (scrambled eggs—the only recipe she knows, albeit they do look well-done) back at the Abbey later on.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Mary and Sybil are very close, but she and Edith are at each other's throats constantly.
    Edith: Why was Cousin Matthew in such a hurry to get away?
    Mary: Don't be stupid.
    Edith: I suppose you didn't want him when he wanted you. And now it's the other way round... You have to admit, it's quite funny.
    Mary: I'll admit that if I ever wanted to attract a man, I'd steer clear of those clothes and that hat.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Including Of Corsets Sexy and High-Class Gloves every evening for dinner. At the height of The Roaring '20s in Series 6, Mary's tall, slim, boyish figure particularly suits the shapeless forms and drop-waists typical of the period.
  • The Grand Hunt: She enjoys hunting, riding, and other country sports enormously.
    Edith: Oh, you know Mary. She likes to be in at the kill.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy is an emotion she rarely exhibits, but the look on her face is priceless when Edith announces to the family in the Series 6 finale that her new beau Bertie Pelham has unexpectedly inherited the title Marquess of Hexham, thus meaning Edith would outrank everyone in the immediate family should they marry!
  • Heroic BSoD: After losing Matthew, she almost completely shuts down and ices over for nearly six months. In the Series 4 premiere, a slight nudge from other members of Downton (against her father's wishes) is all it takes for her icy exterior to shatter and cause her to start sobbing hysterically.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: She tells Matthew about her tryst with Pamuk because she literally cannot keep it in any longer. Luckily, he takes pity on her in her uncharacteristically despairing state and appears to appreciate her frankness and honesty in telling him, despite his initial shock.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In Series 2, she has dirt on Lavinia that could be used to break her and Matthew's engagement, and is encouraged by the Dowager to do just that. The normally cut-throat Mary not only refuses, but welcomes and is friendly with Lavinia. She might be in love with Matthew, but if Matthew is in love with Lavinia, she's not going to get in the way.
  • Kissing Cousins: She was engaged to Patrick Crawley, her 2nd cousin, and Matthew is her 4th cousin.
  • The Lady's Favour: Mary gives Matthew a small cloth figurine to bring him good luck, and asks him to bring it back when saying goodbye before he goes off to war.
  • Lady in Red: Her signature colour throughout Series 1-3, and she exhibits the alluring, slightly dangerous qualities required in her flirtations with the men she admires. However in Series 4, she wears black due to wearing appropriate mourning colours for the loss of Matthew. In a particularly poignant scene, she descends the staircase at the Abbey in a dress of deepest black, which is shot so as to echoe her wedding dress reveal from the preceding series. She has moved on to the purple shades of half-mourning by the time of the pig rescue in episode seven.
  • Leitmotif: Like most couples (and some individuals) in the series, she and Matthew have a piece of music to accompany significant scenes. Theirs forms one of the main orchestral themes of the series.
  • Like Father Like Daughter: She takes after Robert in terms of her entrenchment to traditional values, and the sacrosanct level of importance she places on maintaining the Estate.
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Sybil and Mary share a strong sisterly bond, and represent pure, innocent femininity (the light) and sexy, sultry femininity (the dark) respectively.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: She sees herself as English through and through, and often condescends her own mother's American background without any hint of irony. In explaining her extraordinary efforts to stay at Downton Abbey, when her mother is resigned to downsizing in Series 3, she remarks, ‘I am English — you are American’. Which seemingly sums up their entire relationship.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: By the end of Series 5, she's the only member of Edith's immediate (British) family (the others being both of her parents, her brother-in-law, her aunt, and her grandmother Violet) who doesn't know that Marigold is Edith's illegitimate child, mainly because she usually regards Edith as beneath notice. She extracts the secret from Tom Branson by the Series 6 finale.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: She seems to want what she can't have; if a suitor suddenly becomes available, Mary finds a reason to break it off.
    • As seen throughout Series 1 with her courtship of Matthew. Having stolen his heart and received his proposal, she makes him wait until it was known whether Lady Grantham's baby was a potential male heir before she accepted — which caused him to call it all off and shack up with Lavinia.
    • Exemplified in Series 5, when, after she and Tony Gillingham go to bed together, she cools right off the next morning and is suddenly full of doubt, especially when he begins discussing wedding plans. She calls the whole thing off a mere matter of days later.
    • In the penultimate episode of Series 6, her latest beau, Henry Talbot, is cast aside after she decides she cannot possibly reconcile his love of motor-racing with the memory of Matthew's fatal car accident. As Anna puts it, she loves him, but cannot control him, and that's the main problem. She gets over herself by the finale, and They Do.
  • The Mourning After: As Series 4 begins, set 6 months after Matthew's death at the close of Series 3, she is still in a deep depression and wracked with grief.
    Violet: You have a straightforward choice before you. You must choose either death... or life.
    Mary: And you think I should choose life?
  • Mundane Made Awesome: With an imperious jut of her chin, Mary offers us this little gem in Series 5:
    Mary: I'm going upstairs to take off my hat.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In the Series 6 finale, she goes on something of a rampage, laying into everyone from her beau Henry Talbot to Edith (obviously), whose dark secret (Marigold) she decides to reveal over the breakfast table to Edith's very shocked fiancé, Bertie Pelham. Then later on, following Thomas' suicide attempt, she decides to make a below-the-belt remark to Robert over his decision to sack the troubled valet, resolutely continuing her assault. After a Cool Down Hug from the Dowager, she's genuinely remorseful, and spends the final part of the episode attempting to make peace with all concerned.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: In the war years of Series 2, a dramatic scene of Matthew (and William) getting caught in an explosion quickly cuts to Mary back at Downton, who drops her tea-cup in alarm. (The same happens to Daisy, who stops suddenly in the middle of her stirring.)
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Her protective instinct towards Sybil is fully shown when she begins to notice the relationship forming between her and Branson.
  • Old Maid: She's young to be worried about this fate by modern standards, but she's on the cusp by the standards of the era. This is the reason why the family wants her (in her early 20s) to be married off as quickly as possible, "before the bloom is quite gone off the rose," as the Dowager Countess puts it.
  • Pet the Dog: Mary's ruder moments are mitigated by her being genuinely kind to those she cares about.
    • In Series 1, she goes out of her way to make arrangements for William to take time off to visit his dying mother.
    • One of the most notable examples occurs in Series 4, when she finds out that Anna has been raped by Alex Green, the valet of her lover, Tony Gillingham. Mary uyses her influence over Tony to ensure Green is immediately sacked. She also convinces her father to leave Bates at home when he takes a trip to America, knowing Anna needs her husband by her side.
    • In Series 6, Anna has been suffering multiple miscarriages, so Mary organises and pays for her own physician to operate on her — even racing down to London in the dead of night to ensure she is attended to before she loses another baby.
    • Another touching example from Series 6; following Thomas' suicide attempt, Mary brings Master George up to see him whilst he is convalescing in his room. Thomas loves the family's children and this touching moment speeds his recovery no end.
  • Playing Hard to Get: Her modus operandi in all romantic relationships.
  • Prophetic Name: The old Hebrew translation of Mary includes "bitterness" and "rebelliousness." There's also the old nursery rhyme - "Mary, Mary, quite contrary", which seems appropriate in her case.
  • Proud Beauty: Oh yes.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Just like her mum. She is fair-skinned with black hair, and considered extremely attractive.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Mary does not crave advice, and exhibits a defiantly cavalier attitude.
    Mary: [derisively] Have you seen the new boy's haircuts the ladies are wearing in Paris?
    Matthew: I hope you won't try that.
    Mary: I might!
  • Relationship Sabotage:
    • She rather cruelly puts Sir Anthony off proposing to Edith in Series 1, relaying to him (untruthfully) how her sister mentioned "some stuffy old bore that won't leave her alone" in clear reference to his courting of Edith.
    • In the Series 6 finale, she and Edith are rowing at the breakfast table, and in a fit of jealous pique, Mary decides to really stick the knife in by revealing Marigold's true parentage to Bertie Pelham, Edith's fiancé. Poor Bertie is left reeling, and decides he needs time to think over the relationship.
  • Rich Bitch: Mary can be quite the snob, and is quick to pick up on (and deride) any social blunders.
    Mary: You can't be serious? I don't have to think about it. Marry a man who can barely hold his knife like a gentleman?
  • The Rival: She and Mabel Lane Fox in Series 5. Both women are proud, haughty, Society beauties with a knack for dry, snarky wit, although they'd doubtless never admit the similarity. Mabel's hostile attitude towards Mary isn't helped by the fact that Tony Gillingham, her fiancé, abruptly called off their engagement because Mary caught his eye. Their rivalry is solidified when the pair are pitted against each other at the point-to-point in episode 6.
  • Second Love: After a bumpy start, she finds true love again in Series 6 with the dashing Henry Talbot. The finale depicts their wedding, surrounded by family and staff at the village church.
  • She's Back: Losing Matthew really knocks the stuffing out of her, but after justifiably playing the grieving widow throughout Series 4, it's clear from the Series 5 premiere that Mary has returned to form as the witty, vivacious young woman we know her to be.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Mary is nothing if not picky. As a very beautiful and noble woman, she feels she's entitled to a good match and wants to marry well (i.e. rich) but she also wants an intelligent and good guy. After the Pamuk scandal, she starts to think she has to settle for Sir Richard.
  • Smithical Marriage: When Anthony Foyle whisks Mary off for an illicit weekend in Liverpool in Series 5, she books an adjoining room under "Miss Crawley", but he uses his own title, claiming that false names simply arouse suspicion.
  • Spirited Young Lady: She's elegant, sophisticated and knows the rules of Society implicitly, even if she doesn't always play by them.
  • Sudden Principled Stand: A rather jarring example occurs in the Series 4 Christmas Day Special. Mary has a sudden, uncharacteristic attack of scruples when evidence (a train ticket) comes to light that implicates Bates in Green's murder, and she is initially insistent that she cannot keep said evidence from the authorities. This seems at odds with Mary's character throughout the series as a rather cavalier, non-conformist — particularly as she knew what Green had done to Anna. In the end, her loyalty to the couple wins through and she burns the ticket.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: She prides herself on appearing cold and aloof, though she can also be very protective and sweet to anyone she considers fragile or precious, like her little sister Sybil, or her maid, Anna.
  • Talking to the Dead: Prior to her wedding to Henry Talbot in the Series 6 finale, she visits Matthew's grave to essentially ask for his permission and blessing, before adding that she'll always love him.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: She's a statuesque, raven-haired beauty and possesses an imperiously dry sense of humour.
  • The Tease: Always keen to keep the chaps chomping at the bit, she turns up at the Canningford point-to-point looking, as Mabel Lane Fox puts it, like "a cross between a Vogue fashion-plate and a case of dynamite."
  • Technical Virgin: During their brief encounter, Pamuk promises Mary she'll still be a virgin for her husband, so God only knows what kind of sexual frippery occurs that causes him to keel over and die in her bed.
  • Tempting Fate: Mary says that she wants the trip to Duneagle to be Matthew's "last treat before Fatherhood claims him" — Matthew, distracted by the happy news of his son's birth, dies when his roadster collides with an on-coming lorry.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: From Series 5 onwards she's back to insulting Edith at every turn. Made all the more Jerkass because a) Edith rarely does anything much to provoke it, and b) Edith spends much of the Series at one of her lowest ebbs (which is really saying something). Granted, Mary doesn't know about the worst of Edith's problems (her illegitimate child), but given her behaviour, Edith seems justified in fearing that if Mary did know, she'd be "queening it all over" her.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: She starts as a proud young woman, proud of her beauty and wealth and family and class. In Series 2, she mellows a bit and treats people kindly, mostly due to the humbling affect the War years have on her.
  • Upper-Class Equestrian: As is typical of her class, Mary is a master horsewoman. Fully evidenced in Series 1, when she charges and leaps a hedge riding side-saddle whilst out hunting with Kemal Pamuk. Her skills are also tested at the Canningford point-to-point in episode 6 of Series 5, where she is pitted against her Society rival, Mabel Lane Fox. She nails it, naturally.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Has an instinctual aversion to the most available men, and the thrill of the chase appears to appeal to her far more than the subsequent relationship itself. See Master of the Mixed Message above for detail.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: She and Edith have always exhibited a fractured relationship, exchanging insults most of the time they share the screen, but when Mary deliberately sabotages Ediths's engagement in the Series 6 finale, she well and truly crosses the line and is justifiably chewed out by both Edith and even Tom for her behaviour.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Violet's conversation with Mary, following Matthew's death, culminates in her saying that she loves her. This is the first time that Violet has ever said these words onscreen to anyone in her family, and she lacks all of her usual self-assurance when expressing such emotion. The scene is all the more powerful for that very fact.

     Lady Edith Pelham 

The Most Honourable Lady Edith Pelham, Marchioness of Hexham (née Crawley)

Portrayed by: Laura Carmichael

"Am I to be the maiden aunt? Isn't this what they do? Arrange presents for their prettier relations?"

  • Blue Blood: As daughters of an Earl, Edith and her sisters are styled Lady [first name] Crawley. Upon her marriage to Bertie, who's become the Marquess of Hexham, she becomes the Marchioness of Hexham (informally, "Lady Hexham") and thus outranks everyone in her family, including her parents and grandmother.
  • Born Unlucky: As can be ascertained from the multiple examples listed under her entry, Edith would be fully justified in thinking she has been cursed with the worst luck of any character in the series.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: In the Series 5 premiere, poor grief-stricken Edith almost burns the Abbey to the ground after she carelessly flings a German primer belonging to Michael Gregson into her bedroom fire.
  • Chekhov's Skill: After honing her skills on one of the estate farms during the war years of Series 2, her ability to drive comes in handy when she races north with Mary and Anna, in pursuit of Sybil and Branson when they elope to Gretna Green.
  • Color Motif: The walls and upholstery in her bedroom, as well as many of her clothes, are peach, complimenting her strawberry-blond hair.
  • Dark Horse Sibling: Edith is considered the plainest, least interesting and least promising of the Crawley sisters. After one suitor gets cold feet at the altar, the next one gets killed in Germany and leaves Edith with an illegitimate daughter, and the third one leaves her after learning of said daughter, her marriage prospects are treated as practically non-existent. Then the third suitor returns, and they happily marry. He is also a fabulously rich Marquess, and Edith ends up outranking her one surviving sister and the entire Crawley clan.
  • Dark Secret: As seen from Series 4 onwards; In 1923, a child conceived and born out of wed-lock would create a huge scandal, which is why she is so keen to ensure her illegitimate daughter Marigold's identity remains an iron-clad secret.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates:
    • Robert definitely likes Sir Anthony Strallan, he's just not too thrilled about him dating his much younger daughter.
    • Robert is not too keen on the idea of Michael Gregson either—that is, until the wily journo manages to out-fox conman Terence Sampson at cards, thereby winning Robert and his friends their money back.
    • Robert also voices concern about Bertie Pelham, though not to the same extent as the other two. He's just a little incredulous that a penniless agent of a country estate could have much to offer Edith, who at that point was a successful London businesswoman and woman of letters in addition to being the daughter of an earl. These concerns are assuaged after he sees more of Bertie in person—and put completely to bed when Bertie unexpectedly becomes a marquess.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Her (planned) wedding to Sir Anthony Strallan — she even remarks that she can't believe an event at the house is all about her...
  • The Dog Bites Back: Having endured Mary's taunts for most of the early part of Series 1, she takes revenge by writing to the Turkish Embassy to explain Mary's direct involvement in the circumstances surrounding the Kemal Pamuk scandal.
    Edith: I think she who laughs last, laughs the longest.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After years of terrible luck, much of which is detailed here, Edith’s story culminates in a truly happy ending;— she is able to raise her daughter with love amongst her family, she has reconciled with her sister Mary, and she marries her true love Bertie Pelham in a beautiful winter wedding ceremony, which incidentally also grants her a higher social rank than anyone else in the family — hurrah!
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: By the close of the Series 6 finale, she does manage to reconcile with Mary, albeit in a reservedly cautious manner, citing that they are sisters after all, and in time only they will remember Sybil, their parents, and many of those who lived and worked at the Abbey.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Her and Mary. Whereas Mary is derisive about Edith's appearance and fashion sense, Edith is as equally snide and disapproving of Mary's behavior and attitude.
    Mary:... I don’t think I would have gotten down, no matter how lame the horse.
    Edith: No, I don’t believe you would.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: In Series 3, she makes a big splash as the rebellious daughter of Lord Grantham who publishes articles in The Sketch in support of women's liberation. (To her father's displeasure.) In Series 6, after dismissing her unsuitably acerbic editor, she displays a real knack for editing the magazine personally, and pulls an all-nighter (with Bertie Pelham's help) to get the latest issue out on time.
  • Has a Type: Definitely in evidence, what with Strallan, Drake and Gregson all being capable, cheerful (if slightly goofy) older men who are kind, attentive and most definitely not like her father.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Following Sir Anthony's decision to call off their wedding, which he does so as they meet at the altar, Edith is left broken and inconsolable.
    • Not that she regrets having her baby of course, but the separation anxiety and anguish she feels after secreting her daughter away with the local Drewe family becomes abundantly clear in Series 5, especially as the couple live only a tantalisingly short distance away. The whole matter is then hugely compounded when she hears news of Michael Gregson's death.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: She's desperate to find her place in the world. Fortunately for her she does, but it took a lot of drama and self-exploring.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: In Series 6, she agonises over whether to tell her new beau, Bertie Pelham, about Marigold's true parentage, as much as she previously struggled to keep the secret from her family.
  • The Kindnapper: After cordial relations break down disastrously between her and Mrs Drewe (Marigold's adoptive mother) mid-way through Series 5, Edith decides she cannot be apart from her daughter, and with the previous arrangement in tatters, she contrives a plan to abduct Marigold from Yew Tree Farm. After Cora is made aware of the whole affair, she helps Edith to bring Marigold home to the Abbey so that they may start a new life together.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Edith loses her best chance with Sir Anthony in Series one as a direct result of spreading the story of Mary and Pamuk's sexual encounter and then spitefully admitting it to Mary's face.
  • Leitmotif: As life starts to improve for Edith (learning to drive, being with Sir Anthony etc), her time on screen is often accompanied by a cheerily hopeful, upbeat strings arrangement (perhaps "A Drive" from the Downton Abbey soundtrack ?). It gets a Dark Reprise when she bursts back into Downton in her wedding dress, after being jilted at the altar.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Where to start? First, it was her cousin Patrick (who was engaged to Mary), then she developed feelings for Matthew (clearly unrequited), then in Series 2 she's snogging a (married) farm-hand (and is busted by his wife), then in Series 3, she takes up with Sir Anthony Strallan again, who is a quarter of a century older than her and ends up breaking her heart by leaving her at the altar (albeit for gallant reasons). Finally, she enjoys a flirtation towards the end of Series 3 with her new editor, Michael Gregson who turns out to be trapped in marriage with a mental patient, gets her pregnant, then disappears without a trace for a whole series before it is later confirmed that he died in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Ouch.
  • Malicious Slander: Disseminating scurrilous rumours about her own sister's sex-ploits with Kemal Pamuk takes the cake.
  • Manipulative Bitch: She extracts the gossip about Mary and Pamuk from an unwitting Daisy, under the guise of concern for her welfare.
  • May–December Romance: With Sir Anthony Strallan during Series 1 and rekindled (perhaps) as of the Christmas Special. Edith is in her early twenties at the time, and he is at least 30 years (if not more) older than her. As of the Series 3 premiere, she's actively pursuing him, complete with inviting him to sit next to her at Mary and Matthew's wedding and kissing him on the cheek after a dinner party. Sadly, his hesitations get the better of him and he jilts her at the altar.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: She's the middle sister who is over-looked by her parents and sandwiched between her confident, beautiful sisters. It also doesn't help that her family badly needed a male heir.
  • Misery Builds Character: Her mother tells her this in an attempt to comfort her after she is jilted at the altar. Hard to do when everyone around her is happy and in relationships. Even the servants whisper how they have always felt sorry for her.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Following a night of passion with Michael Gregson mid-way through Series 4, she discovers she's pregnant. With Michael seemingly vanished into thin air, so traumatised is Edith that she makes an appointment at a Back-Alley Doctor for an illegal termination. However, once at the clinic, she can't bring herself to go through with it and makes plans to carry her baby to term by disguising it as a long French-improvement trip to Geneva with her Aunt Rosamund, with the plan being to give up the baby to a Swiss family. In the Series 4 Christmas Day Special, it is revealed Edith has had her baby daughter, Marigold, but is so wracked with guilt that she plans to retrieve the child from Switzerland and secretly hand her over to Tim Drewe, a local tenant farmer, so she can at least have some chance of seeing her. By episode 6 of Series 5 however, this arrangement breaks down disastrously.
  • Naming Conventions: In keeping with her character, "Edith" is a rather staid, disharmonic, typical old maid name — at least compared to Mary (a classic main character/heroine name) and Sybil (a relatively unusual, phonetically silvery name).
  • Old Maid: She sees herself as being in great danger of becoming an old maid, which is why she is so pursuant of Sir Anthony, resolutely deciding he's her last chance at marriage. She strongly believes she is damned to this life, especially after he subsequently leaves her at the altar. She broken-heartedly accepts it the day afterwards.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: As much as an Edwardian Lady can be, but Edith genuinely found a new passion for driving the family cars, tractors and helping out on the estate farm during the War, much to the horror of her grandmother.
    Violet: Edith! You're a Lady, not Toad of Toad Hall!
  • Plain Jane: Thought of by almost everyone in this way, compared to her drop dead gorgeous sisters, though it's primarily down to her looking different (e.g. she has honey-coloured hair compared to their raven black locks) and the unfashionable clothes she wore in the earlier series didn't help.
  • Progressively Prettier: She's supposed to be the unfashionable Plain Jane of her sisters, but as the series goes on and she works on her self-esteem and ambitions, she acquires a modern and flattering sense of fashion and turns out to be actually rather good-looking, although in an adorable-yet-discrete beauty, unlike Mary's Proud Beauty appeal.
  • Rank Up: In the Series’ grand finale, Edith attains the rank of Marchioness, following her marriage to Bertie Pelham, the Marquess of Hexham.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Edith delivers an almighty one of these to Mary in the Series 6 finale, after she deliberately compromises her relationship with Bertie Pelham by revealing Marigold's true parentage. Edith even goes so far as to call Mary a bitch (twice!), which would be utterly shocking for the period.
    Edith: Who do you think you're talking to?! Mama?! Your maid?! I KNOW you! I know you to be a nasty, jealous, scheming bitch!
    Mary: Listen to me you pathet—
    Edith: You're a BITCH!
  • Rejection Affection: Edith pursues her neighbor Sir Anthony Strallan aggressively even though her family AND Strallan are against the match. She finally gets the hint when he leaves her at the alter.
  • Second Love: Well, third love in Edith's case; after her first love Sir Anthony Strallan leaves her at the altar, and then her second love Michael Gregson is tragically killed, she finally finds love again towards the end of Series 6 with the very sweet Bertie Pelham.
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: While not exactly ugly, poor Edith isn't a patch on sexy, sultry Mary and downright adorable Sybil.
  • Spirited Young Lady: After Sybil's death in Series 3, it seems her plotline in this regard was transferred to Edith, who suddenly takes an interest in writing about her support for women's suffrage and other political issues to a newspaper.
  • The Suffragette: After WWI, Lady Edith finds out she's a worthy person, too, and finds her cause. She takes an interest in writing about her support for women's suffrage and other political issues to a newspaper.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Following a night of passion with Michael Gregson mid-way through Series 4, she discovers she's pregnant. With Michael seemingly vanished into thin air, so traumatised is Edith that she makes an appointment at a Back-Alley Doctor for an illegal termination. However, once at the clinic, she can't bring herself to go through with it
  • They Do: Despite Bertie’s initial shock at finding out about Marigold, which led him to break their engagement, she and Bertie are reconciled by the Series’ grand finale and marry in a beautiful winter ceremony at the village church.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • Series 2 episode 3 has a moment where Edith is finally given praise by General Sir Herbert Strutt for her actions to help the recuperating veterans at the convalescent home. Although this is something she has been doing on the quiet, the other officers have noted and appreciated all the help she has provided them with. The entire table is shocked and impressed, with her mother even giving her a warm smile. The look on Edith's face afterwards is heartwarming.
    • By the end of Series 5, after all the heartache and drama of Gregson's disappearance and death, and of her Surprise Pregnancy, Edith is able to raise her own daughter at Downton with the full knowledge and support of her parents, and she's never seemed happier.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Of all the characters in the series, Edith has gone through the most striking Character Development process. In Series 1, she is an embittered, badly-dressed shrew and definitely the family trouble-maker. But after proving her worth during the War years of Series 2, she begins the journey to becoming a nicer person — her sister Sybil even remarks on it, saying "You're far nicer than you were before the War, you know." In Series 3, following Sybil's death, she supplants her as the Spirited Young Lady of the family by beginning a career in journalism, becoming something of a fashionista (witness the risqué ensemble she wears to The Criterion), and taking up with a dashing (but married, but tragically separated) lover, Michael Gregson. By Series 4, her Surprise Pregnancy storyline provides the greatest evidence of development, presenting Edith as a compassionate, morally strong young woman in a manner that is completely different from her Series 1 persona. Edith still retains something of a sharp-tongue, but the overall change across the four series is palpable.
  • Trauma Conga Line: In Series 1 & 2, it seems that the much-overlooked, undervalued middle sister of the Crawley clan has been dealt a rough hand, but things get really desperate for Edith from Series 3 onwards when she hooks up with Michael Gregson. This coupling, although loving, ignites a sequence of traumatic events, most notably her Surprise Pregnancy arc, detailed above.
  • The Un-Favourite: Her parents definitely favour their two other children. They think of her as the plain and disagreeable one. Particularly evident with this exchange:
    Robert: Poor old Edith, we never seem to talk about her.
    Cora: I'm afraid Edith will be the one to care for us in our old age.
    Robert: What a ghastly prospect.
  • Volleying Insults: Her catty exchanges with Mary never let up across the six series.
  • Wedding Finale: The second half of the Series’ grand finale depicts her beautiful winter wedding to Bertie Pelham.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Has this relationship dynamic with Sir Anthony. He seems not absolutely sure but proposes and it seems fine up until the wedding day itself, but Sir Anthony calls it all off. So they don't.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Just when it looks like things are finally working out for her with impending wedding to Sir Anthony in Series 3, he backs out and she's left jilted and sobbing at the altar.

     Lady Sybil Branson 

Lady Sybil Branson (née Crawley)

Portrayed by: Jessica Brown Findlay

"Papa, I'm sorry I disobeyed you, but I'm interested. I'm political. I have opinions."

  • The Beautiful Elite: Blue blood by birth and definitely beautiful in appearance, although her sweet personality is democratically unpatrician.
  • Birds of a Feather: She is initially drawn to Branson due to their shared interest in politics. Later episodes reveal their rebellious natures, and a love affair gradually develops.
  • Blue Blood: As daughters of an Earl, Sybil and her sisters are styled Lady [first name] Crawley. When she marries Branson (a commoner), as opposed to becoming simply "Mrs Branson", Sybil retains the style of "Lady" because her title is suo jure — that is, by right of birth. In Dublin however, she's more than happy to be known as just "Mrs Branson".
  • Characterization Marches On: When first introduced, she's the pretty, sweet, youngest sister caught between her warring siblings. It's only mid-way through the first series that her politically minded, rebellious nature is revealed.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Her relationship with Branson. Given the period, it would have been utterly shocking for an English Lady to take up with someone from the working class, let alone an Irishman, let alone a member of the household staff. It is not surprising at all that Robert is completely against the relationship.
  • Death by Childbirth: She dies after contracting eclampsia following the birth of her daughter mid-way through Series 3.
  • Elopement: With the whole family seemingly against their entire relationship, in the dead of night, she and Branson race to Gretna Green to wed — until they're intercepted by Mary, Edith and Anna.
  • English Rose: Sybil is a true natural beauty, and with her bee-stung lips, wavy brown hair and alabaster complexion, as well as her politeness and strong moral sense, she perfectly exhibits the desired qualities of a true English Rose.
  • Even the Loving Hero Has Hated Ones: Sybil is the nicest Crawley around (and one of the nicest characters overall), extremely sympathetic towards the lower classes, and even one of the show's antagonists Thomas breaks down weeping when she dies and says how kind she was to him. However, what does Sybil have to say about her mother's scheming maid O'Brien? "Odious woman".
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Whether she's dressed for dinner, wearing an afternoon tea-dress or in her riding clothes, Sybil always looks beautifully turned-out, though Of Corset Hurts.
  • Gut Punch: Her death. Series 3 is just as melodramatic as the previous two, but the graphic, gasping death scene of one of the main family members, who had just become a mother and is one of the nicest characters on the show was unprecedented and shocking. William's death was noble, drawn out and sweet; Lavinia was perhaps destined to die — but Sybil's death was frantic, quick and horrifying. Never before had the show been so shocking to watch.
  • Indifferent Beauty: Although she's probably the most beautiful female in the series, Sybil never uses her looks to get her own way or manipulate people — her kindness, intelligence and passion do the talking.
  • Interclass Friendship: She's a high-class lady who bonds with Gwen, a maid who works in their house. Lady Sybil befriends her and they become fairly close. Their relationship goes far beyond what an Earl's daughter would normally do to help her maid leave her father's service. Lady Sybil is very sweet when she helps her to sneak out of the house for job interviews.
  • Leitmotif: Her (and Branson's) theme is evocative and longingly romantic in tone and quality. It gets its Dark Reprise in the scenes following her death.
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Sybil and Mary share a strong sisterly bond, and represent pure, innocent femininity (the light) and sexy, sultry femininity (the dark) respectively.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: In the early part of Series 1, she's only just 17 and so still often wears her waist-length hair down — usually decorated with a large bow and pretty slides or pins. Her sisters are older, and have already had their first "Season", so always pin their hair up to signify they are ready for marriage.
  • The Lost Lenore: After her death she becomes Lost Lenore for Branson.
  • Magnetic Hero: She is unanimously beloved by everyone at Downton, family and staff alike, and even Thomas sobs when she dies.
    Thomas: In my life, not many have been kind to me. She was one of the few.
  • Marry for Love: Her marriage to Branson goes against everything she was taught, that is; marry for position, wealth, and above all ensure the candidate is acceptable to one's family. Oops...
  • Morality Pet: Thomas is fond of her, even though their scenes were few. The earliest example was in episode 6 of the first series, when Bates accidentally told Lord Grantham that Sybil was at a political rally. Thomas was angry that she was chastised at dinner.
    Thomas: (to Bates) Are you pleased with yourself?
  • Nice to the Waiter: She's particularly kind to the household staff, especially Gwen.
    Sybil: (to Gwen) Your dream is my dream now, and I'll make it come true.
  • Nobles Who Actually Do Something: Becomes a nurse during World War One and decides to keep nursing after. This partly motivates her to marry Branson and leave Downton.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: A surprising, throwaway example occurs in the first series — O'Brien is setting Sybil's hair for the day when Gwen enters her room. After Sybil thanks O'Brien and signals she may leave, she remarks to Gwen "odious woman". Sure, O'Brien is a nasty piece of work but it's surprising that Sybil, who never normally has a bad word to say about anyone, says this without any clear, immediate provocation.note 
  • Plucky Girl: Sybil is never one to throw in the towel, and is resolutely determined when it comes to causes she feels passionate about.
    Gwen: Only a fool doesn't know when he is beaten.
    Sybil: Then I am a fool, for I am far from being beaten yet.
  • Politically Active Princess: Unlike the rest of her (mostly) conservative family,note  Sybil is politically liberal—radical, even (see her apparent happiness at being "Mrs Branson" during her year in Dublin)—and believes in civil rights, especially votes for women.
  • Rebellious Princess: Rebellious daughter of an earl. For young Ladies of the Edwardian era, strictly conforming to the stringent rules of Society was absolutely essential in order to maintain one's reputation. Sybil, with her avant-garde fashion sense, liberal politicking and choice of husband clearly doesn't give a stuff about what her contemporaries think of her and thumbs her nose at Society in general. Her own sister Mary (who plays the Society game — in public anyway) even seems mildly impressed by Sybil's lack of conformity.
    Mary: Sybil's the strong one. She really doesn't care what people think — but I'm afraid I do.
  • Riches to Rags: When she decides to marry Branson, although it's played-with: Sybil sees the change as a positive, and Lord Grantham eventually caves and gives her a small dowry, though still warning her about the very different life she'll lead.
  • Rich Kid Turned Social Activist: Lady Sybil is an earl's daughter from a vastly rich family with blue blood. She's politically active, and she's liberal and radical in her opinions. She's a socialist striving for more equal and just society and she supports woman's suffrage. She befriends Gwen Dawson, their maid who dreams of a better life. Lady Sybil supports her and helps her to land a job as a secretary.
  • Rite of Passage: Mid-way through Series 1, Sybil does her first "Season" — a series of balls and parties provided as an opportunity for noble young women who have reached marriageable age to be launched into society.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Of the plucky, naive variety, certainly in the first half of Series 1. Her naivety over the grubbier side of the outside world becomes most apparent when she pluckily insists that she must attend a rowdy political rally in Ripon, with little thought for the danger this would put her in. When the mob turns violent, she is caught up in the brawl and ends up knocked unconscious for her efforts.
  • Spirited Young Lady: When it comes to politics, and fashion - the harem-style culottes she has tailored shock her family.
  • Spoiled Sweet: She's sweet, kind and considerate despite coming from wealth and nobility. Like mother, like daughter. She also has the cheerfulness and naivity associated with the trope — she forms a close friendship with a maid and tries to help her fulfil her dreams without quite realizing how hard it is for the maid.
  • The Suffragette: Lady Sybil is a politically active young woman, liberal and radical in her opinions. She's a socialist at heart and supports woman's suffrage. She also cares on a personal level. She befriends housemaid Gwen Dawson who is determined not to follow the prescribed path for women of her social status and strives to make a better life for herself. Lady Sybil helps her.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Dies tragically at a very young age.
    Mrs Hughes: She was a sweet, kind person and a real beauty, both inside and out.
  • True Blue Femininity: Her colour of choice, most of her outfits are blue of some shade.
  • Uptown Girl: Her main storyline throughout Series 1, 2 and right up until her death mid-way through Series 3, concerns her passionate relationship with Tom Branson, the family chauffeur, and the veritable class chasm between them.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Despite her position of privilege, she is determined to pursue her political interests, champion women's rights and actually work for a living.
    Sybil: I know what it is to work now. To have a full day, to be tired in a good way. I don't want to start dress fittings or paying calls or standing behind the guns.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Her relationship with Branson is played as not very likely, but They Do get together and they do get married eventually. We never get to see the wedding, as it takes place in Ireland.

     Violet Crawley 

The Right Honourable Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

Portrayed by: Dame Maggie Smith

"No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house, especially someone they didn't even know."

  • Berserk Button: Questioning, or attempting to devolve her authority in any way whatsoever causes an explosive reaction. This is exemplified in Series 6 when she goes utterly bonkers after the village hospital committee decides to relieve her of her position as president and replace her with Cora.
  • Blue Blood: As the widow of a peer, Violet may continue to use the style she had during her husband's lifetime with the added prefix Dowager, which recognises and respects her previous role as chatelaine.
  • British Stuffiness: Played with magnificent aplomb.
  • Brutal Honesty: She doesn't beat around the bush so much as hack straight through it.
  • Closet Geek: A fairly mild version; she has read and refers to H. G. Wells, Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912), and The Wind in the Willows, all of which are contemporary.
  • The Comically Serious: She's the master of dry, po-faced badinage, but is also unknowingly funny in her imperious, aghast reaction to any concept that offends her staunch patrician ideals.
  • The Confidant: Along with Rosamund, she is one of the select few who know of Edith's secret pregnancy, and the true identity of her daughter, Marigold.
  • Cool Old Lady: Possesses a rapier wit and perfect comic timing.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The finest in the series.
    Violet: So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A walking, talking example.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In the film, she's been diagnosed with a fatal illness but is perfectly at peace with it, reasoning that she's had a long, meaningful life.
  • Facial Dialogue: The Dowager comments every single situation with some disdainful grimace or another.
  • Family Honor: Like her granddaughter Mary, maintaining the family's position and status is her raison d'être.
  • Gentlewoman Snarker: The absolute queen of the pithy, biting one-liner.
  • Good Old Ways: She even backs away in horror from electric lighting.
    Violet: First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I was living in a H. G. Wells novel.
    Violet: *On being reminded Lord Merton favours certain reforms at the cottage hospital: A Peer in favour of reform is like a turkey in favour of Christmas.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Though she does wear rather Outdated Outfits — In the first series, her outfits are more in line with the 1900s than the 1910s, and by the time she starts wearing the high-waisted, un-corseted looks of 1912-4 in the second season, it's World War I and the other ladies are moving on to barrel skirts and proto-flapper looks. Even in 1920, she's still dressing like Queen Alexandra, wearing an "s-bend" corset and floor-length gowns. This is in stark contrast to her American counter-part Martha, who is seen to embrace the new style of shapeless dresses, drop-waists and far higher hemlines.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: It's her signature colour — she even shares her name with a shade of purple.
  • Grande Dame: She provides a definitive example.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy is not an emotion she typically exhibits, but in Series 5 she's clearly not comfortable with the possibility of her old rival Isobel marrying Lord Merton, and thus joining her as an equal amongst the ranks of the aristocracy — something that would surely change the dynamic of their relationship.
  • Happily Married: She was, most definitely, happily married.
    Violet: I do not speak much of the heart, since it's seldom helpful to do so. But I know, well enough, the pain when it is broken.
  • Hopeless with Tech: And HOW! The Countess is baffled even by a swivel chair!
  • Hypocritical Humor: She can be as stuffy, snide and sarcastic as she wants, but she will not allow Robert (of all people) to be stuffy to anyone. She always makes sure to be the first to pull him down from his high horse.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Only she can pick on and snark at Isobel, mainly because Isobel can give it just as well as she can take it! However, if anyone else picks on Isobel, like Larry and Tim do in Season 6, then the Dowager will come down on them like a tonne of bricks.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: How she deals with most insults vollied her way.
  • Interclass Friendship: Okay, "friends" might be putting it a bit strongly, but she and Carson are often united in their skepticism of anything that defies tradition.
  • Intergenerational Friendship:
    • Violet takes a vested interest in her great-niece Lady Rose, and insists she stay with her at the Dower House when she visits Downton in 1920. In the Series 3 Christmas Special, she steers Rose away and comforts her after another berating from her mother, Susan.
    • She also forms one with Tom after Sybil's death, finding ways of including him in the family business and dancing with him at a party. He's also the only one that she leaves a forwarding address with when she runs away to France, and comes back immediately when he writes a letter asking her to return during a family emergency.
  • Ironic Name: Violet is certainly no Shrinking Violet.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • As seen at the village flower show, where rather than accepting a horticultural award she wins every year by default, she graciously presents the prize to Molesley's father, Bill.
    • Also evidenced with the protective attitude she displays towards William, especially with regard to arranging his repatriation to Downton after he is mortally wounded at Amiens; she even threatens The Vicar when he initially refuses to conduct William's last request to marry Daisy.
    • Her kind advice to Daisy when she is feeling guilty about marrying William when she did not love him as much is another example.
    • She uses her considerable influence behind the scenes to bring Russian princess Irina Kuragin out of exile, despite the fact that they were, at one time, bitter love rivals over her husband, Prince Igor.
    • In Series 6, having acted like something of a despot over the running of the village hospital, she sees the error of her ways and buys Robert and the family an adorable new puppy to make amends.
    • In an incredibly touching scene at the end of the grand finale, Violet finally gives Cora the praise she deserves for her hard work as chatelaine, and is at last ready to pass the torch her way:
    Violet: It is your kingdom now, your village — your hospital. And I think you run it very well.
  • The Matchmaker: She (surprisingly) pushes for the match between Mary and Matthew in Series 1, mostly to secure her granddaughter's position, but also to ensure some measure of control over the Estate remains within the immediate family.
    Violet: I didn't run Downton for 30 years to see it go, lock, stock and barrel, to a stranger from GOD knows where!
    • In the film, she's particularly supportive of Branson and Lucy's mutual attraction, if only because this will give the Crawley family control over Lady Maud's inheritance.
  • Meddling (Grand) Parent: As family matriarch, she makes everyone's business her business.
  • Men Like Dogs, Women Like Cats: Violet’s son is crazy about his pet dogs but Violet has a pet cat which can be seen jumping down from a windowsill in one early episode.
  • Mysterious Protector: Violet has a special soft spot for William (and Molseley), so when the call-up comes during the War years of Series 2, she uses her considerable influence behind the scenes to ensure both lads are exempt from conscription. That is, until her plan is busted by the wily Isobel.
  • New Old Flame: Explored and revealed in Series 5, with the arrival at Downton of the Russian noble refugee, Prince Igor Kuragin. He and Violet first met during a ball at St Petersburg's Winter Palace in 1874, and it's instantly clear that the pair share a romantic past, as she is uncharacteristically speechless and rather giddy when he greets her. She later reveals to Isobel that they had fallen madly in love and attempted to elope. However, on route to the Prince's yacht, his wife, Princess Irina, caught up to them and physically removed Violet from their getaway carriage, which caused her to see sense and go back to Lord Grantham. When the pair are reunited in 1924, the Prince makes it quite clear that he wishes to spend his remaining days in her company, despite the fact that he is still married. However, Violet, out of compassion for Princess Irina, insists that she cannot reciprocate and by the close of the Series 5 Christmas special, they part ways.
  • Nice Hat: Violet adores hats — a particular favourite appears to be a broad, purple number incorporating a bunch of fake silken grapes.
  • Not So Stoic: She is usually the epitome of indomitable Victorian reserve, so her faltering, heart-broken reaction to the death of her granddaughter Lady Sybil, with hidden tears as she slowly walks from the foyer to the drawing room, is all the more powerful in its subtlety.
  • Older and Wiser: Despite the glacial exterior, she's no stranger to matters of the heart. Following Mary's self-destructive rampage in the Series 6 finale, it is Violet (literally the only person Mary will listen to) who helps her to see sense. She extols The Power of Love, and advises Mary to make a go of it with Henry, make peace with Edith, and finally, but most importantly, make peace with herself.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: With her rival family matriarch and American opposite, Martha. The pair trade some real zingers during their time on screen together.
    Martha: If I'm going to the theatre, I ought to change.
    Violet: (looking her up and down) Yes, I should.
  • Patriotic Fervor: She is a very proud Brit.
    Violet: (to Cora) I'm so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I'm with her, I'm reminded of the virtues of the English.
    Matthew: But isn't she American?
    Violet: Exactly.
  • Quit Your Whining: Her own special brand of (grand) parenting is harsh, but well-meaning. For example, she tells moping Edith to gettogether: "Edith, dear, you're a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something useful to do!"
  • Relationship Sabotage: Jealousy is not an emotion she typically exhibits, but in Series 5 she's clearly not comfortable with the possibility of her old rival Isobel marrying Lord Merton, and thus joining her as an equal amongst the ranks of the aristocracy — something that would surely change the dynamic of their relationship. She therefore contrives a luncheon to set Merton up with her old friend, Lady Shackleton. She later reveals to Mary, in private, that her main issue with the match is that she will lose Isobel's constant companionship.
  • The Rival: For Isobel throughout most of the early series, and ramped right up again in Series 6 over the running of the village hospital, which she (and Doctor Clarkson) feels should be run in a traditional manner. It takes the Relationship-Salvaging Disaster of Robert's horrifying burst stomach ulcer to get them to see sense and put their swords away.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Believes fervently that aristocratic families like hers have duties to their community and country that they absolutely must not shirk, as long as those duties are carried out in a "respectable" fashion. She heartily approves of Sybil's decision to become an auxiliary nurse, reasoning that female royals and nobles all over Europe are already doing just that.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Violet is an aristocrat to the core and views her position of power as a pre-ordained right. She is therefore never above using her patrician authority to get her own way, though fortunately it's usually in the spirit of protecting those she cares about. After her plan to keep him safe from conscription fails, she uses her contact at the Foreign Office (her own nephew-in-law, Shrimpie Flintshire) to arrange William's repatriation to Downton, despite Dr Clarkson insisting it would be impossible. She also threatens the vicar with sanctions, both financial and social, if he refuses to carry out William's last request — that he marry Daisy before he dies. After the War is over, she uses her manipulative skills to boot Isobel from the house by suggesting that her organisational abilities would be far better put to use helping War refugees (as opposed to meddling in the running of the Abbey). It's also thanks to her connections that Branson becomes a journalist.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: If you didn't know her, you'd look at her and see a somewhat frail old woman clinging to her Victorian past. Only when she opens her mouth do you realize how formidable she really is.
  • Stealth Insult: Her specialty, usually delivered with a serenely smug countenance.
  • Storming the Castle: In her own inimitable way, of course. When she finds out in the grand finale that Dickie Merton's vile daughter-in-law is preventing Isobel from seeing him, and keeping him a prisoner in his own home of Cavenham Park, she resolves to barge her way into the great house by force (with Isobel in tow) to demand an audience and free Dickie from his antagonistic offspring (and reunite him with Isobel, whom she has by that point admitted is a perfect match for Dickie).
  • Tough Love: She clearly loves her family, but her Victorian temperance precludes her from being affectionate or grandmotherly in a modern sense. This is exemplified in Series 4 when she backs away in horror from her great-grandson George when he starts bawling his little head off — likely due to her being horribly unfamiliar with such a brouhaha, having had an army of nannies raise her own children.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: After a rocky start, a true friendship develops between her and Isobel by Series 4/5, and although there is absolutely no let up in the banter between them, it becomes more playful and less catty.
  • Volleying Insults: She loves a verbal battle with Isobel, and especially Martha. The badinage between the three matriarchs provides some of the finest comedic scenes in the series.
  • With Friends Like These... .
    Lord Grantham: I thought you didn't like him?
    Lady Violet: So what? I have plenty of friends I don't like.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: She and Robert can be justifiably blamed for bringing up Sir Anthony's doubts about marrying someone younger and his disability, which leads to Edith getting jilted at the altar. The episode before, she even told him to "stop the Strallan nonsense."
  • You Remind Me Of Myself: Violet may see something of her younger-self in her exuberant great-niece Rose, particularly with regard to Rose's rather risqué fashion sense.
    Violet: Oh, my dear, in my day I wore the crinoline, the bustle, and the leg-of-mutton sleeves; I am not in a strong position to criticize.

     Lady Rosamund Painswick 

Lady Rosamund Painswick (née Crawley)

Portrayed by: Samantha Bond

"Mary, be sensible. Can you really see yourself dawdling your life away as the wife of solicitor?"

  • Absentee Actor: As Mary and Edith's interfering aunt, she is conspicuous by her absence from both girls' weddings during Series 3. Unavoidable, due to Samantha Bond's theatre commitments.
  • Blue Blood: She's Robert's younger sister and when Sir Richard Carlisle mistakenly refers to her as "Lady Painswick", it raises an interesting point about correct styles of address. In simple terms, Rosamund would only be "Lady Painswick" if her husband was knighted or had a title; he wasn't knighted — rich yes, but only a mere banker — so Rosamund retains the style she was born with; "Lady Rosamund"
  • Break the Haughty: Having meddled in Mary's relationship (below), she gets a taste of her own medicine when her suitor, Lord Hepworth, is found to be sleeping with her own Lady's Maid!
    Rosamund: I so hate it when Mama is proved right.
  • Brutal Honesty: She always says whatever is on her mind, which greatly annoys her mother, even though it's undoubtedly an inherited trait...
  • Cool Aunt: Single, childless and still young enough to head out dancing, Rosamund provides her nieces and young cousin Rose with a London crash-pad when they are in town.
  • The Confidant: For her niece Edith in particular, especially with regard to her relationship with Michael Gregson and resulting Surprise Pregnancy in Series 4. She finds the morality of the whole situation very hard to swallow, but is nevertheless shown to be incredibly supportive of Edith.
  • Fiery Redhead: A fairly mild example, though she can be very opinionated at times and often rather blunt.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: With a penchant for a Nice Hat.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Mary mentions in conversation that Edith has taken a strong interest in the Drewes' foster child, Rosamund instantly suspects that Edith has recovered her illegitimate daughter. She tries to ask more about Edith's relationship with the little girl, prompting Mary (who didn't mention the child's gender) to ask how Rosamund knows it's a girl.
  • Last Episode, New Character: First appeared in the Series 1 finale.
  • Meal Ticket: In the first Christmas Special, she arrives at Downton with her suitor, Lord Hepworth, who turns out to be sleeping with her own lady's maid, Shore, and only after her considerable fortune.
  • Meddling Aunt: Her advice to Mary in Series 1 — make Matthew wait until it was known whether lady Grantham's baby was a potential male heir before she accepted his proposal, which caused him to call it all off and shack up with Lavinia.
  • Retcon: In Season 1, supplementary material revealed she had a son and a daughter... which, come Season 2, she definitely does not have.
  • Shadow Archetype: Mary might end up like her aunt Rosamund if she doesn't follow her heart — wealthy, but without true romantic attachments.
  • Widow Woman: Her husband, Marmaduke, died some time before Series 1.

     Sybbie Branson 

Miss Sybil "Sybbie" Branson

Portrayed by: Ava Mann/Fifi Hart

"I'll not be separated from her. She's all I have left of her mother." — Tom Branson

  • Babies Make Everything Better: After Lady Sybil's tragic death, a shared sense of responsibility for baby Sybil's welfare helps the family come together — Branson agrees to stick around as Estate Manager, much to everyone's relief.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Her mother, Lady Sybil, dies shortly after she's born from post-partum eclampsia. The infant's cry from the nursery breaks the horrified silence of the family gathered around the death bed.
  • Blue Blood: From her mother's side, though whilst her mother would have always been styled Lady despite marrying a commoner, young Sybbie couldn't have inherited the title because her father was a commoner, hence she's styled Miss.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Is named for her late mother.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: The shocking discovery that Nanny West has been abusing Sybbie is subtly foreshadowed earlier in the episode by the fact that she was apparently denying her food —
    Nanny West: Can you tell Mrs Patmore I won't want the scrambled egg for Miss Sybbie's tea.
  • Insistent Terminology: To his mild consternation, she refers to Robert as "Donk" (from "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey"), as opposed to Grandpapa.
  • Put on a Bus: At the end of the Series 5 Christmas special, after a suitably moving farewell speech led by Lord Grantham, she and her father bid farewell to the family and leave Downton for good to start a new life in America.
  • Someone To Remember Her By: For the family, she represents an important link to the late Lady Sybil.
  • The Bus Came Back: In episode 3 of Series 6, she and her father Tom Branson show up as surprise guests at Carson and Mrs Hughes' wedding. To the delight of all gathered, he vows that they will stay on at Downton for good.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: As a toddler, she is portrayed by Ava Mann, but come Series 5, Fifi Hart takes over to play four year-old Sybbie.
  • Victim of the Week: In the Series 4 premiere, poor Sybbie is subject to secret abuse at the hands of Nanny West due to her mixed heritage (part English aristocracy, part Irish working-class).

     George Crawley 

Master George Crawley

Portrayed by: Carl & Logan Weston/Oliver & Zac Barker

"We've done our duty, Downton is safe." — Lady Mary

  • Babies Make Everything Better: A shared responsibility for George's welfare helps both Mary and Isobel move beyond their intense grief, following Matthew's death at the end of Series 3.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: At the close of the Series 3 Christmas Special, scenes of Mary happily cooing over her and Matthew's new baby (and heir) are inter-cut with Matthew speeding along in his roadster, which collides with an on-coming lorry, leaving his lifeless, blood-soaked body by the roadside.
  • Blue Blood: The heir to the Earldom of Grantham would be styled "Viscount Downton", and this is what Robert was known as before his own father died. However, courtesy titles may only be used by direct male-line descendants of the present holder of the title. As George is not a direct male-line descendant of Robert (because George is Robert's grandson through his daughter Mary, not a son of his own, and even then George is heir to the title not because he is Robert's grandson, but through his deceased father Matthew, making him Robert's male-line third cousin twice removed), he will never be able to use the courtesy title of "Viscount Downton" before he inherits the earldom.
  • Heir Club for Men: He is the male heir the family finally produces to ensure the survival of the Estate.
  • Living MacGuffin: His very absence and eventual, longed-for conception drives much of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd series' plots. His birth also helped to ensure that Matthew's death didn't force another Succession Crisis.
  • Sailor Fuku: As is typical of the English middle and upper classes (even nowadays), young children are often dressed in naval-themed outfits. note 
  • Someone to Remember Him By: For Mary and Isobel especially, George provides an important link to the late Matthew.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: In Series 5 and 6, Master George's twin actors are veritable mini-Matthews.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: As a baby, he is portrayed by twins Carl and Logan Weston, but come Series 5, twins Oliver and Zac Barker take over to play three year-old George.

     Marigold Gregson 

Miss Marigold Gregson

Portrayed by: Eva & Karina Samms

"It has to be a complete secret from my family." — Lady Edith

  • Babies Make Everything Better: Zigzagged, but by the end of Series 5, played straight. While Edith's Surprise Pregnancy leads to all sorts of complications and problems, she finds she can't bear to be without her daughter, and by the end of Series 5, being able to raise the baby herself really has seemed to make everything better for Edith.
  • Blue Blood: On her mother's side, though just like her cousin, Sybbie, she too wouldn't be styled Lady, despite her mother's rank, because her father was a commoner, hence she's also styled Miss.
  • Dark Secret: She represents this for her mother, Edith. In 1923 a child conceived and born out of wed-lock would create a huge scandal, which is why Edith is so keen to ensure the child's identity remains an iron-clad secret.
  • Disappeared Dad: Her father, Michael Gregson, disappeared mid-way through Series 4 in Germany, but it's not until episode 6 of Series 5 that it's revealed that he is, most definitely, dead, having died in The Bierkeller Putsch of 8–9 November, 1923.
  • Give Her A Normal Life: In the 1920s, adoption would be the child's only chance at having any kind of normal life.
  • Parental Abandonment: Initially — with Michael gone, Edith is cajoled by her aunt Rosamund into leaving her daughter with a Swiss family so as to avoid a scandal. However, the unbearable guilt she feels after abandoning her baby abroad spurs Edith into convincing Tim Drewe, a local farmer, to adopt the child himself so she can at least have some chance at seeing her.
  • Secret Identity: Initially, she is raised as a commoner and member of the Drewe family. Only a select few note  know her true parentage and identity.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Marigold is brought to Downton Abbey as Edith’s orphaned ward and Marigold’s true identity is initially kept from most of the family and staff. The secret unravels after her grandfather, Robert, notices Marigold’s strong resemblance to her father, Michael Gregson, mentions the resemblance to the Countess and she confirms that Marigold is their third grandchild and is Edith’s daughter by Michael.
  • The Unmasking: In dramatic scenes towards the end of Series 5, Edith shows up and tells Mrs Drewe the truth about Marigold's parentage, who screams at her husband for lying to her, and tears up Edith's copy of the birth certificate. Ultimately there's nothing she can do; not only would it be wrong to keep Marigold from her birth mother, but Edith is the daughter of their upper-class landlord. They have no choice but to let Marigold go. Once Cora is also made aware, she convinces Edith to bring the child back home to the Abbey, and by the finale, Robert has guessed the secret.
    • By the Series 6 finale, Mary forces the secret from Tom.

     Pharaoh, Isis, and Tiaa

Portrayed by: Ellie, Roly, and Pringle

"Look after my girls...especially Isis." — Lord Grantham

  • Anachronism Stew: All three dogs are modern yellow labs, which is to say quite light-colored. Prior to the mid-20th century, yellow labs were much darker, golden or butterscotch color.
  • Bookends: In Robert's first appearance in the series, Pharaoh loyally follows him down Downton's grand staircase. In Robert's first appearance in the film, Tiaa does the same thing.
  • Canine Companion: The family dogs are usually to be found at Robert's side.
  • Distanced from Current Events: Like a number of shows in the 2010s that included the name Isis in one way or another, the dog Isis was likely written out to avoid connection to the Islamic terror group ISIS.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: For Lord Grantham.
  • Pet's Homage Name: All three dogs' names are references to Ancient Egypt, and were likely chosen in tribute to the Earl of Carnarvon (real life owner of Highclere Castle AKA the Abbey) who financed Howard Carter's expedition.
  • Precious Puppy: Series 6 introduces the very cute Tiaa, who the Dowager buys for the family as a surprise present.
  • No Name Given: Pharaoh is never named on screen.
  • Rescue Arc: Thomas, hoping to impress Lord Grantham, kidnaps Isis in the first Christmas Special and chains her up in a shed, hoping to miraculously reveal he's found her when it's realized she's missing.
  • The Topic of Cancer: At the end of Series 5, Lord Grantham takes Isis to a veterinary specialist who diagnoses her with cancer. He can't bring himself to have her put down, so on what he feels is her last night, he lays her on his bed, between him and Lady Grantham so that she had "two people who love her and each other very much on either side"...*sniff*
  • Unwitting Pawn: In Thomas's scheme to curry favour with Lord Grantham.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Being of the same breed, it's hard to tell when in Series 1 it's Pharaoh or Isis on screen or when the former was switched over to the latter.

The Crawleys of Manchester

     Matthew Crawley 

Mr Matthew Crawley, Esquire

Portrayed by: Dan Stevens

"I have to be myself, Mother. I'm of no use to anyone if I can't be myself."

  • Audience Surrogate: As he experiences the particulars and peculiarities of the English aristocracy, so do we.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between him and Lady Mary.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In the Series 3 Christmas Special, scenes of Mary happily cooing over their new baby (and heir) are inter-cut with Matthew speeding along in his roadster, which collides with an on-coming lorry, leaving his lifeless, blood-soaked body by the roadside.
  • Best Friends-in-Law: With Tom Branson, after he hooks up with Lady Sybil.
  • Commonality Connection: He and Branson bond and find mutual support over their both marrying Crawley girls, as well as the fact that Matthew understands what it's like to be an outsider at Downton.
    Matthew: If we're mad enough to take on the Crawley girls, we have to stick together.
  • Deus ex Machina: At the beginning of Series 4 (rather conveniently) a letter is found that Matthew had written the day before the family left for Duneagle. In it, he reveals his intention to return and make an official will naming Mary as his sole heiress, and that she should "take charge", as he knew not if their then unborn child would be a boy or girl. This letter, Murray decides, is proof enough of Matthew's feeling that Mary should inherit half of his estate....much to Robert's (initial) chagrin.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: When it comes to Mary.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: He survives all the horrors of the War, and recovers from complete paralysis of his lower half, only to be killed off in a road accident. Unavoidable, due to Dan Stevens' wish to leave the show after Series 3 to pursue other options.
  • A Father to His Men: From the short glimpse we get at the beginning of Series 2, Episode 5, it seems that Matthew's unit like and respect him greatly. Par for the course in British military units at the time.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Initially, he has no idea how to treat servants, and is less than enthused with the prospect of becoming an earl.
  • Fish out of Water: Amongst his upper-class relations.
  • Friendship Moment: He leaps to Branson's defense when he is humiliated at a family dinner party, asking him there and then if he'll be his best man.
  • Heir Club for Men: Although only a distant cousin, he is the direct heir to the Crawley estate, and when both of Robert's next-in-line heirs are killed in the Titanic disaster, he is summoned to Downton.
  • Hello, Attorney!: When introduced, he is a solicitor specializing in industrial law. He later takes a post at a firm of solicitors in Ripon, doing company law, trusts and estates, and conveyancing.
  • The Hero: Through Series 1 to 3, until his untimely death.
  • Hollywood Healing: He shakes off the below-the-waist paralysis he suffers from an explosion at Amiens in the space of an episode. However, this series allows months, or even years, to pass between episodes, so it appears more dramatic than it should.
  • Honest Advisor: For Robert, over the running of the Estate, although Robert is not exactly thrilled with Matthew's rather frank approach.
  • Honour Before Reason: He's an incredibly principled chap, with high-minded ideals that sometimes cause friction between himself and the more traditionally entrenched members of the Crawley clan — his wife included.
  • Hurting Hero: As seen following Mary's contrariness with regards to their relationship, a genuinely terrible time in the trenches of World War I, his suffering temporary paralysis below the waist, the death of William, his servant in battle and then Lavinia Swire, his betrothed. Poor chap.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: In Series 1, he's viewed as this by most of the Crawleys, at least to begin with, because he is a middle-class solicitor from Manchester. Inverted in Series 3, where Matthew finds out he's due to inherit money from Reggie Swire and considers himself an inadequate inheritor, because he broke Lavinia's heart and he thinks that Reggie didn't know. Turns out he actually did, and still wants Matthew to have the money.
  • Kissing Cousins: With Lady Mary, to whom he is distantly related.
  • Lead You Can Relate To: He provides an important anchor for the audience — he's a normal, (upper) middle-class guy, despite being thrust into the highly regimented, rarefied world of the British aristocracy.
  • The Mourning After: He is devastated by Lavinia's death from Spanish Flu, feeling it somehow his fault after she witnessed him share a dance and a kiss with Mary. It is a real Moral Dilemma for him to finally allow himself to be happy with Mary.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: In Series 2, he's a captain in the British Army during World War I.
  • Rags to Royalty: He goes from being a Mancunian lawyer to the heir of the Earl of Grantham and his estate. As an untitled member of the middle-class, but also an Earl-in-waiting, he is styled Esquire, a title of respect accorded to men of higher social rank. Incidentally, unlike in the US, this has nothing to do with him being a lawyer.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: After his investment in the Estate in Series 3, some of the less traditionally-minded people at Downton appeal to Matthew for his support. This becomes a bone of contention between himself and Robert, whose instinctive response to change is to soft-pedal it.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: When it is revealed in Series 3 that Robert has lost almost all of Cora's money through bad investments, Matthew is given the opportunity to save the estate via a huge inheritance bequeathed to him by his ex-fiancée Lavinia's late father. He is resolute in not wanting to accept the money, suggesting it would be "stealing" as he feels he broke Lavinia's heart. This causes huge tensions between him and Mary.
  • Second Episode Introduction: We don't meet Matthew (and Isobel) until the very last minute of the first episode, where they have a single very short scene.
  • Snow Means Love: It's snowing when Matthew finally proposes to Mary (at the end of the Series 2 Christmas special). They are outside the Abbey and the scene looks likefrom a winter fairy-tale.
  • Unexpected Successor: He's heir to the Grantham estate, thanks to a couple of casualties in the line of succession and the current Earl's lack of a male child.

     Isobel Grey 

Isobel Grey, Lady Merton (née Turnbull, formerly Crawley)

Portrayed by: Penelope Wilton

"It would be foolish to accuse you of being unprofessional, since you've never had a profession in your life."

  • Control Freak: Present in Series 1, but by the 4th episode of Series 2, her bossy attitude reaches its zenith and causes huge ructions between her and Cora, which sees her up sticks and leave for France.
  • December–December Romance:
    • Set in motion between her and Dr Clarkson during the Series 3 Christmas Special, though she appears to think they are Better as Friends.
    • After she gives Dr Clarkson the brush off at the end of Series 3, she finds herself the subject of Lord Merton's affections at the end of Series 4. She accepts his proposal of marriage at the end of Series 5, but due to his son's complete disapproval, she calls it all off by the Christmas Special. However, see They Do below.
  • Don't Call Me Milady: Played for laughs when earnest young gardener Pegg consistantly refers to her as "Your Ladyship". She keeps correcting him (she would be correctly referred to as "Madam"), but after the fourth or fifth time, she wearily relents.
    Isobel: I'm not Your Ladysh—oh never mind.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Although determined not to let herself and Matthew down socially when she first meets the Crawleys, this exchange with the Dowager Countess puts her well and truly in her place:
    Isobel: Well then, what should we call each other?
    Violet: Well, we could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham.
  • Good Samaritan: She's a bit of a meddler, but at the same time she's an undeniably charitable woman — helping Dr Clarkson at the village surgery, traveling to France with the Red Cross during the Warnote , working at a refuge for fallen women, offering Ethel (now a prostitute) work in her house, taking unfortunate scoundrel Charlie Grigg into her care and doggedly nursing a very ungrateful Violet back to health when she contracts bronchitis.
    Isobel: If I am to live in this village, I must have an occupation.
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Manages to give this speech to Dr Clarkson without realising she's giving it.
  • Inter-Class Romance: In Series 5, the Grey brothers are furious that she, a middle class doctor's widow, is having a relationship with their father Dickie (Lord Merton), an upper-class baron, and determinately set out to break happy pairing.
  • Meddling Parent: To Matthew, on occasion.
  • My Beloved Smother: A relatively mild example, but Matthew is often confounded by her pushiness.
  • Non-Idle Rich: While it would be easy to dismiss Isobel as a Chardonnay Socialist, she really does walk her walk — a primary example of which is the fact that she rushed off to war-torn France to nurse in front-line hospitals. She really does have the courage of her convictions.
  • Nosy Neighbor: She can't help interfering in the family's business, especially if said business offends her liberal ideals.
  • Nurse with Good Intentions: She's actually a very good (and professionally trained, to boot) nurse, when it comes down to it — she just sometimes seems to think she's a doctor, which she's not.
  • Oblivious to Love: Utterly oblivious to Dr Clarkson's interest in her — see I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship above. Isobel is generally a clever woman, but that takes a special kind of obliviousness.
  • Only Sane Man: She sees herself as this amongst the family.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: At the start of Series 4, set 6 months after her son Matthew's death, she's paralysed by grief and rarely leaves the house. She does a bit better at first than Mary in coming out of it, though, mostly due to her innate Samaritan Syndrome, but she remains more generally depressed a bit longer.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: She's just about the only person who will challenge the Dowager Countess. On some occasions she actually wins.
    Violet: I have never known such reforming zeal.
  • Rank Up: When she marries Dickie Grey in the Series' grand finale, Isobel becomes Lady Merton, attaining the rank of baroness.
  • The Rival: For the Dowager Countess throughout most of the early series, and ramped right up again in Series 6 over the running of the village hospital, which she feels should be modernised. It takes the Relationship-Salvaging Disaster of Robert's horrifying burst stomach ulcer to get them to see sense and put their swords away.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: Which the Dowager Countess exploits to boot her from the house by suggesting that her organisational skills would be far better put to use helping War refugees (as opposed to meddling in the running of the Abbey).
  • Schedule Fanatic: Exemplified in Series 2, whilst Downton functions as a convalescent home for injured soldiers.
  • Second Episode Introduction: We don't meet Isobel (and Matthew) until the very last minute of the first episode, where they have a single very short scene.
  • Second Love: She dearly loved Matthew's father Reginald (as stated on a few occasions in Series 4), and ends the series happily married to Dickie.
  • They Do: After she finds out about Dickie’s supposed terminal illness (pernicious anaemia) in the Series’ grand finale, she decides she wants to spend what little time he has left together, and so finally accepts his proposal of marriage. Luckily it’s a misdiagnosis, and their story finishes with them happily living together at Crawley House.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: After a rocky start, a true friendship develops between her and Violet by Series 4/5, and although there is absolutely no let up in the banter between them, it becomes more playful and less catty.

The MacClares

     Hugh MacClare 

The Most Honourable Hugh "Shrimpie" MacClare, Marquess of Flintshire

Portrayed by: Peter Egan

"Love is like riding or speaking French. If you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the trick of it later."

  • Ah Pea: Shrimpie (and his daughter Rose) speak in a refined RP accent, more commonly associated with England than Scotland. However, it should be pointed out that Shrimpie is still a Scotsman born and bred, it's just that people of his class, no matter where they are from in the UK, always have RP accents, never regional ones. It's down to schooling and immediate family/peernote  influences.
  • Awful Wedded Life: He and wife Susan do not get on. By Series 5, they've planned to divorce.
  • Back for the Finale: Returns to Downton with his daughter Rose in the grand finale to attend and give the speeches at Edith's wedding.
  • Big Fancy House: His family seat of Duneagle Castle is a beautiful, fairytale palace that exhibits typically Scottish conical turrets and a grand armoury hall.note 
  • Blue Blood: Marquesses use a special title to distinguish them from other peers; "The Most Honourable", and in fact his title actually ranks him higher in the peerage than Robert — a Marquess outranks an Earl.
  • Call-Back: Not seen until the end of Series 3, he was mentioned as early as Episode Six of Series 1, in which certain salient details (his position in the Foreign Office and his wife's relationship to Robert) were brought up when Carson hands Lady Grantham Lord Flintshire's letter saying, in essence, "The Turks know everything about the Pamuk affair."
  • Christmas Special: He is introduced in the Series 3 Christmas Day Special, which is set at his ancestral castle in Scotland.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Despite the fairytale splendor of Duneagle, he reveals to Robert that, like him, he has suffered great financial troubles since the War and is looking to sell up.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: He's universally known as "Shrimpie", and even the King refers to him as such in the Series 4 Christmas Special.
  • Good Parents: Most definitely. Possibly not perfect but a father anyone would like. With regard to Rose's marriage to Atticus, he knows it will not be easy for her, living in a Jewish Household and married to a Jewish man, but he is happy for her — and wants her, more importantly, to be happy. So any qualms he has (which are incredibly few and small; he has no problem with Jews, for example) are irrelevant.
  • Leitmotif: He and Susan share a theme, which is a reworking of the theme of Duneagle Castle from the Series 3 Christmas Special.
  • Man in a Kilt: As a native Scotsman, he wears traditional Highland dress.
  • Nature Lover: According to Nield, the head ghillie at Duneagle, Shrimpie "was born with a rod in one hand and a gun in the other."
  • Papa Wolf: As seen when he explodes with rage at his vile estranged wife Susan, after she contrives multiple nasty schemes to split their daughter Rose from her fiancé, Atticus.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: It was he who, on Violet's command, pulled strings to have William moved from the infirmary in Leeds to Downton Abbey.

     Susan MacClare 

The Most Honourable Susan MacClare, Marchioness of Flintshire

Portrayed by: Phoebe Nicholls

"Stand up Rose, you're slouching like a fieldhand."

  • Abusive Parents: She does care about Rose, but is incredibly hard on her, and constantly snipes at even seemingly innocuous, enthusiastic comments. This behaviour is ramped Up to Eleven in the finale of Series 5, where she pulls out all the stops to prevent her daughter's marriage.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Her justification for the hard line approach she takes with Rose.
    Susan: Sometimes I find myself worrying about Rose before I open my eyes in the morning.
  • Awful Wedded Life: ....and she appears to be the primary cause. Come Series 5, they've planned to divorce.
  • Black Sheep: She has to be the least liked member of the family. Her husband hates her, Rose states that she wants to see her mother's face "crumble" at the thought of her marrying a black man, and her own aunt, Violet, admits that Susan has been "in a rage since she was playing with her dolls".
  • Blue Blood: She is Robert's first cousin on his mother Violet's side — she is the daughter of Violet's sister, Roberta.
  • British Stuffiness: Her stern influence permeates right through Duneagle, where the atmosphere is more formal than at Downton.
  • Call-Back: Like her husband, she is also mentioned in Episode Six of Series 1, where, after Lady Grantham has read out how Susan is "sorry" that Shrimpie has heard about the Pamuk affair, the Dowager Countess has this to say about her niece's personality:
    The Dowager Countess: Sorry? She's thrilled!
  • Christmas Special: She makes her debut in the Series 3 Christmas Day Special.
  • Evil Is Petty: Nearly every action she performs contains a note of petulant spite.
  • Grumpy Bear: Whilst everyone around her is having a jolly time of it, she maintains a puckered facade. Rose even comments that her mother "hates everyone".
  • It Must Be Mine!: Having found out during the Crawley's trip to Duneagle that O'Brien is a far better stylist than her own lady's maid, in Series 4 we learn that Susan has poached O'Brien out from underneath Lady Cora.
  • Ice Queen: Without a hint of defrosting.
  • Jerkass: She's waspishly aggressive during her debut in Series 3, but come Series 5, she's downright abominable.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: To Rose's beau Atticus Aldridge in Series 5. She makes an absolute nuisance of herself at a dinner to introduce her and Shrimpie to the Aldridges, and her first comment to Atticus when they are introduced is simply "what a peculiar name...".
  • My Beloved Smother: To poor Rose.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Susan does her very best to split the union of Rose and Atticus, and she doesn't just veto the relationship, but tries to downright bury it. See Below.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Due to her own anti-Semitic inclinations (and no doubt her own bitterness), she is desperate to split Rose and Atticus up, so pays a prostitute to be photographed entering her prospective son-in-law's hotel room, then anonymously sends the incriminating evidence to Rose. It gets worse; she then announces to all assembled on the day of her daughter's wedding that she and Shrimpie are getting a divorce in an attempt to rile up Atticus' father, Lord Sinderby, who had previously expressed disgust at the very concept of ending a marriage. Luckily, Lady Sinderby is having none of it, calls Susan's bluff, and the wedding goes ahead as planned.
  • Sour Prude: She's a brisk, waspish woman, and exhibits fractured relationships with both her husband and daughter.
    Susan: Rose, you are not wearing that dress and that is final! She looks like a slut!
    Violet: Heavens, that’s not a word you often hear among the heather.
  • Special Guest: Phoebe Nicholls's guest appearance underlines the ancestry of the series, and its direct descent from the eighties classic Brideshead Revisited adaptation, where she originally made her debut. Although Cordelia Flyte was a much more likeable character.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Despite her pugnacious nature, she understands duty and is resigned to "soldiering on" with her marriage to Shrimpie, despite their problems.

     Lady Rose Aldridge 

Lady Rose Aldridge (née MacClare)

Portrayed by: Lily James

"But Princess Mary has one just like it! It's the fashion now!"

  • Babies Ever After: Soon after moving to New York with her husband Atticus, she gives birth to a baby daughter, Victoria Aldridge, who bears the middle names Rachel (for Atticus's mother) and Cora (for Rose's cousin). Tellingly, Rose's own mother, Susan, doesn't get a mention while the woman who was a good mother to her does...
  • The Beautiful Elite: She grew up in a positively fairytale castle and is undoubtedly very pretty, although she's a little kookier and less elegant than her cousins Mary and Sybil.
  • Blue Blood: As the daughter of a Marquess, she outranks her cousins and even Cora (who is the wife of an earl but does not hold a title by birth and thus is outranked) in Society. In fact, the only person within the Downton Abbey household who is socially superior to her is Lord Grantham himself.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Oh yes.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': After being busted by Matthew, Edith and Rosamund on her debauched night out at the Blue Dragon club in Soho, she thinks she's got away with it scot-free — until Violet finds out and conspires to pack her off up to Scotland to stay with an ancient aunt.
  • Cousin Oliver: The MacClare arm of the family was mentioned as far back as Series 1, but she otherwise fits. Introduced in the final episode of Series 3, she ends up being a Bratty Teenage Daughter who runs away from her chaperones, takes up with a married man, throws a tantrum when she gets caught, and generally makes a complete nuisance of herself. Perhaps meant to be the embodiment of The Roaring '20s, she is more bearable in Series 4 after Character Development kicks in.
  • Daddy's Girl: She has a very sweet relationship with her father — thank goodness, given that she and her mother Susan do not get on.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Well, what mummy hates but the point still stands. Rose goes as far as to become engaged to jazz singer Gary Ross, mostly to piss off the mother she so dislikes. It's never particularly clear whether she would mostly object to Ross's profession or to the fact that he's black.
  • Dumb Blonde: To a degree — she certainly exhibits the giddy, naive aspects of this trope.
  • The Flapper: With her fashionable curly bob, headband, knee-length dress and partying habits, she represents the new breed of "Bright Young Things", who delighted in shocking society with their antics.
    Lady Mary: Your niece is a flapper — accept it.
  • Forbidden Friendship/Shock Value Relationship: In Series 4, Rose takes a requited shine to Jack Ross, but the idea that a Marquess's daughter (no matter how rebellious she may be) could take part in a romantic relationship with a black man (let alone a jazz singer) in the early 1920's is nothing short of unthinkable (although as Lady Mary comments, the "jazz singer" part would shock certain people—e.g. Lord Grantham—more than the "black" part). On the night of Robert's birthday, Mary is visibly unnerved when she catches Jack and her young cousin in a passionate clinch below-stairs. By the finale, Rose is convinced that she's going to marry him—although mostly just to piss her mother off. He, thankfully, breaks it all off by the close of the series, although not before telling Lady Mary that he wished it didn't have to be that way.
  • Genki Girl: The rest of the family tends to find her indefatigable pep slightly exhausting.
  • Good Bad Girl: She's cheeky, spirited and exuberant, and her rebellious nature is hardly surprising given the tense relationship with her over-bearing mother.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Played quite sympathetically as a form of relatively innocent rebellion.
  • Happily Married: Rose is absolutely delighted to marry Atticus, and the feeling is mutual. Not coincidentally, her marriage heralds the culmination of her Character Development; while she remains a Spirited Young Lady, she seems to be much less rebellious now that she's found happiness and a place for herself in the world.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Rose can't be more than 17 or 18 when first introduced (she hasn't done her first Season), but she's already quite the party animal.
  • The Hedonist: She lives to party.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Violet is close to her great-niece, and insists Rose stay with her at the Dower House when she visits Downton in 1920.
  • Last Episode, New Character: She makes her debut in Episode 8 of Series 3.
  • Leitmotif: Rose's theme is cheerful and stirring in equal measure.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: She practically bursts with excitement when her cousins arrive at Duneagle during the Series 3 Christmas Special, and probably views her palatial family home as something of a Gilded Cage.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Perhaps to distinguish her a bit from Sybil, who was idealistic, Rose is more ditzy and ignorant of the ways of the world. For example, in the Series 4 Christmas Special, she causes the drama that drives much of the plot by foolishly inviting Con Man Terence Sampson into the Crawley social circle, who ends up stealing scandalously incriminating love letters from the purse of Freda Dudley Ward, the Prince of Wales's mistress.
  • Naughty by Night: By day, whilst playing the demure deb, she wears cute little blouses with sailor collars, and froufrou skirts with ruffles — but when she sneaks out at night, headed to the iniquitous Blue Dragon Club to meet her married lover, she changes into riskily short, backless dresses in tantalizing red.
  • Naughty Is Good: Although her mischief regularly lands her in hot water, she's not exactly discouraged either.
    Lord Grantham: Rose, I'm leaving you in charge of fun.
  • Put on a Bus: She leaves for New York with Atticus, following their nuptials, at the end of Series 5. However she comes Back for the Finale, along with her husband, in the Series 6 Christmas Day special.
  • Quirky Curls: She sports a mop of bouncy, blonde curls in a classic '20s Bob Haircut.
  • Rite of Passage: In the Series 4 Christmas Special, Rose has her "coming out" — that is, she is formally presented to His Majesty King George V and Queen Mary. All young women of aristocratic lineage (known as debutantes) were presented to the Sovereign in this manner to signify their transition into adulthood and marriageable status. As can be seen from Rose's outfit, ALL debs were required to wear the same court uniform of a beautiful white evening gown, and three ostrich feathers in their hair. Rose catches the eye of the Prince of Wales himself, and they share a dance at her coming-out ball.
  • The Roaring '20s: Personified.
  • Romance Ensues: In Series 5, she and the dashing Atticus Aldridge first meet when they must necessarily take shelter together, having been Caught in the Rain. This chance encounter ignites Rose's first genuinely reciprocal romance since her Series 3 debut, and they make a very handsome couple. By episode 7, he has proposed.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Rose is good at these, whether to pass herself off as a Downton Abbey servant, or to cover for someone's illicit mistress and child showing up unexpectedly at a party.
  • Seemingly Wholesome 20s Girl: She looks the part of a demure debutante, the reality however is that she has a fondness for seedy Soho clubs and married men.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: As seen at the Gillies Ball... which leads to a bollocking from her mother.
  • Shiksa Goddess: Becomes a near perfect example (beautiful, blonde, blue-blooded and British) when she hooks up with the Jewish Atticus Aldridge in Series 5.
  • Spanner in the Works: After O'Brien leaves, Rose decides to put an ad in the local shop for a new lady's maid for Cora. The person who responds turns out to be Edna Braithwaite, who had been fired from Downton for being too forward with Tom Branson.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Replaces Sybil as the rebellious, spirited, youngest "daughter" being raised by the Crawleys at Downton.
  • The Ugly Gal's Hot Daughter: As can be seen from her profile pic above, Susan MacClare could be best described as having a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp — her daughter Rose on the other hand, is an absolute peach.
  • Upper-Class Twit: A relatively rare female example.
  • Wedding Finale: The Series 5 finale depicts her wedding to Atticus Aldridge.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: In Episode 2 of Series 4, Rose poses as a servant to gatecrash a party for domestic staff and labourers. There she meets the handsome Sam Thawley, a gardener on a neighboring estate, and indulges in a passionate kiss. She is then forced to continue the deception and dress up as a maid when the besotted Thawley follows her back to Downton.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The above inevitably draws comparisons with Lady Chatterley's Lover, D H Lawrence’s once-banned 1928 novel about the sexual relationship between the married Constance Chatterley and her husband’s gardener, Oliver Mellors.
  • Zany Scheme: Which usually blow up in her face.

The Levinsons

     Martha Levinson 

Mrs Martha Levinson

Portrayed by: Shirley MacLaine

"It seems so strange to think of the English embracing change."

  • Blithe Spirit: In her capacity as a modernist American amongst her traditionalist English in-laws.
  • Cool Old Lady: She's witty, observant, and genuinely doesn't give a fig about what people think of her. She's also shown to be a supportive, compassionate grandmother when required.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: We knew Cora's mother was rich, but it's the outfits, furs and fabulous white-rimmed Cadillac (which even Robert is impressed by) that sell it in.
  • Culture Clash: Personified.
  • Eagleland: She provides a Mixed example. On the (type) one hand, she is forward-thinking, likeably exuberant and full of advice and energy in a very positive, modern way. But on the other, she rides roughshod over Downton's upper-class English traditions without provocation from the very get-go for no real reason other than to be bawdry and derisive.
  • Establishing Character Moment: On greeting her granddaughters:
    Martha: Sybil, tell me all about the arrangements for the birth, we do these things so much better in the States. Edith, still no one special? Well, never mind, you must take a tip from a modern American girl. Mary, Dearest Mary, now you'll tell me all your wedding plans and I'll see what I can do to improve them.
  • Foil: She's the sassy, abrasive American to Violet's staid, imperious Brit. Julian Fellowes stated that he wanted Martha's arrival to be "like a visitation from another planet".
    • Also to her daughter Cora, who although also American is much gentler, subtler and more easygoing and elegant and fits in better with the British aristocracy.
  • Grande Dame: Though she certainly isn't humourless — she's actually quite cheeky, even slightly smutty at times.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Although Dame Maggie Smith isn't all that hammy, the point was to put the two ladies in a room together and watch the big cats share a cage.
  • I Am What I Am: She's totally at ease with herself, and is well aware that the English upper-class find her "loud, opinionated and common", but doesn't give a stuff. This is most evident in the Series 4 Christmas Special, where despite Lord Aysgarth's best efforts at wooing her, she has no wish to join her daughter amongst the ranks of the aristocracy.
    Martha: I have no desire to be a "great Lady".
  • Large Ham: All hail Shirley MacLaine!
  • Meal Ticket:
    • Following Robert's financial crisis, Mary and the Dowager Countess attempt to (not so subtly) convince her to inject more money into the estate to avoid having sell up. She can't — it's revealed the rest of her fortune was tied up legally by her late husband. The best she can do is increase Cora's "dress allowance" a bit.
    • Also seen in the Series 4 Christmas Special, where impoverished Lord Aysgarth attempts to romance her purely for her fortune.
  • Nouveau Riche: Her late husband made his fortune in the dry-goods business, and she's probably one of the wealthiest characters depicted in the series, bar the very highest echelons of the aristocracy.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: She seems to be the new rival for the Dowager Countess.
    Violet: You Americans never understand the importance of tradition.
    Martha: Yes we do. We just don't give it power over us. Maybe you should think about letting go of its hand?
  • Picky Eater: Her maid Reed is quick to point out a full list of what she won't eat upon her arrival.
    Reed: Well, to start with, I will need goat's milk in the mornings.... She drinks only boiled water — in England, that is.... No fats, no citrus, no crab, ever, and nothing from the marrow family.
    • Despite her list of exceptions, she is also a Big Eater with a habit of talking with her mouth full.
    Mrs. Patmore: She ate it, then. I'm never sure about Americans and offal.
    Alfred: I think she'd eat whatever you put in front of her, that one. What a gob! I thought Mr. Carson was going to put a bag over her head.
  • Pretend Prejudice: For all her opinionated blather about the stuffiness of the English upper-class, supplementary materials support the notion that she's the one who pushed and encouraged her daughter Cora to travel to England, land an Earl and thus join the ranks of the aristocracy. Also, in the Series 4 Christmas Special, she informs Cora that she "wants to see one last London Season before she dies" — so it would seem that deep down, she has a fondness for the institution she is so quick to verbally bash.
  • Pretty in Mink: Her outfits incorporate very full, sumptuous fur neck-lines and cuffs.
  • Special Guest: For all the right reasons — what other American actress could possibly go head-to-head with Dame Maggie Smith in the battle of the matriarchs?
  • Theme Song Reveal: As an exceptionally splendid car sweeps up the Downton drive-way, accompanied by a suitably majestic, exuberant piece of introductory music, it is obvious who is about to make a grand entrance.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: How Robert and Violet view her visit.
  • Time for Plan B: After the kitchen range packs up right before a huge dinner party, she steps in just in time, organizing a cold picnic supper and even an impromptu sing-along in the drawing room, much to the Dowager Countess's (hilarious) discomfort.
    Martha: (singing at Violet) Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in loooove with you...
  • Widow Woman: She is the milionairess American widow of Isidore Levinson.

     Harold Levinson 

Mr Harold Levinson

Portrayed by: Paul Giamatti

"I'm well prepared for cold baths, warm drinks and most of all...the food."

  • Blithe Spirit: As per his mother, above.
  • Christmas Special: He makes his debut in the Fourth Series Christmas Day Special.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Like his mother Martha, he is decked out in opulent fur-trimmed clothes.
  • Culture Clash: He openly admits to hate leaving the USA and the life he is accustomed to, and views his visit to England and all implicit cultural idiosyncrasies as a bother.
  • Defrosting Ice King: He comes across as rather fatigued and unenthusiastic when he first arrives in England, viewing the visit (and those he meets) with a kind of half-hearted, snide cynicism. He soon warms up as the Special progresses, mostly because of his interest in Madeleine Allsopp and her genuine reciprocity. Turns out, he's actually rather a Nice Guy underneath, although he doesn't seem to see it himself.
  • Eagleland: Less so than his mother, but he still exhibits some of her plain-speaking and at times boorish behavior.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Where to begin? From openly slagging off his host's cuisine to crassly discussing money-matters and presumptuously attempting to shake the Prince of Wales's hand with a gob-full of canapé, it's clear Harold has little awareness of (and regard for) societal decorum.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Due to some dodgy dealings in oil exploration (he was peripherally involved in the Teapot Dome scandal), Martha calls on Robert to come to America and vouch for Harold's character.
  • The Hedonist
  • Love Interest: For beautiful young debutante Madeleine Allsopp, who appears to be interested in him for more than just his money. His feelings also seem to be mutual:
    Harold: I like you very much Miss Allsopp, more than any lady I have ever known, if I may use the term.
  • Millionaire Playboy: His niece Mary describes him as being as "rich as Croesus", and he openly admits to a fondness for "pretty girls" — which is where the privacy of his yacht comes in handy....
  • Nouveau Riche: 2nd generation. He's a bit of a walking stereotype, with his short, portly frame, flashy clothes and big, fat cigars.
  • Picky Eater: Just like his mum. In fact, he's thoroughly shocked that he finds Daisy's English cooking palatable, nay delicious. So much so that he asks her to come work for him. She turns him down, but Ivy goes in her place.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Cora and her brother Harold don't appear to be particularly close (having not seen her for what must have been years, he greets her with a simple "hello" in the Series 4 Christmas Special) — most likely because she is an elegant, considerate sort who has openly embraced the regimented upper-class lifestyle of a foreign nation, whereas he is something of a boorish, flashy rascal who openly admits to hate being away from the USA.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: As his mother Martha tells us:
    Martha: His idée fixe is yachts. Bigger yachts, faster yachts. Something with yachts.


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