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Series / Downton Abbey

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I didn't run Downton for 30 years to see it go, lock, stock and barrel to a stranger from GOD knows where!

Lord Grantham: You do not love the place yet.
Matthew Crawley: Well, obviously, it's...
Lord Grantham: No, you don't love it. You see a million bricks that may crumble, a thousand gutters and pipes that may block and leak, and stone that will crack in the frost.
Matthew Crawley: But you don't?
Lord Grantham: I see my life's work.

Set in an Edwardian country house from 1912—1925, Downton Abbey (2010—2015) created and primarily written by Julian Fellowes portrays the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and the servants who work for them. Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, has three daughters but no sons. Since (as with most British peerages) the Grantham title must pass to an "heir male of the body" (i.e. a male-line blood descendant of the 1st Earl), Crawley's cousin James and James's son Patrick are the heirs presumptive. Then both James and Patrick die in the sinking of the Titanic. So what will become of the Earl's fortune (of which the lion's share comes from his American wife's family)? This Succession Crisis drives the initial plot of the show, but soon enough, a host of intersecting plotlines occur. The Ensemble Cast faces a variety of personal struggles, and everyone has to deal with the gradual modernization of Britain.


Much like the earlier series Upstairs Downstairs, the drama follows both the aristocratic family who own the house and the large staff of servants who make it tick. The second series dealt with the effects of World War I on the entire household.

The show is named after the large building where the family lives. It is not called Downtown Abbey. The show ran for 6 series, concluding on Christmas Day 2015. Four years later, a movie was announced for a September 2019, release date. Tropes for the film should go here. A sequel, Downton Abbey: A New Era, was released in 2022 and its tropes should go on its page.

PBS had the broadcast rights from 2010 until they lost the rights in June 2020; it was shown as a flagship of their Masterpiece Classic lineup during the winter months from 2011 to 2016, after which the series moved to the Sunday evening prime access slot for a few years afterwards. Marathons were broadcast in August 2016 and June 2020. Ultimately, the show's popularity, and accompanying intense viewer support, ensured not even a year would pass before PBS reacquired the rights for an additional two years, beginning in February 2021; reruns resumed in syndicationnote  during Festival '21 the next month.


Many spoilers are unmarked in the trope list below.

Provides examples of:

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    A to C 
  • Aborted Arc: In the Season 2 Christmas special, Lady Mary calls off her engagement to newspaper magnate Sir Richard Carlisle, despite his threats to publish her secret regarding the late Kemal Pamuk. This is a secret that Bates left Downton (and Anna) to keep, one which it is insinuated will ruin the family by scandal, one which Richard literally bought the rights to. Yet in the end, everyone who could be hurt by the scandal takes a "Publish and be damned" attitude, and when the next season rolls around, it's conveniently forgotten, never to be brought up again. It may be assumed that Richard never actually made good on his threat, but nothing in the show indicates either that the scandal broke and blew over or that the secret was kept; it's merely dropped.
  • Action Girl: Great-aunt Roberta Crawley, a Famous Ancestor who fought in the Sepoy mutiny — she "loaded the guns at Lucknow."
  • Actor Allusion: In Episode 2, Lady Mary tells the story of Perseus and Andromeda at dinner, with the Dowager Countess trying to shush her. Maggie Smith previously starred in Clash of the Titans, which adapted the story. What's more is that the Dowager Countess reacts with shock that Andromeda was chained naked to a rock; in the movie, to placate the censors, she is wearing clothes.
  • Affair Letters: Thomas and the Duke of Crowborough were lovers once, and Thomas—who's a big fan of blackmail—and threatens the Duke, saying he'll show their letters. The Duke burns them before Thomas gets a chance, though.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Lady Edith Crawley (in her 20s) and Sir Anthony Strallan (in his 50s, and widowed). Within her family, this was actually considered a fairly decent match for Edith before the War, in large part because her family thought Edith, being "less pretty" than her sisters and a bit tomboyish and abrasive, couldn't do any better than a middle-aged widower. After the War, though, Sir Anthony came back with a crippled arm, and the family decided—and Sir Anthony recognised—that the match was no longer any good, as Edith would have to be a nursemaid to him rather than a wife. Edith refused to believe this until Sir Anthony jilted her at the altar.
    • Anna Smith, a head maid, falls in love with and later marries John Bates, the valet to the Earl. He is about two decades older than her. He is troubled by his past, but they are both very happy together.
  • Almost Kiss: Sybil and Branson, many times through Season 2, possibly in the last episode of Season 1, too. Anna and Bates, also. Edith and Michael Gregson in the first episode of Season 4.
  • Altar the Speed: Deconstructed, somewhat; Daisy feels pressured into going through with the wedding due to William's impending death, and subsequently feels that the whole thing was a lie — she later thinks differently after actually meeting with her father-in-law and takes his advice to advance up the career ladder for the beginning of season 3.
  • Always Someone Better:
    • Mary (and to a lesser extent, Sybil) for Edith.
    • It's never directly stated, but Bates is more or less this for Molesley, since Molesley not only lost his chance at being employed at Downton when Bates returned but also has a crush on Anna, who is in love with Mr Bates.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The dialogue sometimes has a flavor that is not very period accurate. See article here, see also Badass Boast below.
    • The portrait of life in a noble house — in particular, the intertwining of the lives of upstairs and downstairs residents — is not terribly accurate. Real-life estates the size of Downton Abbey in that time frame had much more separation between the lives of the masters and servants.
    • It strains belief that Thomas could not only keep his job but get promoted after being outed (see Politically Correct History below).
    • Although "If You Were the Only Girl in the World" was published in 1916 (and thus its performance in an episode set in 1918 is not anachronistic), it was not normally performed as a waltz until decades later in real life.
    • In episode 4x3 the staff plays Racing Demon, or Nertz, which has only been traced back to the 1940s.
    • Mary asks Gillingham if they'll just "make love" during their hotel getaway, at a time when that phrase actually just meant flirting.
    • The name "Kemal Pamuk" is anachronistic, for most Turks didn't have official surnames before 1934. An Ottoman bureaucrat would likely be referred to by a combination of his first name, his father's name/his nickname and his title, and not by any family name. See also Famous-Named Foreigner below.
    • Violet's stern reminder to Edith that "You are not Toad of Toad Hall"; the A.A. Milne play of that title wasn't published until 1929. This one is problematic in that theoretically, Violet could be referring to The Wind in the Willows, which was already well known when that scene takes place (although it strains credulity that Violet would know anything about a children's book published decades after her own childhood). But her choice of words - not to mention the fact that in real life, Julian Fellowes produced a musical version of Toad of Toad Hall, suggests she is probably alluding to the play rather than the book.
  • Anyone Can Die: Though one or two minor characters (such as Kemal Pamuk) die in the first season, Season 2 includes the deaths of some more regular cast members, such as William and Lavinia. Season 3, however, marks the point in which no character is safe—including Sybil and Matthew, two leading characters and members of the Crawley family. It should be noted that this is not driven by artistic decisions but rather by actors leaving the show. Maggie Smith quipped that her repeated Emmy nominations are the only thing keeping Violet alive.
  • Appeal to Inherent Nature: Mary argues that she's inherently contrary and that it would be against her character to want to marry anyone who anyone else wanted her to marry. She proves it when, after falling utterly in love with Matthew, she still turns his marriage proposal down, balking solely because marrying him would fix everything and be what everyone wanted to happen anyway.
  • Arc Words: 'The world is changing' pops up in some way or another throughout the series, but it is especially prevalent in Season 2, during the war.
  • Arranged Marriage Patrick and Mary, in the series' back-story. It was solely because a male heir was required for the Crawley family, and though Mary did not outright despise Patrick, she was very apathetic to the whole thing. She loathes the idea of having to mourn him after his death on the Titanic.
  • Artifact Title: In-Universe: Downton Abbey was actually a monastery when it was built in the Middle Ages; after the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was seized and became home to various peers.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The World War I arc in the second season has several...
      • Robert is 48 when the war breaks out and would certainly be called up immediately to serve in a commander role.
      • It's not until 1916 when the Crawleys finally get behind the war effort, and 1917 when Downton is finally turned into a convalescent home. Most of the aristocracy actually opened their homes and contributed as soon as war broke out.
      • It's implied that the Order of the White Feather was started by the wives of common soldiers, but actually by a British Admiral (Charles Pembrose Fitzgerald to be specific). It also appears to be a collection of random women, but it was specifically part of the suffragette movement; the women white feathering William and Mathew are obviously not suffragettes, as they don't wear the tricolour ribbons.
    • Well, more etiquette than history. Violet is scandalized when Mary has a weekend with her lover with the thought of remarriage, but she is not a "young lady" anymore. She's a widow, with considerably more freedom than an un-married young lady. Widows had, at that point, had such status for over 150 years in the eyes of society, as long as they were discreet. Of course, Violet may just be that old-fashioned.
  • Asshole Victim: Vera Bates has absolutely no love for her husband, but refuses to let him divorce her so that she can get some of the inheritance from his late mother's passing. She forces him to stay with her by threatening to spill Mary's secret night with Mr. Pamuk, and cheats on him while demanding he stay away from his new flame Anna. She swears that she will ruin her husband's life, and does good on it in her last act: poisoning herself and framing Bates for her murder. Needless to say, not one character on the show mourns her.
  • As You Know:
    • The first episode when the ominous "entail" is finally explained to those not familiar with archaic inheritance laws (or didn't read Pride and Prejudice in high school). Robert's lawyer almost uses the exact language, "as you well know..." Yes, Lord Grantham would know about how his money, his real estate, his title, and his life's work will descend upon his death and need not have this basic information conveyed back to him.
    • Matthew is a lawyer who specialises in corporate law. Yet he has to ask his mother whether there's any legal mechanism for him to refuse to inherit the earldom.
    • In episodes following Kemal Pamuk's death, various characters will go into minor but unnecessary detail about the manner of his death, along the lines of "do you remember the sudden death of that Turkish gentleman?" The ridiculousness of the question even gets lampshaded:
    Robert: I think I can be relied upon to remember any guest who is found dead in his bed the next morning.
    • In the Season 2 Christmas Special, Matthew has Robert explaining the practicalities of the Servants' Ball to him, even though Matthew has been the heir of Downton for quite a few years by now and one would have expect him to have been at the ball at least once before. It is possible, however, that this was Matthew's first Servants' Ball. In August of 1914, Matthew left the Village and soon thereafter went to war. Matthew's opportunities to attend the ball were limited for various reasons between the onset of the Great War and early 1920.
  • Author Appeal: Three journalists have courted the Crawley girls. Richard Carlisle is a newspaper magnate, Tom Branson the ex-chaffeur became a reporter and Michael Gregson the editor fancied Edith.
  • Badass Boast: Cora's explanation for why she is not that upset over the prospect of having to sell Downton Abbey and move into a smaller house: "I'm an American: Have gun, will travel". Of course, this is something of an anachronism, as, while the phrase "Have X, will travel" was common in newspaper classified ads from the early 20th century onwards, the specific phrase "Have gun, will travel" did not become popularised until the 1957 television series of that name.
  • Babies Ever After: The series finale features the birth of Anna and Bates's son, Mary finding out she is pregnant, and Rose visiting and showing off pictures of her baby girl.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Mary and Matthew at the beginning of their relationship, as the two are clearly attracted to each other, but Mary detests the idea of being forced to marry and Matthew dislikes the new world of Downton. Their relationship mellows out over time.
  • Benevolent Boss: Robert genuinely cares for the staff of Downton. He treats them all fairly and tries his best to keep them on. This is demonstrated when Mrs. Patmore's eyesight starts to go—rather than firing her, he personally arranges a doctor's appointment for her. Furthermore; all the Crawleys are rather even-handed with the staff to the point where even Lady Violet goes out of her way to pull strings for characters like William, the footman. Mary and Anna also build a strong friendship throughout the series.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Robert is the most even-tempered man imaginable until his youngest daughter gets herself involved in political riots. Or if his family decides to eat lunch made by an ex-prostitute.
    • For Cora: Neglecting Sybil's daughter because she's a "halfbreed chauffeur's daughter" and not noble like Matthew and Mary's son because both are her grandchildren.
  • Beta Couple: Mary's relationship with Matthew and, later, Henry is the main romance focus of the show, but there's also Anna with Bates and Sybil with Branson, both couples starting their relationships in the second season.
  • Big Fancy House: The real Highclere Castle has a starring role as Downton Abbey. There are many loving shots of the exterior.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: By Lady Violet's standards, certainly. For example, Rosamund — a noble lady by birth — married someone of no nobility, and Violet finds no end of chances to pick on her deceased son-in-law; Rosamund's brother, even worse, married an American (albeit one with the money necessary to save/secure the estate and more than willing to adjust to the English ways). With Robert having no sons the family's best chance to keep the estate in the family name is to leave it to a third-cousin who is a middle-class solicitor from Manchester of all places and a perfect stranger at the start of the series. Then there's Violet's niece who is constantly at odds with her husband as well as coming down hard on her rebellious teenage daughter, Rose, who is caught having an affair with a married man. Even Cora agrees with Violet on how badly Susan is treating Rose; this begs the question... are Susan's ways the reasons why "James left" and "Annabelle got married"? Could it have been to flee their mother?
  • Birds of a Feather:
    • Lady Sybil and Tom Branson, who share a mutual interest in progressive politics and women's rights.
    • Isobel Crawley and Dr Richard Clarkson, both healers who have dedicated their lives to helping others.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Every time a new baby is born into the family, one of the baby's parents die. Sybil dies of eclampsia the same day Sybbie is born, Matthew is killed in a car wreck on the day George is born, and Marigold's father is killed by Nazis around the time of her birth (though Edith doesn't know for sure that this is what's happening for quite some time after).
    • There is one exception to this rule, at the very end of the show: Bates and Anna's son is born with both parents alive and well. Even then, this trope is sort of in effect as a kind of Book End to the series, as the first series has a man dying in Lady Mary's bed, and the series finale has a baby born in Lady Mary's bed.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Season 1: World War I begins, Cora has a miscarriage, Mary and Edith's marriage prospects fail. Gwen gets hired as a secretary and a romance seems to be blooming between Sybil and Branson.
    • Season 2: Mary and Matthew get engaged, and Sybil is pregnant but Richard threatens to expose the Pamuk scandal and Bates is given life imprisonment.
    • Season 3: Unto Us A Child Is Born — and, even more importantly, a member of the Heir Club for Men, finally securing Downton Abbey's entail for the Crawley family. The son is George. As mentioned above in "Birth-Death Juxtaposition," the Wham Shot is of his father Matthew being slain in an automobile accident, thus marking the end of what is, arguably, the primary Myth Arc of the first three seasons.
  • Blackmail:
    • Thomas threatens to blackmail the Duke of Crowborough after he is rejected.
    • Mr Carson is blackmailed by an old friend threatening to reveal his embarrassing past... as a pier-side entertainer.
    • Bates is forced to come back to his wife when she finds out about the Kemal Pamuk scandal. Yes, he's blackmailed with someone else's dirty secret.
    • Sir Richard Carlisle also threatens Mary with revealing and publishing the Pamuk scandal, should she not toe the line and obey him (and marry him).
    • When O'Brien is scheming to get Thomas fired without a reference, Bates is asked to relate a simple message: "Her Ladyship's soap". That shuts her up.
    • When Thomas Barrow blackmails Baxter with her secret. Averted when she tells Cora before he does to save herself.
    • A Liverpool chambermaid from the hotel where Mary and Gillingham had their liaison tries to blackmail Mary... until Lord Grantham intervenes.
    • When Denker is about to be fired for speaking rudely to Dr. Clarkson, she uses her knowledge of Spratt housing his nephew, an escaped inmate, to force Spratt to stand up for her to Violet.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word. When the Countess Dowager asks Doctor Clarkson to make some "amenagement" with the truth to help Cora reconcile with Robert.
    Dr Clarkson: So you want me to lie to them and say there was no chance at all?
    Countess Dowager: "Lie" is such an unmusical word.
  • Blond, Brunette, Redhead: Cousin Rose comes to live at Downton, creating a complete set. Especially since Edith's hair seems to have become increasingly ginger over time.
  • Blood from the Mouth: John Drake, one of Lord Grantham's tenant farmers, when he was suffering from dropsy of the heart.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Episode 5 of Series 6 has been dubbed the Series' most shocking episode yet; having suffered with a mystery stomach complaint throughout the first half of the series, in episode 5 Robert literally vomits blood all over the dinner table, and many of the guests assembled when his stomach ulcer bursts. It was a moment of pure visceral gore that audiences are more used to seeing on something like Game of Thrones than a cosy, chocolate box episode of everyone’s favourite period drama. Even the World War I arc in Series 2 wasn't quite as bloody onscreen.
  • Book Ends:
    • Robert always seems completely unsuspecting when Telegrams of Doom drop into his hands. Granted, the first was a freak disaster, but the second comes amidst weeks if not months of building unease in the global news.
    • Matthew drives his Roadster in Season 3. The first time as he and Mary return from a trip, and the last he gets into a fatal car collision.
    • As noted in a different context above, the first series has someone die in Lady Mary's bed and the last episode has someone born in Lady Mary's bed.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Daisy. Only she doesn't seem to notice.
    • Matthew in Season 2.
    • Anna during any part of her romance. And especially as of 4x03
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Mary. In her early twenties, a haughty sort of aristocratic woman, self-assured in the way that only the young can be; ten years later, a Widow Woman, broken by the death of her long-sought-after husband, and only slowly growing out of the shell she had created for herself.
    • Ethel. She begins as a cheeky housemaid with ambitions of entering show business and a strange sense of entitlement. Then she proves too friendly with an officer convalescing at Downton, which leads to prostitution and ruin.
  • Breakfast in Bed: Downton Abbey observes the country-house tradition of married women eating their breakfast in bed, while single women join the men in the dining room. Cora eats her breakfast this way from the beginning of the series, except on rare instances when she's getting an early start on the day. Mary begins taking her breakfast in bed immediately after marrying Matthew. On the other hand, after being jilted at the altar by Sir Anthony, Edith rather defensively asserts that she prefers having her breakfast downstairs.
  • British Brevity: Never more than eight episodes in a season, with concluding Christmas specials.
  • Blue Blood: The series portrays characters that represent the British Peerage (and lesser ranks) at almost every grade, as the following examples show (in order of rank):
    • King / QueenGeorge V and Queen Mary
    • Prince — Edward, Prince of Wales
    • Duke / Duchess — The Duke of Crowborough, The Duchess of Yeovil
    • Marquess / Marchioness — Shrimpie and Susan MacClare (Marquess and Marchioness of Flintshire), Bertie Pelham and Lady Edith (Marquess and Marchioness of Hexham)
    • Earl / Countess — Robert and Cora Crawley (Earl and Countess of Grantham...if it wasn't obvious from the rest of this page)
    • Viscount — Anthony Foyle (Viscount Gillingham, so usually called "Tony Gillingham")
    • Baron — Jinx Hepworth, Billy Allsopp (Lord Aysgarth), Dickie Grey (Lord Merton) and Isobel (Lady Merton)
    • Baronet — Sir Anthony Strallan, Sir John Bullock
    • Knight / Dame (titles accorded and held for life only) — Sir Richard Carlisle, Dame Nellie Melba
    • Esquire (pure social courtesies, no formal rules governing use) — Matthew Crawley, Charles Blake. Note that Mr Crawley's style as Esquire has nothing to do with him being a lawyer (unlike the United States,note  in Britain the courtesy has no connection to the legal profession).
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Gwen, the housemaid who left the Abbey to work as a secretary in Season 1, pops back up in Season 6. She's married a politician and moved up in the world. None of the Crawleys recognize her.
    • At the end of season 5, Tom moves to Boston with Sybbie, and Rose moves to New York with her new husband, Atticus. In season 6, Tom becomes homesick and he and Sybbie return in episode 3, and Rose and Atticus visit in the series finale for Edith's wedding.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Robert and Jane.
    Robert: I want you with every fibre of my being, but it isn't fair to you; it isn't fair to anyone.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • In Season 1, Daisy is the lowest-ranking servant and is not supposed to be seen by any of the family.
    • Edith seems to have this role within the Crawley family. Even her parents expect her to be the one "taking care of [them] in [their] old age", and are none too pleased at the prospect.
    • Molesley. Poor chap keeps trying to advance his position within the Earl's household. He's valet to the heir, which means he'll almost certainly be valet to the Earl when the current Earl dies, but he keeps trying to move up now, and every time he gets slapped back down, whether by the surprising return of Bates early in Season 2, or by his own nervous drunkenness at the end. That's not to mention his unrequited crush on Anna (see Always Someone Better), his utter lack of cricket skills after he'd been talking a big game the entire episode, and his hilarious drunken dancing at the Ghillies ball after drinking the spiked drink that was meant for O'Brien. After Matthew's death his career as a valet ends and he refuses to go back to being a footman, and he ends up having to do manual labor. Eventually he is welcomed back but still notes that he is a trained valet and butler performing the work of a footman.
  • Call-Forward:
    • After the Crawleys save Prince Edward's bacon by retrieving an embarrassing letter in the Season 4 Christmas special, Mary makes a snarky comment about how Edward, given his character, will probably get himself in a mess again. Edward did just that with the Wallis Simpson affair.
    • After George V's first radio address, Isobel approves of the royal family letting themselves be seen as more human by such tactics, while Violet fears that too much of it could have nasty consequences. In the short term Isobel was right, as George VI became very popular through his radio addresses and his daughter Elizabeth II retained that popularity, but her own children (Charles, Andrew, Edward and Anne) became tabloid fodder. However, as seen with the "William and Kate effect", George VI's great-grandchildren very much take after him, and the royal family's star is back on the rise.
    • A hilariously hamfisted one in the last season. When Minister of Health Neville Chamberlain makes a visit to the Abbey, Mrs. Patmore remarks "They say he might be Prime Minister one day."
    • Edith's boyfriend Michael Gregson is killed while traveling in Germany in 1922 by men who "wear brown shirts and go around preaching the most horrible things."
  • Calming Tea: The ladies spend a lot of time having tea, and their go-to solution to something bad happening is to offer tea.
    • Your estranged wife suddenly appears to ruin any sliver of happiness you might have had. Have some tea.
    • Sorry, you'll never walk again. Tea?
    • Mary points this out when she first discovers Sybil and Branson's relationship and says, "What do you think would happen, you'd marry the chauffeur and you'd invite us over for tea?"
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Every time a character confesses a secret to another, chances are the person would pass it on to somebody else, or there would be a third person eavesdropping anyway. You'd think after a while nobody would bother to ask people to keep secrets any more.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Dr Clarkson would like to marry Isobel, it seems, but he can't quite form the words in the Season 3 finale.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
  • Card-Carrying Villain / Token Evil Teammate: Thomas and O'Brien. It's unclear why they do any of the things they do beyond petty jealousy and the fact that they simply like hurting other people.
    • During a conversation with a blind soldier during Season 2, the writers all but outright have Thomas state that his evil is a mixture of Freudian Excuse and He Who Fights Monsters; in his case, him being a homosexual and a servant, which puts him in the position of having to work for assholes who treat him like shit rather than being in control over his own destiny.
  • Card Sharp: There's one in Season 4, who cleans out all the rich folks (including, naturally, Lord Grantham) until Edith's new boyfriend figures him out and wins everyone's money back.
  • Cast Herd: Happens often with the upstairs and downstairs characters.
  • Casting Gag: A variant, related not to talent but to class: in the first series, Rose Leslie plays the working-class housemaid Gwen Dawson in the giant titular great house. Leslie herself comes from an old Scottish noble family; her father is chief of his branch of Clan Leslie and related to the Earl of Rothes. She was literally raised in a castle, and her parents own another castle. This wouldn't be terribly remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the British class system is practically a character on its own on Downton—and because she is the only true Blue Blood aristocratnote  ever to have been part of the main cast (in a show filled with fictional and not-so-fictional nobs, up to and including the Royal Family). (One wonders whether this influenced the addition of the namesake character of Lady Rose—herself an in-universe Scottish noblewoman.)
  • The Cast Showoff: invoked Lady Mary's singing in Season 2, Episode 4 is Michelle Dockery's real voice; Dockery is an amateur jazz singer in her spare time. (She incidentally occasionally sings with Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Lady Grantham and has the same hobby, but so far the Countess has never sung onscreen.)
  • The Chains of Commanding: Lord Grantham and Mr Carson struggle to be fair with the people under their charge and neither of them take their responsibilities lightly. Mr Carson even quotes Henry IV on the subject: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."
  • Character Check: Mary and Edith discuss their apparently ongoing Sibling Rivalry in the wake of Sybil's death, after spending most of the third season interacting with perfect civility, even being friendly and supportive at times.
  • Character Shilling: Henry Talbot is nice enough, but in season 6 several characters (particularly Tom) go on and on about how perfect he is for Mary, despite only a few unremarkable scenes of them flirting being shown on screen. Granted, they do seem Happily Married in the series finale, but the buildup could have been done better.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Partway through Season 4 we find out that Bates picked up forging while in prison when he uses it to help out Molesley by writing a fake loan contract that said Bates owed him thirty pounds. This comes back in the Christmas Special, when Bates forges a note as part of Lord Grantham's plan to get the letter back.
  • Christmas Episode: Each season after the first ends with a Christmas special, though seasons 2 and 5 are the only ones actually set at Christmas.
  • Clear My Name: Don't worry, Bates, Anna will save you from your own undying sense of gentlemanly decency and honour.
  • Comic-Book Time: At times there's an odd disconnect between the amount of time passing in the show (particularly in Season 2, with at least a year passing between almost every episode) and the way the characters act like it's happening in real time. It gets weirder when you consider some characters' ages; Daisy's actress has even joked that she must have been ten years old at the start of the series.
  • Conflict Ball:
    • During the latter half of Season 2, Lord Grantham is a jerk to Cora seemingly out of nowhere.
    • In the Season 3 opener, Robert loses his (that is, Cora's) fortune at the same time as Matthew comes into one. Does that all seem too tidy? Don't worry, Mary immediately as good as demands Matthew's money for the good of the family, and objects so strenuously when he explains that he feels unworthy to take it in the first place that it's uncertain whether they will marry after all.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Thomas intentionally gets his hand shot through with a sniper's bullet, earning him a deferment. He returns to the Abbey wearing a black glove to hide the scarring.
  • Continuity Nod: A few, for example regarding changing fashions.
    • Robert's first purchase of a tuxedo is seen (by Violet at least) as a silly dress-up game; a few years later it's a recognised fashion, though not one regarded as suitable dress for a white tie dinner.
    • In Season 3, Anna can be seen wearing Mary's plain nursing dress from Season 2 — probably a hand-me-down gift.
  • Contraception Deception: Averted. Bates and his wife Anna agree to try to have children, but after some time passes, Anna is still not pregnant. Then Bates finds contraception pills in Anna's stuff. This leads him to believe that she is sabotaging their attempts to have children. It turns out that she is not. The contraception pills are for her employer Lady Mary who is sleeping with Anthony Gillingham, but doesn't want any extra-marital children.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: This trope befalls Cora in the Season 1 finale, presumably to avert the actual wrench that everyone has been anticipating will be thrown into the resolution of the Succession Crisis. It's still very sad though, and most of the characters wouldn't consider it convenient at all.
  • Cool Car: Wealthy Edwardians had some quite imposing brass-era limousines and tourers. Not all the cars should be there, though; any number of steel-radiator Ford Model Ts can be seen in Season 1, a style that was first offered in 1917 (and likely not seen in great numbers in the UK until after WW1).
  • Cool Crown: Upper-crust Edwardian ladies wore small, elegant tiaras, and the fashion was also common for other rich ladies in the 1920s. Lady Grantham often wears a light tiara when entertaining.
  • Cool Old Lady: Violet. "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!". Cora's mother, Martha Levinson also, with her twinkling forward manner and modern attitude
  • Costume Drama
  • Cousin Oliver: Lady Rose is a literal cousin who functions as a replacement for Sybil.
  • Curse Cut Short: Lord Grantham, talking to his wife and daughters upon receiving the news that Matthew has been seriously injured at Amiens (Season 2, Episode 5):
    Robert: No, it's the usual balls—mess-up, I'm afraid.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Mrs Patmore can be quite creative when it comes to threats:
    Mrs Patmore: Take those kidneys up to the servery before I knock you down and serve your brains as fritters!

    D to F 
  • Dances and Balls: Approximately Once a Season.
    • Sybil had one in London during season 1. We didn't see it.
    • The Servants' Ball in the season 2 Christmas special.
    • The Ghillies’ Ball in the season 3 Christmas special.
    • Rose gets a ball with a special guest in the season 4 Christmas special.
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 2, due to it being set largely during World War I.
  • Dark Secret:
    • Mr Pamuk died in Mary's bed and Cora and Anna helped moved his corpse.
    • Thomas is gay though this isn't as much of a secret as he thinks.
    • Bates was imprisoned as a thief.
    • O'Brien caused Cora's miscarriage.
    • Mr Carson's former acting career is one for him; no one else cares about it.
    • Anna was raped by Gillingham's valet and she fears Bates will take revenge and end up hanged for it if he finds out.
    • In the later seasons, Baxter gets a near carbon-copy of Bates' dark secret from season 1.
    • Mary's tryst with Lord Gillingham at a hotel.
    • Edith having a daughter out of wedlock.
  • Dashed Plotline: Each season is stretched over two or three years.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Sybil and Branson.
    Robert: "None of this is what I wanted for her".
    • Branson's family is not exactly thrilled with his choice of wife, either, being a non-Catholic English woman.
      Violet: Well what does you mother make of this?
      Branson: If you must know, she thinks we're very foolish.
    • This is more or less Rose's shtick, except she dates (or at least kisses) what Mommy will hate: a married man, a black man, a working-class man, a Jewish man.... To put the icing on the cake, she marries the Jewish man, whom (to add insult to her mother's injury) Rose's father actually likes.
  • A Day in Her Apron: In season 6, Mrs. Hughes gets fed up with Carson complaining about her cooking, so she fakes a wrist injury to force him to make dinner. He gets visibly flustered and exhausted, and shuts up after that.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Thomas, Miss O'Brien and the Dowager Countess.
  • Death Glare: Mrs Hughes hands out a couple of these to Anna's rapist, Mr Green, in Season 4. Bates also gets one at the end of 4x07 — see Wham Shot below.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Vera Bates and Lavinia Swire in the Season 2.
  • December–December Romance: Isobel Crawley and Lord Merton. At the same time (Season 5), the Dowager Countess is seriously drawn to her old (chaste) Russian flame Prince Kuragin, but is also very seriously conflicted for many reasons. In late season 5 and season 6, there's also Carson and Mrs. Hughes.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: The first two seasons deconstructed The Dutiful Son (or daughter, in this case) with Lady Mary, who was brought up believing family honour is everything even above personal happiness. She eventually falls in love with Matthew but her mother's pregnancy and possibility of finally having a male heir causes her break things off because Matthew would be title-less. When Cora loses the baby, Mary again tries to be with Matthew but he loses trust in her and believes her to be a Gold Digger. In season 2, Mary becomes engaged to Sir Richard who could provide for her even if everyone hates him. She breaks it off eventually and her father finally recognizes his fault in making Mary sacrifice love for honour. He tells her she can marry whoever she wants because a little scandal is worth it as long as his daughter is happy.
  • Deconstructed Trope: The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry, by showing us just how nasty it can get if the parents do nothing to stop it. Being the popular and beautiful sister, Mary believes that she is superior to Hollywood Homely Edith in every way. And she can see no other purpose for Edith existing than that she can use her as her personal punching bag to make herself feel better. And it becomes very clear that Edith also is Cora's least favorite daughter, so she can get no sympathy from her either. Robert is a bit better, but he too dotes on Mary (who is the oldest daughter, who will do everything to keep the family estate running) and has little time for the unlucky middle child Edith. What should have only been a teenage grudge between the two sisters turns into a poisonous relationship, that will not change for the better until they have both reached their 30s.
  • Defiled Forever:
    • This attitude runs to the heart of the Kemal Pamuk incident. He says he knows she won't cry out because even to be found with a man in her room would ruin her reputation, knowledge he essentially blackmails her with. Sure enough, when the news inevitably gets out it makes it that much harder for her to find an eligible suitor, and she describes herself as "damaged goods".
    • Poor Anna also seems to believe this of herself after she is raped; fortunately, her husband strenuously disagrees.
    • Bertie's mother feels this way about Edith, but she quickly comes around.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Lady Mary.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Several examples that today are commonplace cause major distress. (Notably, several characters change their attitudes over time. This reflects the changing social mores of the era.)
    • Woman having a lover before marriage. Or having a baby out of wedlock.
    • Inter-class marriages are treated with utter horror by the inhabitants of Downton Abbey. (Though they warm up to Branson eventually.)
    • The notion of a lady undertaking any job harder than trying on a dress or flirting is treated with contempt, especially by the Dowager Countess.
    • The idea that anyone of high station might take gainful employment rather than just manage the estate is initially disconcerting to all of the Crawleys and most of the servants, as well. Some of them gradually warm up to it.
    • It's seen as somewhat odd that Matthew would continue his practice as a solicitor, (considered a distinctly un-prestigious middle-class profession in Britain at the time). The problem isn't with him being a lawyer, but rather a solicitor. It wouldn't have been terribly strange had Matthew been a barrister, which was one of the few professions which the gentry could take without shame — particularly because it was the best way to get into politics and pretty much the only way to get into the judiciary. Solicitors had back then little chance of advancement outside of becoming a better-known solicitor (unless they sought to become barristers, which they could,note  but it was difficult) and they were viewed with a skewed eye by most upper-class English in those days.
    • They slam this hard in the opening of the eighth episode of the Season 3, when Carson discusses that Thomas will have to leave Downton because of his homosexuality.
      Carson: I cannot hide that I find your situation revolting, but whether or not you believe me I am not entirely unsympathetic. You have been twisted by nature into something foul and even I can see that you did not ask for it. I think it better that you resign, quietly...
    • Witness the complete reversal regarding Edith's courtship of Sir Anthony. From a perfectly acceptable relationship, indeed superior to Sybil's and surprising for an unfavored middle child, with an older gentleman in the first season, Sir Anthony immediately becomes abhorrent to the family in the third. This is because he was injured in the war and lost the use of his right arm. Overnight he went from a good match to a doddering old cripple.
    • When we first hear of Rosamund, Mary says she envies her for being a rich single woman in the big city but Robert is offended by what he believes is an insinuation that his sister is an Old Maid.
    • Much of the drama involving Ethel in Season 3 stems from the belief that many of the characters share that to be even near an ex-prostitute is enough to taint their own reputations.
    • In-Universe: When she first meets her grandsons-in-law Mrs. Levinson, being an American, seems to approve of Branson (a hard-working social climber) more than Matthew (a distant relative set to inherit her late husband's fortune).
  • Denser and Wackier: Every season after the first one. While the first season is a rather understated comedy of manners, the second is much more densely plotted and veers at several times into full blown Soap Opera. Plot lines involve a conman faking a relative coming back from the dead with amnesia, a suicide-murder frame-up, pregnancy of an unmarried woman, a miraculous medical recovery and a rather superfluous affair. Somewhat justified in that the years it covers include World War I and The Spanish Flu pandemic, which brought with them a great deal more death and suffering, and social upheaval, than the residents of Downton would have been used to before the war.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Thomas' encounters with Pamuk and Crowborough. And in Season 3, he chooses to enter Jimmy's bedroom and make advances on him while he was asleep and unable to give consent.
    • Averted when Thomas goes out of his way to save Jimmy from thieves. (Thomas gets beaten up in the process.) He also accepts Jimmy's orientation, and asks if the two of them can still be friends.
  • Deus ex Machina: The giant pile of Swire money that arrives to save Downton Abbey in Season 3. And then the letter from Matthew, tucked into a book, which allows Mary to inherit his property.
    • Characters in this show seem to have a tradition of writing important letters, and then not mentioning them to anyone, and then the letters get discovered after your death.
  • Devoted to You: Lady Mary attracts this attention from a whole slew of men including Matthew, Evelyn Napier, Tony Gillingham, Charles Blake and Henry Talbot. Which is odd, since she isn't any prettier, smarter, kinder or more interesting than her sisters or Lavinia. Maybe it's the most inexplicable in Matthew's case. Sure, after they get to know each other and laugh together, it's believable they have a connection, but he was enchanted by the first impression she made, a walking, snooty representation of every value he found antipathic who even toyed with him down the line.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: So, so many. Especially in the third season.
  • Dies Wide Open:
    • Kemal Pamuk, to Mary's consternation.
    • Vera Bates.
    • In the Season 3 special, Matthew Crawley.
  • Dinner and a Show: Frequently, with the "upstairs" drama often interspersed with the backstage exploits of the servants preparing the meal.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Mrs Hughes has a breast cancer scare in Season 3, and tries very hard to keep quiet about it to everyone but Mrs Patmore. Though they're willing — albeit uncomfortable — to use the C-word, the straightest use of the trope is when Carson tells Cora she's "ill... perhaps very ill".
  • Disposable Fiancé: Both Mary and Matthew have one in Season 2. Lavinia is killed by Spanish flu whilst Richard Carlisle blackmails Mary into their engagement before she breaks it off with him in the Christmas special.
  • Disposing of a Body: Not so much disposing as in getting entirely rid of it, but disposing in the sense of secretly moving it to cover up a damning situation when Kemal Pamuk dies in Mary’s bed.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: William to Daisy. In the beginning, Matthew to Lady Mary. Branson to Sybil.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Bates to Anna. Ethel very nearly says this to Mrs Hughes when the two discuss how her baby son, Charlie, should meet his paternal grandparents in a nicer place than the hovel in which she and the child were living.
  • Don't Split Us Up: Ethel's reaction when Major Bryant's parents ask her to let them adopt her baby and have her walk out of his life. She refuses. Until Season 3, when she gives him to them so he can have a better life.
  • Double Entendre: "Mr Pamuk, Thomas is going to take care of you tonight" — "Yes, Thomas is always sullen like that but he always cheers up when he sees a gentleman"...
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: A Double Subversion. Thomas tries to kiss James while he's sleeping after misinterpreting their relationship. Everyone downstairs is shocked and outraged, not because of the lack of consent, but because of the supposed depravity of Thomas' homosexuality itself. Even Mrs Hughes, one of the more open-minded residents of Downton, suggests that James may have brought it on himself by accidentally giving Thomas signs that James was into him.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Imagine a male servant who insults a female employer and makes her doubt her self-worth. Imagine he bursts into her bedroom while she's topless and steals a kiss. Can you imagine her interceding to make sure he still got a good reference? Well, that exact scenario plays out with Tom and Edna. The implications get even worse after they sleep together: he was going through a personal crisis and drunk when she sneaked into his bedroom. Then, she attempts a Baby Trap.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Season 1. Why hello there WORLD WAR ONE.
    • Season 2 has the Spanish Flu.
    • Season 3 has an episode where Sybil dies from eclampsia after childbirth.
    • In the Season 3 Christmas special when Matthew dies in a car crash... soon after greeting his new son.
  • Drama Bomb Finale: Foregone Conclusion though it might be, it doesn't get much more dramatic than the outbreak of World War I.
  • Dramatic Irony: Cora, Anna and Mary carry a dead body from one end of the house to the other, by themselves, and with only Daisy noticing. The following day, after the body has been discovered, Lord Grantham worries about the ladies and female servants' state of mind. After all:
    "We must have a care for feminine sensibilities. They are finer and more fragile than our own."
    • In the second episode of Season 5, Cora and Robert wonder about Edith's sudden decision to be godmother to the baby girl the Drewes adopted who also happens to be Edith's biological daughter. Robert immediately thinks his daughter wants a child of her own after the disappearance of Michael Gregson.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Vera, apparently with arsenic bought by Bates, no less.
    • A blinded soldier at the village hospital in Season 2, after being told he is to be sent away to a rehabilitation centre.
    • In season 6, Thomas attempts it, but he is saved just in time.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Kemal Pamuk just...dies, for no apparent reason, after spending the night with Mary.
    • Matthew dying in a car crash at the end of Season 3.
    • Sybil dies from complications of childbirth.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Subtle, but Daisy's flashback in Season 1.
    • In the first episode, Bates' fitness for his job is a point of contention. Nearly everyone except Robert wants him out, but among the loudest voices in favor of letting him go is Cora. That is extremely out of character for her relative to the rest of the series, in which she is often the only one who doesn't look down her nose at anyone with a disadvantage.
    • Early on, we see a lot more of the never-named servants who also work in the house.
      • Lampshaded in the show itself, as the outbreak of war reduces the Abbey's previously generous staffing to an absolute operating minimum, and it never quite recovers its earlier Edwardian grandeur even into the 1920s.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Anna and Bates. He jumped through a ton of hoops to try to divorce his awful wife, and after she was finally out of their way, he was wrongfully imprisoned for her death. By the end of Season 3 they're finally able to be together and happy, until she is raped in season 4, and both of them are suspects in her rapist's murder. In season 6 that issue is finally resolved, but then Anna struggles with infertility.
    • Also applies to Lady Edith, who not only suffers through at least as much heartbreak and suffering as the rest of the Crawleys but spends most of the series as The Un-Favourite and Butt-Monkey. This continues all the way to the last episode of season six, when her engagement to Bertie Pelham is sabotaged by Mary. Finally, in the Christmas Special (and series finale) she gets to marry Bertie after all - and become marchioness of Hexham and thereby outranking her parents and her sister. Not only does she get to live happily ever after, her husband and his mother know that Marigold is her daughter and accept it.
    • Poor Molesley goes from being butler at Crawley house to being valet to the heir, and after the heir's death must take a job doing manual labor as he is too proud to return to Downton as a footman. He eventually does return after the staff take pity on him, but he is prone to numerous embarrassing mishaps until he eventually decides to take a test and become a teacher at the local school, inspiring students who thought they could never be anything but servants either.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Jimmy's first introduction to the female staff. And Thomas, who walks in on him dressing...
  • The Edwardian Era: Even though Edward VII's successor George V is king during the show's setting, the Edwardian era is generally accepted as lasting until the outbreak of World War One in 1914.
  • The Eeyore: Mr Carson.
  • Elopement: Violet reveals that, during her time in Russia, Prince Kuragin and her planned to run away to elope, despite both of them already being married. Kuragin's wife chased them down and forced Violet to return to her own husband. In retrospect, Violet is happy she was saved from a terrible mistake.
  • End of an Age: The show in a nutshell, especially with Series Two being set during World War I. Series One is explicitly the only season where the British Aristocracy is at the height of their power and influence. It diminishes with each passing season.
  • Endangered Soufflé
  • Enforced Cold War: Thomas and O'Brien versus the rest of the servants.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • One of the first things Robert says in the pilot tells the audience very quickly what kind of man he is: aware of the evils of the system he lives in, but not really enticed to see it change.
      Carson: I understand that most of the ladies (referring to the Titanic sinking) were taken off in time.
      Robert: You mean the ladies in first class. God help the poor devils below decks. On their way to a better life.
    • In-universe for why Carson is so fond of Lady Mary: when she was five, she came downstairs politely explaining to him that she was running away and might she please have some of the silverware to sell for money?
  • Evil Duo: O'Brien and Thomas. They seemed in jeopardy of splitting up at the end of Season 1, after Thomas joined the army and O'Brien was atoning for causing Cora's miscarriage, but it didn't last long. As of Season 3, they've fallen out again over Thomas' mistreatment of Alfred (or something).
  • Evil Is Petty: Thomas and O'Brien seem to like to screw with their employers, other members of the staff, and even each other, for no real reason.
  • Evil Redhead: Edna.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Thomas v. O'Brien, regarding Alfred and Jimmy, in Season 3.
  • Everyone Can See It: Mary and Matthew.
  • Evolving Credits: Each season has a different promotional poster showing Downton's inhabitants. Notably after Season 2, the number of servants starts decreasing as maids and footmen become more and more redundant.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Thomas hears just enough of the Countesses' discussion of Violet's search for a new maid to think they're talking about replacing O'Brien. Admittedly, it doesn't help that O'Brien herself overhears the Earl and Countess talking about firing her.
  • Exact Words: In his revelation about his past to Carson, Mrs Hughes, and Anna in Season 1 Episode 6, he says "Thomas has tried to convince you that I am a drunkard and a thief... Until a couple of years ago I was a drunkard, and I was imprisoned as a thief." He never says that he actually was a thief...and we soon learn that he was not—Mrs Bates had actually carried out the theft, but Bates took the fall (in large part because he was a depressed drunk).
  • Exiled to the Couch:
    • In the latter episodes of Season 3, Robert is forced to sleep in his dressing room for several days while Cora is blaming him for Sybil’s death.
    • Later, Robert exiles himself there after getting annoyed with Cora getting too close to another man. Cora finally gives him an ultimatum, telling him that, if he had never found himself in a similar situation, he should stay in that room; otherwise, he should return to their bedroom. After recalling his situation with Jane, Robert quietly follows Cora to their room.
  • Expy: Loads, considering it's basically Gosford Park: The Series. Possibly the most obvious is Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, who is extremely similar to Gosford's Constance, Dowager Countess of Trentham, and played by the same actress.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner:
    • The name "Kemal Pamuk" sounds suspiciously like a composite of the names of two famous Turks, Kemal Atatürk (the founder of the Republic of Turkey) and Orhan Pamuk (a Nobel-winning novelist), despite the fact that Ottomans didn't have official surnames; and even though some wealthy and powerful families would have unofficial family names, those names would be nowhere near as plain and simple as the single word "pamuk", which means "cotton" in Turkish.
    • In Season 5 we meet two noble refugees from the Russian Revolution, named Prince Kuragin and Count Rostov.
  • Fallen Princess: Lady Mary after sleeping with Kemal Pamuk and then having to cover up his death.
  • Fancy Dinner: There are many of these. Matthew screws up at his first one. Also of note is when they try to hold one of these during the war and are severely affected by rationing. And, as always, we see these from both the perspective of the Crawleys and the servants, in something of a subversion of the trope (including the "screwing up" bit: Alfred screws up his first dinner by using incorrect service).
  • Fiery Redhead:
    • Mrs Patmore, especially when she was trying to fly under the radar about having cataracts in S1.
    • Ethel is passionately fiery until she's sacked for having sex; after that, all her fire goes into desperately trying to get either her love-child's father or the father's parents to acknowledge her son and help her support herself.
    • Averted by Gwen, who has a very sweet temperament, but she can be fiery at times. In Episode 1.03, Miss O'Brien swiped her typewriter and put it on display in the servants' hall. Carson & Mrs Hughes called Gwen on the carpet over it, for no really good or discernible reason, and Gwen finally let it rip in her umbrage and embarrassment:
      Gwen: I've bought a typewriter and I've taken a correspondence course. I'm not aware that either one of these things is illegal!
  • First-Name Basis / Last-Name Basis: The family refers to butlers, valets, chauffeurs and ladies' maids by their last name alone, and to housemaids and footmen by their first name alone. Housekeepers and cooks add "Mrs." to their last name whether they're married or not.
    • When ex-chauffeur Tom Branson marries Sybil, the family struggle to call him "Tom" rather than "Branson." Around the same time, footman Thomas Barrow is promoted to under-butler and starts going by "Barrow" rather than "Thomas," which helps to enforce One-Steve Limit. Anna and Molesley keep their forms of address despite moving through various positions.
  • Flat "What":
    • Thomas, when Bates suggests a search for the missing snuffbox which Thomas had hidden in Bates' room.
    • Anna, when Bates tells her he bought the rat poison he thinks Vera used to commit suicide.
    • When Jimmy tells Carson that he feels he ought to go to the police about Thomas's homosexuality, this is Carson's response.
  • Flower Motifs: Five characters are named after flowers; Daisy, Violet, Ivy, Rose and Marigold.
  • For the Evulz: Thomas and O'Brien, and they often have no identifiable motivation. And ironically, the one thing O'Brien at least thought she had a motivation for (planting a bar of soap so Cora would have a fall) is the only one for which she actually shows regret.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Sir Anthony's comment in episode 3.02 that "there's never been a safer mode of travel" than the automobile.
    • When it becomes clear in Season 1 that war is about to be declared, William makes it clear that he's all ready to sign up and fight. Thomas' response?
      Thomas: Thank you, Mr Cannon Fodder. Which is exactly what he wound up being: Matthew & William got caught in a cannon blast, with William throwing himself in front of Matthew to try and protect him. Matthew lived; William didn't.
    • Every time Lavinia had any reason to believe that she and Matthew wouldn't live happily ever after, she started whinging about how she couldn't live without him. Guess what happened when she decided to break it off with him because she realized he loved Mary more than he loved her? (Hint:she died of Spanish flu only a few hours later.)
  • Friend to All Children: Thomas in season 6 is shown to be good with kids, especially George.
  • Freudian Trio
    • The Crawley girls. Mary (superego) and Edith (id) always bickered while Sybil (ego) was the peacemaker. This changed in later seasons with Edith and Sybil switching roles.
    • The Crawley matriarchs. The ultra-conservative aristocrat Violet (Superego) and the liberal, upper-middle class Isobel (Id) always butt heads while Cora (Ego) has to remind them she is Downton's current mistress.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: At least one example; when Kemal Pamuk barges into Lady Mary's room, she is wearing an all-concealing and fairly shapeless nightgown; she nevertheless picks up the covers and holds them to her body to cover it as if she were completely naked. Truth in Television for the time period.

    G to I 
  • Gaydar:
  • Gayngst: Thomas. In Season 5 he goes so far as to spend money on some quack treatment that is supposed to make him straight.
  • Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Subverted. Thomas attempts suicide in the final season, but he is found in time and survives. Also, his suicide attempt is the result of him feeling alone and increasingly unsure of his place in the world, and his gayness is hardly the only reason for those feelings.
  • George Jetson Job Security: One of the servants being in danger of sacking is almost a Once an Episode occurrence.
  • Generation Xerox: Lady Mary caring for Mr Carson, the butler, as a Parental Substitute, translates years later into her son George caring in the same way for Mr Barrow, the new butler.
  • Genre Blind: William makes a point of asking Daisy for her picture to take with him to the trenches.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: Starting at the end of Season 2, all the boxes are ticked — on the surface. May count as an aversion or subtle subversion, as the social change of the '20s is definitely present — in the background most of the time, but sometimes (such as Season 3, Episode 8) the tumult comes to the fore.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Branson's hatred of the institution of aristocracy goes out the window when Robert offers to use the old boy network to get the police off his back. He is motivated to agree so as not to drag Sybil down with him.
  • Gilligan Cut: Carson admonishes the downstairs staff not to spread the word upstairs about the controversy surrounding Mrs. Patmore's bed-and-breakfast. The next shot is Anna and Lady Mary laughing hysterically about the "house of ill repute".
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Between Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Lampshaded in the second season, when the sisters set side their differences in order to entertain the soldiers, much to the surprise of their family:
    Violet: Now I've seen everything.
    • Referenced again in Season 3, despite not having been in evidence for most of the season, when they discuss putting aside their differences in the wake of their sister's death. Mary states honestly that it's unlikely they'll ever get on, but it should be tried. (They apparently don't succeed, since their fighting gets even worse in Season 4 and 5.)
  • Gold Digger: Plenty of them!
    • The Duke of Crowborough is interested in marrying Mary only if she inherits the estate.
    • Lady Edith wanted to marry Matthew so she can remain at the estate and inherit in Mary's place. Mary hedges about accepting Matthew’s proposal when it looks like he might not inherit Downton (influence by another, however).
    • Lady Rosamund points out that Mary is marrying Sir Richard solely because he is rich (which isn't entirely true).
    • The debt-ridden Lord Hepworth wants to marry Lady Rosamund so he can buy back the estates of his childhood home.
    • Mary is again accused of this in season 6 due to her hesitation over marrying Henry.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: After visiting a back alley clinic, Edith decides to keep her out-of-wedlock baby.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking:
    • Thomas and O'Brien smoke the cigarettes of evil. In one interview with Rob James-Collier he said he feels that was their common bond; stepping out for a cigarette would give them the chance to get out from under the watchful eye of Mr Carson and plot their schemes.
    • On the other hand, Lord Grantham enjoys a good cigar after dinner, in which he is sometimes joined by Matthew.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The series' producers did an excellent job in this respect.
  • Grande Dame: Violet.
  • The Greatest History Never Told: The 1918 influenza pandemic is a main focus in the second season.
  • The Grotesque: Poor Patrick...Peter..."P. Gordon" — whoever he is, his war wounds have made him a mess.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: When the Dowager Countess and Martha Levinson appear in the same scene, the result is a fantastic battle of wit by the characters and acting by their actresses (whom, we should remember, are two of the greatest actresses of their generation).
  • Handicapped Badass: Bates.
  • Hands-On Approach: Thomas teaching Jimmy how to wind up the clocks.
  • Happily Married:
    • Robert and Cora, with some bumps in the road that are always smoothed out.
    • Rosamund and Marmaduke were, according to all press pack material, happily married until his death.
    • Violet and her husband Patrick, fifth Earl of Grantham, were this too. Violet gets tearful twice in Season 3 over the mention of his death, so it was a happy marriage until he died.
    • Sybil and Branson, after a few hiccups in Season 3 due to Tom's actions with an arsonist group that get them kicked out of Ireland are fairly happily married... until, yes, you guessed it Sybil dies in childbirth. There's a pattern here. See it?
    • Yet again with Matthew and Mary, who after a very long and rocky beginning are quite blissful until a freak car crash kills off Matthew. It makes the ending even more of a Tear Jerker, since his death immediately follows after they welcome their son into the world.
    • And yet again with Bates and Anna until her horrifying rape in Season 4 drives a wedge of secrecy and trauma between them. Things get better for them by the end of the series.
    • As of the end of season 6, Rose and Atticus, Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Mary and Henry, and Isobel and Lord Merton.
  • Has a Type:
    • Robert has been in a committed, loving relationship with his wife, Cora, for thirty years. He has a brief dalliance, that never goes beyond stolen kisses, with a housemaid who, like his wife, is a brunette with piercing blue eyes and devoted to her family.
    • Thomas also has a type—and unfortunately for him, his type is selfish, manipulative, unattainable Pretty Boys like the Duke of Crowborough, Kemal Pamuk, and Jimmy.
  • He Knows Too Much: Daisy.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Gender-Inverted with Jimmy the handsome footman, who gets the downstairs ladies, the upstairs ladies and Thomas to all light up with interest, and causes a disapproving Carson to say that hard work and industriousness is more important than being handsome.
  • Heir Club for Men: None of the Earl's daughters can inherit, only his male relatives.
  • Held Gaze: Bates and Anna. Matthew and Mary. Matthew and Sybil, oddly. Sybil and Branson. Robert and Jane.
  • Hidden Depths: Mrs Hughes may be the kindly, practical Team Mom, but she is anything but naive (she was not at all shocked by Thomas' sexual orientation, even mentioning that he was not the first gay man she had ever known), or timid (she confronted Mr Green and told him to his face that she knew what he did to Anna). As she herself puts it,
    Mrs Hughes: I may not be a woman of the world, but I don't live in a sack.
  • High-Class Gloves: The various actresses wear these throughout the series in scenes where they're dressed in formal outfits, starting from episode 1 where Cora is seen putting on a pair of long black gloves while dressing for dinner. (Very much Truth in Television, as properly dressed men and women of the middle and upper classes were expected to wear gloves as accessories to almost everything except bathing suits and sleepwear during The Edwardian Era.)
  • Hired Help as Family: The serving staff often have personal connections to the noble Crawley family. And if it's not personal, the Crawleys are shown to respect them or appreciate them as their employees, while the staff are usually loyal and hard-working.
    • Carson is a butler, very much respected by the whole family. The eldest daughter Lady Mary is his particular favourite and he remembers fondly what a sweet child she was. Lady Mary is rather proud of her beauty and her blue blood, but she always respects Carson and appreciates his loyal service, seeks his opinion and approval.
    • Lord Grantham hires John Bates as his valet even if he isn't quite fit to fulfil all of his duties because Bates doesn't have any other place to go. He served under Lord Grantham in the Boer War as his batman, i.e. his military valet/gofer/bodyguard.
    • Lady Sybil is a socialist and she develops two meaningful relationship among the staff: she befriends Gwen the maid and helps her land her dream job, and she befriends and then falls in love with their chauffeur Tom Branson. She also wants to work as a nurse during war years, and she kindly asks the kitchen staff to teach her cook and she wants to learn how to take care of herself a bit, so that she doesn't look completely hopeless during the training.
  • Historical Domain Character: Edward Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, is an idiot that the Crawleys have to help out of a jam in the Season 4 Christmas Special. Minister of Health Neville Chamberlain visits Downton Abbey while on an inspection tour of northern hospitals in Season 6.
  • Historical In-Joke: While casting about for alternative ways to make money in the Season 3 finale, Robert mentions a chap in America who promises huge returns on investment, some fellow called Ponzi...
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Branson and Sybil are prevented from eloping when Mary and Edith, whom Branson taught to drive, chase after them in the car.
    • O'Brien's goal since the beginning of Season 3 was to make Alfred first footman, and decides to take revenge on Thomas when he tries to sabotage Alfred. In her plot for vengeance, O'Brien makes Thomas believe new footman Jimmy has feelings for him, which leads Thomas to enter Jimmy's room without permission and attempt to make advances on him while he is asleep in Season 3. The end result, though, is that Lord Grantham hands Jimmy the position of first footman precisely to keep him from reporting Thomas to the police.
  • Holding Hands: Sybil and Branson have a bit of a moment of holding hands in episode seven and again in 2x08, after Robert gives his consent to their marriage.
  • Honor Before Reason: several characters go this way, doing what they deem the most honorable conduct: Robert's unwillingness to contest the entail, against his daughter's best interest (and against the repeated advice of his own mother); Matthew's refusal of Lavinia's inheritance he believes himself unworthy of (in spite of Downton's financial problems); Bates is ready to protect the Crawley's honor at all personal costs when confronted to Vera's blackmail; and so on.
    • In season 6, Bertie's mother gives her blessing for Bertie and Edith's engagement, despite Edith's confession that Marigold is her biological daughter, precisely because Edith valued honesty over the happiness and status she would gain from the marriage. Clearly Edith learned her lesson after not telling Bertie her secret backfired horribly.
  • Hopeless Suitor:
    • Poor Molesley. He's got no chance with Anna, considering how desperately she loves Mr Bates. His interest doesn't last for long though.
    • For the duration of an episode, Edna is blatantly trying to win the affections of Branson, but eventually he admits that he can’t consider loving anyone other than Sybil.
    • Larry Grey was this to Sybil in the past, as she admits he was sweet on her but she can hardly remember him. Yeesh. Suffice to say he doesn't take the fact that she fell in love with and married a servant instead of him very well.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Cora getting pregnant... and then losing the baby. And then finding out that it would have been a boy.
    • Bates and Anna's engagement and subsequent happiness come crashing down when Vera appears.
    • Edith finally gets engaged to Anthony Strallan, only for him to leave her at the altar.
    • Sybil gives birth to a healthy daughter, only to suffer a violent seizure and die hours later.
    • Everyone is worried about probable complications with Mary’s premature labour. She and the baby come out of it fine, everyone is ecstatic... and then Matthew is killed on the way home from the hospital a few short hours later.
  • Horrible Judge of Character:
    • Daisy.
    • The only reason O'Brien stuck around for so long was because Cora was blind to her flaws.
    • Lord Grantham keeps giving Thomas second chances even though he knows some of the terrible things he's done.
    • Branson did not expect Russia's new Soviet leadership would execute the royal family.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: William and Daisy.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me:
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Isobel Crawley gives a speech to this effect to Dr Clarkson, without even realising that he intends to propose. She’s citing this as the reason she doesn’t want to consider remarrying at all.
  • Idiot Ball: Come Season 3, it's seemingly taken up residence in Robert's brain. First he discovers he's lost Cora's fortune in an foolish investment (and wonders about reinvesting with "this chap called Ponzi"). Next it's revealed he's been mismanaging the estate for years. Then he refuses to consider Matthew's improvements, even though Downton could be lost again if he doesn't. Finally, he hires a useless doctor to treat Sybil purely because he's a knight, ignores Dr Clarkson's warnings about her pregnancy and overrides everyone else's advice to have a caesarean, leading to his own daughter's death.
    • It made a short outing to Thomas, who ends up outed after losing himself completely over his current crush — this after surviving at Downton for ten years. (Though much of the staff and family mutter awkwardly about having already been aware of his homosexuality.)
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Matthew to Richard Carlisle, if indirectly. In Episode 4 of Season 2, he tells Mary that if Richard Carlisle ever hurts her, he'll have to answer to him. Considering he's now serving as a captain in World War One, this is a warning not to be taken lightly.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Kemal Pamuk.
    • Also Thomas with the duke.
  • I Know You Know I Know: How Mr Bates screws with a pair of thieves.
  • I Lied: Vera Bates in Season 2. Karmically, the same trick is used against her by Carlisle, who makes her sign an exclusivity agreement and then doesn't publish her story.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Bates discovers that his and Anna's have been intercepted by the governor while he is in prison.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
    • Sharon Small (Marigold Shore), who guest-starred in the Christmas special, had previously starred together with Iain Glen (Sir Richard Carlisle) in Glasgow Kiss and also with Phyllis Logan, who guest-starred on The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
    • This is not the first time Hugh Bonneville (Robert) and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora) have played husband and wife. In fact, it's the third.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment:
    Lady Violet: You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.
    Mrs Crawley: I take that as a compliment.
    • And vice versa....
    Mrs Crawley: And must you always sound like the sister of Marie Antoinette?
    Lady Violet: The Queen of Naples was a stalwart figure. I take it as a compliment.
    Mrs Crawley: You take everything as a compliment.
    Lady Violet: I advise you to do the same. It saves many an awkward moment.
  • Idyllic English Village: The village of Downton matches this description, with its narrow streets, wide-open green, and lovely stone architecture.
  • Impairment Shot: Matthew when he wakes up in a hospital bed in the abbey.
  • Impoverished Patrician:
    • In the back-story. Lord Grantham married Cora, a rich American heiress, for her money to keep the estate afloat.
    • Robert also manages to impoverish the family again when he loses Cora's entire fortune after Canada nationalised the Grand Trunk Railway. Fortunately, Matthew's reforms rescue them from bankruptcy for more or less the entire series. Matthew is particularly vindicated when we learn in the Season 3 Christmas Special that the Flintshires will have to sell Duneagle because they haven't reformed.
    • Indeed, a large number of one-off characters, all friends and peers of the Granthams, are shown to suffer the fate that the Granthams only narrowly avoided. It's practically an epidemic among the aristocratic classes of the time, and the government even surveys them to find out how they stayed afloat.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: At least to begin with. Matthew, the new heir, is a middle-class solicitor from Manchester.
  • Inter-Class Romance: Branson and Sybil. Briefly in Season 2, there's Lord Grantham and Jane and Thomas and the Duke of Crowborough in the first episode.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Occupationally, O'Brien to Cora. Vera to Bates.
  • Impaled Palm: So he can be discharged, Thomas intentionally lifts his arm out of the trenches holding a lighter and is shot through the hand.
  • In the Blood: The Crawley sisters take after their father with their tendency to fall in love with people considered their social inferiors.
  • Incompatible Orientation:
    • Daisy's crush on Thomas in season 1. Becomes a Love Triangle when Thomas decides to exploit her feelings to humiliate William, who genuinely does like Daisy.
    • In Season 3, Thomas makes advances towards Jimmy, the very handsome new footman. Although Thomas's attraction to him ends rather badly, the two ultimately become friends.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Cora bemoans that she thought having daughters would be like Little Women, but instead they're at each other's throats... which describes Jo and Amy in Little Women perfectly.
  • Irony:
    • Robert and William want to be soldiers, but they can't. Thomas and Lang dread participating in the war, but they can't avoid it.
    • The war brings new responsibilities and new purpose to Edith, Sybil, Cora and Isobel, but it leaves Robert feeling useless.
    • A bit of historical irony: The first three seasons are built upon the necessity of having Matthew marry Mary and produce a male heir to get around the entail and ensure the fortune and Downton remain in the family. Entail was abolished in England in 1925. Unless Robert were to randomly die at or before age 55, he could have left Mary everything but the title without any problems; Matthew (assuming he lived that long in the alternate universe) would get the title, but nothing else.
    • Lady Edith's problem with Mr Gregson has a future legislative solution; unfortunately, it comes in 1937 (allowing for divorce in case of desertion after five years' separation where one spouse has a serious mental illness). Poor Edith.
      • He could have also just spent six weeks in Reno, Nevada.
      • While still having to become a citizen, another country he could have gone to (and mentioned, along with Greece) was Portugal, which also allowed divorce for mental illness. Given that the reason which made Edith weary of him going was that the Germans were Europe's most hated country, why didn't any one of them remember the Treaty of Windsor?
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Mr Bates to Anna. She essentially tells him where he can shove it, and they get married anyway as she refuses to have no legal standing in his life, whatever happens.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • "... About as likely as war breaking out." And the viewership winced as one.
    • An exchange in 1913:
      Joe Burns: Suppose they sell the estate?
      Mrs Hughes: Suppose there’s a tidal wave. Suppose we all die of The Plague. Suppose there’s a war.
    • Branson and the other servants are discussing politics. Branson thinks that the outbreak of war will be a good thing for dissolving class tensions. To prove this he points out the capturing of the Tsar and his family. The other staff look horrified.
    • On dinner jackets/black tie, November 1918:
      Bates: [to Lord Grantham] I'm not sure you'll get much use out of it when the war is over.
    • On holiday destinations, 1920:
      Mary: You couldn't be in Cannes in the summer, no-one could bear it.
    • On the new invention called "wireless", in 1924 (Season 5)
      Lord Grantham: It's a fad; it won't last.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Repeatedly, from all three directions in the Mary/Matthew/Lavinia triangle, though of course a jumped-up commoner like Richard Carlisle wouldn't have so much decency. Lavinia even dies telling Matthew that now he can be with the woman he loves, and it's implied that in the last Ouija board scene it's Lavinia guiding Matthew and Mary to be happy together.
    • Bates tries this with Anna, telling her to "find a better man". She's not impressed.
    • Anthony Strallan pulls it off with Edith, claiming that not only is he too old for her but that he couldn't let someone so young and lovely spend their life as his nurse. The irony is that, as Edith's parents gloomily point out, she is likely to end up this way regardless (acting as a nurse for them).

    J to L 
  • Just Eat Gilligan: All things considered, the household would run a lot smoother if those in charge just got rid of Thomas and O'Brien. And we see this in action in early Season 2, when Thomas is fighting on the Western front... but it doesn't last.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Branson's political views are usually portrayed as a case of Know-Nothing Know-It-All, he does have moments of this. Notably, when he compares Ireland being ruled by the English King to England being ruled by the Kaiser.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Dowager Countess fits this trope; underneath the cold exterior she does care, and is utterly shattered when Sybil dies; she ends up hobbling across the hall, adjusting her veil and looking, for the first time in the series like a devastated old woman who has just lost her granddaughter. It's a sad sight, to see someone so powerful in tears! That's how bad things are — and you know things are bad when even the Dowager Countess is crying.
    • Rosamond can be such a cold-hearted snob even Violet occasionally calls her on it...but she helps Edith out of a situation that could have ruined her life.
  • Karma Houdini: O'Brien caused Cora's miscarriage, informed Edith about Kemal Pamuk's death in Mary's bed, told Vera that Bates had broken his promise and came back to Downton (as well as creating another avenue for the Pamuk scandal to potentially ruin Mary's life), almost got Thomas sacked or worse, caused various smaller problems and NOTHING has happened to her.
  • Kick the Dog: Mary's brutal passive-aggressive mockery of Sir Anthony at the garden party. While Edith definitely deserved to be taken down a peg, her suitor did not, and it verges on What the Hell, Hero? level cruelty.
    • In season 6, Mary, out of total spite, forces Edith to reveal to her fiance that Marigold is Edith's daughter. It almost breaks up Edith & Bertie.
  • Kissing Cousins: Second cousins Mary and Patrick were informally engaged, though they didn't have much say in it; Edith was in love with Patrick. Mary and Matthew are fourth cousins, but this is only very technically this trope; fourth cousins have only marginally greater risk of genetic problems than unrelated couples (which on average has the same level of genetic risk as fifth cousins).
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Robert and Cora eventually stopped fighting the entail after seeing Matthew might actually make a good Earl. This displeased Mary greatly.
  • The Lady's Favour: Mary gives Matthew her figurine to bring him good luck and asks him to bring it back when saying goodbye before Matthew goes to the war.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Robert occasionally comments on the unnecessary amounts of drama in his household. When he figures out about Marigold being Edith and Michael's daughter in Season 5, and Cora asks him to keep quiet about it, Robert muses that it's rather nice to be in on one of the secrets in the house.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Robert running after the car taking Bates away.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Ethel the housemaid in the second season and Edith in the fourth both get pregnant when they really shouldn't. In contrast, Matthew and Mary in the third season and Anna and Bates in the fifth struggle to have children when they would very much like to.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The opening theme could be heard in several renditions of the background music.
    • There are also ones for the various couples on the show, like Matthew/Mary, Sybil/Branson and Anna/Bates.
  • Left Hanging: Patrick Gordon just disappears into the night.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Branson truly does become a surrogate brother to both of sisters-in-law.
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • Everyone, even the Crawleys. The Crawley women basically have only three evening dresses that they rotate through every episode.
    • Lampshaded by Branson when he and Sybil first return to Downton Abbey after their wedding. Many are shocked to learn that Branson does not even *own* anything fancier than his usual jacket, let alone any true formalwear.
    • In commentary, Jim Carter (Carson the butler) notes that, until the cricket match in Season 3, he has two outfits — one for day scenes and another for evenings.
  • Literal Metaphor: In Season 4, after the visiting Mr Blake helps Mary save Downton's dehydrated herd of pigs.
    Mary: You've certainly saved our bacon. Literally!
  • Longing Look: Lots: Anna, Bates, Branson, Daisy, Edith, Mary, Matthew, Sybil, William, Thomas, Alfred, Carson, Mrs Hughes, Ivy.
  • The Lost Lenore: William for Daisy (to an extent), Sybil for Branson, Matthew for Mary, and the former Earl for Violet.
  • Love Theme: Several of the couples have their own themes, most notably "Such Good Luck" for Matthew and Mary, "The Butler And The Housekeeper" for Carson and Mrs Hughes and "Emancipation" for Tom and Sybil.
  • Love Triangle: Quite a number. There are three sibling triangles: Edith being in love with Mary's late arranged fiancé Patrick, Edith pining for Matthew, whose interests lie in Mary and vice versa, and Mary incorrectly thinking that Sybil has developed a small crush on Matthew after a Rescue Romance. Mary was also interested in Napier until Kemal Pamuk came along. Then there's William crushing on Daisy, who's crushing on Thomas, who's gay. And then there's Molesley's mild interest in Anna, who's already in UST-territory with Mr Bates. Season 3 has the Love Quadrilateral of Daisy -> Alfred -> Ivy -> Jimmy, with Thomas also making his own moves on the latter.
    • Lampshaded by Mrs Patmore: "You know the trouble with you lot? You're all in love with the wrong people."
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: When the Dowager Duchess's Old Flame Prince Kuragin shows up in season 5, Mary brings up the possibility for the purpose of denying it.
    Mary: Granny has a past. Thank heavens Papa and Aunt Rosamund were already born or we could spin all sorts of fairy tales.

    M to P 
  • The Maiden Name Debate: After Carson marries Mrs. Hughes, there's a lot of joking over the difficulty of now calling her Mrs. Carson, so they decide that she will continue to be called Mrs. Hughes among the household.
    • Though Anna had never been called by her surname (Smith) when she was a housemaid, when she becomes Mary's lady's maid, she technically should be. Since Mary's known her for years, and her husband goes by solely "Bates," she stays on First-Name Basis with her.
  • Malicious Slander:
    • Miss O'Brien and Thomas slander Mr Bates on more than one occasion in an attempt to get him fired.
    • Thomas tries to stir things up by telling Molesley that O'Brien is planning to quit. It's only down to Poor Communication Kills that the rumour gets as far as it does before being quashed, and all it achieves is to make her dislike him even more.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Lady Rose, a Christian, marrying Atticus, a Jew, in Season 5. While the Crawleys are typically relaxed about it—justified in this case since Cora's father was Jewish—Atticus's father and Rose's mother Susan both hate the idea, and Susan is willing to do some slimy things in order to stop the match.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Do NOT insult Cora's granddaughter.
    • No matter what you've done, if you're one of Violet's descendants, she WILL find a way to protect you. Examples include:
      • Covering the Kemal Pamuk scandal by claiming his political enemies are trying to discredit him. Oh, and briefly floating the idea of assassinating the Turkish ambassador.
      • Supporting Sybil and Tom's plan to marry, despite Tom's revolutionary ideals going against everything Violet stands for.
      • Paying Edith's expenses when she goes to Switzerland to give birth to an illegitimate child.
      • Saving Mary's reputation by claiming she was in Liverpool to attend a convention, when in fact she was there having an affair with Lord Gillingham.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Miss O'Brien, whose schemes include trying to get Bates fired and to expose Lady Mary's affair with Mr Pamuk.
    • Lady Edith, who will go to any lengths to discredit Mary in order to marry Matthew and become mistress of Downton.
    • Thomas tries to be one but isn't always successful.
    • Kemal in making it impossible for Mary to refuse his sexual advances.
    • Vera uses Lady Mary's secret to get Bates to return to her and takes him for all his inheritance. She even goes so far as using her death to frame Bates.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Bates.
    • Robert, after Cora's miscarriage.
    • Also Thomas, surprisingly, after the blinded Lieutenant Courtenay commits suicide.
    • Branson, when he is reunited with Sybil after they fled Ireland separately.
    • Thomas, Branson, Robert and Carson at Sybil's death.
    • Carson after Mrs Hughes accepts his marriage proposal
    • Carson at the wedding of William and Daisy
    • Carson in his last scene with Robert in the final episode
  • Man Versus Machine: In Season 4 the Abbey gets an electric mixer for the kitchen. Daisy is thrilled, but Mrs Patmore observes correctly that electric appliances like that are going to put them out of jobs eventually.
  • Marriage Before Romance: By the time starts, Robert and Cora have been happily married for over two decades, but they started out like this. Robert married her for her money, and then fell in love afterward.
  • Marry for Love:
    • That's what the audience hopes for Mary and Matthew. They Do.
    • Sybil and Branson do this; unfortunately, it all goes wrong very soon when Sybil gives birth.
    • Also Rose and Atticus, Mary and Henry, and Edith and Bertie. In the latter case, he gains a rather prestigious title shortly after proposing (the first time), but that's just an added bonus.
  • The Matchmaker: The mothers: Violet, Cora and Isobel.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Edith. Her parents aren't abusive or cruel towards her, but she gets constantly overlooked next to her two sisters (particularly Mary).
  • Milholland Relationship Moment:
    • Carson's former colleague wants to blackmail him with his past as a comedian. The lord doesn't think less about him.
    • Thomas expects to shock and disgust Mrs Hughes by revealing his homosexuality. She is understanding.
    • Lady Mary treats the fact that she was sexually assaulted by a visiting diplomat as a significant piece of dirty laundry that might put the kibosh on her marriage plans with Matthew. When she tells him and begs his forgiveness, he shrugs it off as "nothing to forgive."
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: When an important general is dining at Downton Abbey in Season 2 during the war, Tom Branson hatches a plot to attack him with something concealed inside a soup tureen. When the other staff catch onto his plan, they assume that he has a gun or a bomb and intends to murder the general. Instead, the tureen contains ink, engine oil, cow excrement and other icky substances to render the general Covered in Gunge.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Kemal Pamuk in the shots of him lying dead in Mary's bed.
  • Moment Killer: Poor Anna and Mr Bates.
    • Couldn't you wait one more minute before taking out the trash?
    • Ethel plonking down at the table effectively kills the nice talk they were having.
    • Mary coming to book the motor as Branson and Sybil were having a talk about their future comes to mind.
    • O'Brien was this to Thomas, showing up whenever he was having a moment with Jimmy. Of course, this was all part of her Evil Plan...
  • Mood Dissonance: A particularly jarring example in 4x03, with scenes of the family, servants and guests enjoying the party upstairs whilst Anna is being brutally raped downstairs.
  • Morality Pet: Cora and Lang for O'Brien, Lieutenant Courtenay for Thomas.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Kemal Pamuk. In-universe, too. Turned out to be a short-lived and creepy jerkass.
    • Starting with Season 3, Jimmy. He eventually grows a personality (albeit one of a peacock) and a plot line (albeit one of a jerkass Casanova).
  • Multigenerational Household: Although technically the Dowager Countess has her own house, she's at Downton so often that by Season 3, you have four generations under one roof.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Alfred's cooking class is given a soundtrack more fitting for an impending war.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: O'Brien first only seems to show moderate guilt when she knows that she is the direct cause of her mistress's miscarriage, but the look of this trope is truly visible on her face when she learns that Cora had never intended to get rid of her and she's now caused them exquisite pain for no reason whatsoever.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Sybil and Branson try to elope to Gretna Green, but Mary and Edith chase them down and talk her out of it.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Edith in Season 4. It's still pretty secret even after the baby is born.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Daisy and, to some extent, William.
  • Never Learned to Read: Thomas finally bonds with Andy in Season 6 when he discovers that Andy can't read, and pledges to teach him.
  • Nice to the Waiter: "Them upstairs," for the most part. Possibly borders on Politically Correct History. Contrast with No Hero to His Valet.
  • Ninja Maid: Anna takes to the role of plucky girl detective like a duck to water.
  • Nobility Marries Money: This forms the backstory.
    • Lord Grantham went to New York to find his bride. A significant fraction of the first season's drama comes from the fact that her money can't be separated from the land and title, 30 years later, as they only had daughters.
    • In later episodes, their money is gone and the money Matthew has he won't give to the estate, so the impoverished posh people need to find some more new money.
    • In the Season 4 finale a broke British lord pursues Martha Levinson and pushes his daughter at her son Harold.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Thomas to the Duke of Crowborough, although this is more to do with the fact they've been having an affair and the Duke dumps him. Subverted with Bates and Robert.
  • No Periods, Period: Subtle but devastating in the form of Robert's absolute squeamishness about all things feminine. Throughout the series, even the mildest reference makes him recoil in disgust...a trait that ultimately plays at least a partial role in Sybil's death, since he's too disgusted by the finer details of the matter to listen to expert advice about action that might have saved her.
  • Not Good with Rejection: The family's disappointment after the Duke of Crowborough didn't ask for Mary's hand was understandable, but they (and even the servants) behaved like they were entitled to a marriage between Mary and him. Like not proposing to Mary was a slander on his part towards the family, and not a polite rejection he had every right to. Of course, in part this was because of how obvious he made it that he was only interested in marrying Mary for money.
  • No Title: For any of the regular episodes, though each Christmas Episode has one.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Daisy and Mrs Patmore are inseparable, and the most important person in each other's lives (especially in Daisy's case, who is learning all her life skills from the older woman). It's largely a mother-daughter sort of relationship.
  • Not So Stoic: Bates. Robert. Even Carson gives Mary hugs when she needs them.
  • Not What It Looks Like: The season 2 Christmas Episode features a failed attempt at this. Lady Rosamund finds her temporary love interest genuinely in flagrante with her maid. He tries to brush it off, with little success:
    Lord Hepworth: My dear this is... isn't what it seems.
    Rosamund: Is there room for misinterpretation?
  • Nouveau Riche: Rosamund's late husband Marmaduke was the grandson of a manufacturer. Sir Richard Carlisle is a newspaper man.
    • Cora's parents are nouveau très riche.
  • Oblivious to Love: Daisy to William. Mary appears to be oblivious to Matthew's growing interest in her in early episodes. And Isobel, bless her, manages to give the "I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship" speech to Dr Clarkson without ever being consciously aware that he wants a Relationship Upgrade! That, it must be admitted, takes a special kind of obliviousness, or possibly tactfulness.
  • Of Corset Hurts:
    • Sybil complains about having to wear her corset, saying that men don't wear them so she doesn't see why she should. Her more traditional sisters roll their eyes and Mary suggests she's gotten fat.
    • Also Mrs Patmore:
      Cora: Mrs Patmore. Is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance?
      Mrs Patmore: Well milady... I wouldn't mind getting rid of my corset.
  • Of Corsets Sexy
  • Official Couple: Mary and Matthew. From the start, the romance between these two characters 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. Which is why it's all the more shocking when he is suddenly killed halfway through the series.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Matthew, once he enlists as a captain in the British army during World War One in Season 2. It is also revealed that the Earl was this too.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • In the Christmas special the Crawley family play charades, whilst Richard sneers at them, telling Lady Grantham that he would never allow himself to look so foolish. His turn is next, at which point Violet says: "how soon your maxim will be tested". Unfortunately, we never get to see how he handles it.
    • In the War, William and Matthew get cut off from their unit and surrounded by Germans for three days, without being captured or seriously wounded. They somehow make it back to their own lines but get listed as MIA in the confusion.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several, with one example being Baxter when she recognizes the suicidal overtones in Barrow's words to Molesley.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Patrick Gordon is either Canadian or he's been living in Canada since the Titanic sank, depending on who he really is. At one point he says one of the very few words that Canadians pronounce differently from Americans - "house" - and he pronounces it like an American.
    • The lower class characters usually have pronounced Northern accents, and while most of them do fairly well at aiming for proper Yorkshire there's one or two that are all over the Pennines and noticeably not authentic.
  • Old Flame:
    • An ancient suitor of Mrs Hughes appears in Season 1. He married another girl when she turned him down to work at Downton. Now he's a widower and proposes again.
    • Prince Kuragin, for the Dowager Countess Violet. The attraction is clearly still there, on both sides, but she has a large number of inhibitions, including (1) the fact that his wife might yet be alive in Hong Kong, (2) she isn't sure if it's quite proper for people of their age to marry, and (3) the simple fact that he is a refugee with nothing.
  • Old Maid :
    • Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore are actually spinsters — as the housekeeper and the cook, they rate "Mrs" as a courtesy title.
    • This is the reason why the family wanted Mary (who begins the series 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.
    • Later, Edith is the one fretting over this, once one sister is engaged and the other married and pregnant. And then she's left at the altar by a man twice her age — that's got to sting. And after that, her next beau is married, his wife is institutionalized, and with it being 1920 he can't divorce her on the grounds that they have no possibility of a real relationship. And then he disappears to Germany and is murdered. Edith almost accepts her fate as a spinster, but in the very last episode she marries a man whom she truly loves and who accepts that Marigold is her daughter. The fact that he's a marquess, meaning Edith will outrank her entire family, doesn't hurt. Robert, Cora and Edith are understandably overjoyed.
  • Old Retainer: Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes.
  • The Oner:
    • Episode 3 of Season 2 has an absolutely gorgeous tracking shot showing the wounded soldiers moving into Downton Abbey. It's only a little over a minute long, but that's quite lengthy for a 45 minute episode.
    • There's also one in the next (fourth) episode, when Clarkson talks first to Thomas and then to Mrs Hughes.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Skimming the full character list reveals a few common names (e.g. Charles, John) given to more than one character, but given the setting, most male characters are referred to by their surnames anyway. A minor exception concerning two major characters occurs when the family start addressing Branson as "Tom", which is similar to Thomas. (But conveniently, Thomas has been promoted by now to the point where he's "Mr Barrow.")
    • Anthony Strallan and Anthony Gillingham, who are fairly prominent love interests for Edith and Mary respectively. The latter goes by Tony.
  • Oop North: The working-class characters tend to have local Yorkshire accents, with the middle- and upper-class characters having applicable RP accents. Although, it should be pointed out that Robert is still a Yorkshireman born and bred, it's just that people of his class, no matter where they are from in England, always have RP accents, never regional ones. It's down to schooling and immediate family/peer influences.
  • Orbital Kiss: Mary and Matthew. Branson and Sybil in Season 3 after she returns to Downton from Ireland.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Thomas expresses angry solidarity with an injured William, the entire kitchen stops and stares.
  • Out with a Bang: Mr Pamuk.
  • Overprotective Dad: Robert, of course.
    Robert: If you mistreat her, I will personally have you torn to pieces by wild dogs.
  • Pair the Spares:
    • Edith and Sir Anthony were leaning to this direction in season 1, up until Mary spoils it at the garden party. However, he reappears in the Christmas special and they eventually get engaged, only for him to leave her at the altar because he thought she'd be throwing her life away.
    • The series finale features Edith/Bertie and Isobel/Lord Merton reuniting and getting married (the latter couple off-screen), and also Ship Teases Molesley/Baxter, Mrs. Patmore/Mr. Mason, Daisy/Andy and Tom/Laura Edmonds (Edith's editor), the latter two without any prior buildup. Thomas and Violet are the only main characters left completely single.
  • Parental Favoritism: Poor Edith. Her mother's hard-pressed to finally choke out something about her being "helpful" as she pets and praises the beauty of her other two daughters, especially Mary. Carson also admits that Mary is his favorite of the three. Lampshaded by the parents:
    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.
  • Parody:
    "the hot one" (Mary), "the really hot one" (Sybil), "and the other one" (Edith)
  • Parody Episode: ITV commissioned a strictly-for-laughs mini-episode for their Christmas 2014 "Text Santa" charity appeal, which begins with Robert announcing he has frittered the family fortune and wishing he had never been born. Whisked away by an angelic Joanna Lumley, Robert is promptly presented with a vision of what a Crawley-less Downtown might look like, and we were introduced to George Clooney's brasher, spiffier Lord Grantham 2.0. The mini-episode is one big sportingly humorous Take That! at Downton's familiar narrative devices — telegrams of doom, Robert losing the family fortune, Edith's tragic love-life, Branson fretting about his place in the world, Thomas lurking behind the curtains (part of his job description) and even a sporting dig at creator Julian Fellowes' obsession with ensuring the right cutlery is used, despite the series' increasingly zany plotlines.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat:
    • Several instances, but Lord and Lady Flintshire take the cake.
    • The Dowager Countess seems to be an expert when interacting with Lady Isobel in Season 1, but when Cora's mother shows up, they both take this trope to new heights.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: From the first time Matthew is introduced on the show, the older Granthams try to push him and Mary together, entirely out of convenience's sake (the marriage would keep the estate in the family). Fortunately, they turn out to fall deeply in love with each other anyway.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Thomas will appear to be an irredeemable, sociopathic Jerkass well on his way to passing the Moral Event Horizon; but then, occasionally, something will happen to demonstrate his humanity, or his Freudian Excuse will be reinforced, and he'll revert back to Jerkass Woobie. Damn him.
      • See episode 2x02 for a stellar example; Thomas briefly returns to Downton Abbey after what is implied to be a few years at the front, gets in a few choice insults and leaves to work in the village army hospital without appearing to have changed at all; however, while there, he becomes emotionally attached to a young lieutenant with gas blindness, reading his letters, encouraging him to keep fighting and very nearly coming out to him after speaking about his own difficult past. When the soldier is due to be transferred against his will to another medical facility, Thomas goes to bat for him against the head of the hospital, and after the man's suicide is seen sobbing uncontrollably in a store cupboard.
      • In the first Christmas special he combines this with a Kick the Dog moment when he kidnaps the dog Isis in the hopes of gaining a promotion for finding his Lordship's lost dog. Isis gets out of the shed where she's been locked, and Thomas frantically searches the woods but can't find her anywhere. When he gets back to the house, all covered in dirt, he's told that a child found Isis and brought her back. He actually pets the dog.
      • When Thomas dances with Daisy, just because she expresses a wish to learn. Even O'Brien smiles.
      • When William lies dying, Thomas expresses support for him. much to the shock of everyone else present. He says he doesn't know what they're so surprised for, and points out that whether or not be likes William, they're both working class boys, and later enlisted men, and they get a lot of the same crap.
      • After young Sybil dies in childbirth, Thomas walks out of the kitchen in a daze and weeps by the stairs, having earlier expressed fondness and friendship from their time working side by side in the hospital. He's still visibly shaken by it in the next episode.
      • He also shows affection for baby Sybbie due to his fondness of Sybil and when he suspects the nanny isn't treating her well he exposes it to Cora.
      • In the second Christmas special, Alfred reveals Thomas still refuses to hear a bad word against Jimmy (despite him nearly sending Thomas to prison and making homophobic remarks about him in front of the other staff), and when Jimmy is attacked by thugs on his way home from the fair, Thomas intervenes and is attacked in his place when Jimmy runs away. He not only doesn't reveal the reason he was attacked to anyone else on the staff, but he asks Jimmy to be his friend — suggesting Jimmy might become a Morality Pet for Thomas in Season 4.
    • O'Brien gets a few Pet the Dog moments when she's the only one to really sympathise with Shell-Shocked Veteran Lang, as her brother went through the same thing.
    • O'Brien's obvious reluctance to testify against Bates.
    • When the Countess sees a bereft valet (made to feel useless because of his employer's insistence on doing things by himself) and asks him to take her cup.
    • Bates's sympathy for Thomas when the Jimmy Kent scandal threatens to get him fired without a reference. Bates more or less single-handedly helps Thomas keep his job, even though he only intended to ensure him a good reference.
    • A particularly lovely one from the otherwise terminally crotchety Mrs Bird who, after reducing Daisy to tears on learning that she's put soap and aniseed into the dinner (to make the family miss the currently-absent Mrs Patmore), then tells her to dry her tears, saying: "there's worse crimes than loyalty".
  • Pimped-Out Dress: And hats. Ladies' hats were probably more elaborate in The Edwardian Era than in any other period before or since. The women's evening gowns are simple in line, but often very heavily decorated. Once again, spot-on; from 1909 or so on, women's dress, particularly formal gowns, moved toward very simple, classic lines reminiscent of the Empire/Regency period as opposed to the elaborate styles of the 1890s and early 1900s. Interestingly and probably not coincidentally, corsets began to fall out of style at this time, to be replace by brassieres and girdles.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes. Until season five when they suddenly get engaged.
  • Please Wake Up: Cora to Sybil.
  • Politically Correct History: Frequently subverted to keep the show believable and create tension, although generally in the form of one or two characters representing contemporary prejudices and being defeated by more enlightened viewpoints. Sometimes this reflects genuine conflicts at the time, continuing the End of an Age theme, but frequently the "modern" opinions are a little too modern.
    • A case in point is the treatment of Thomas' homosexuality; only Carson, Alfred and Jimmy seem genuinely disgusted by it (and even much of that is due to the prevailing Conflict Ball) while everyone else preaches tolerance or at least turning a blind eye.
      Lord Grantham: I'm not asking you to abandon your beliefs, Alfred. Just to introduce a little kindness into the equation.
      Alfred: Am I not to stand up against evil?
      Lord Grantham: Evil? Thomas does not choose to be the way he is. And what harm was done, really, that his life should be destroyed for it?
      Alfred: Well—
      Lord Grantham: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Are you without sin, Alfred? As I am certainly not.
    • The Roaring '20s was indeed more accepting of homosexuality and thinking more modernly about several topics than the later decades.
    • In Season 4, Jack Ross, a black jazz singer, has a relationship with a Marquess's daughter, young Lady Rose — something which would have been unthinkable in 1921. She's mostly in the relationship to spite her mother (though she does love him) and most characters react with a protective concern towards Rose and politeness to Jack, but are far less reactionary to his presence than they would have been in real life. Only Rosamund and Edith actually express strong feelings about it.
      Rosamund: It's a pretty pass when you have to be rescued by a black band-leader.
      Edith: Granny, is it really suitable that Rose has brought this man here?
    • Then again, being black in England, even at the time, would certainly be less dangerous on average than much of the United States in the same period (barring perhaps relative "safe spaces" like Harlem). If Rose and Jack had met in the U.S., it's very likely Jack would've been lynched or at the very least imprisoned and/or tortured.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • At one point Lord Grantham refers to Ms. Bunting as a harpy, which given the time period would have been unbelievably shocking.
    • In the series finale, after Mary ruins Edith's engagement to Bertie by telling him about Edith's daughter out of wedlock, Edith calls her a bitch—twice! Mary is stunned into silence.
  • Prefers Proper Names: Carson insists on calling everyone by their proper names, signifying his strict and serious nature. When the new footman tells him that he prefers to be called Jimmy and that everybody calls him that, Carson completely ignores this and calls him James anyway.
  • Pretty in Mink: Fur trimmed coats are worn a lot, as they would have been for such families at the time. Violet once turns down her maid offering to get her fur for a picnic, only because she thinks tweed would be more appropriate attire for that event.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Housemaid Gwen Dawson, at the end of season 1note .
    • O'Brien has left by the beginning of Season 4.
    • Ethel, Alfred, Ivy and Jimmy leave their positions at Downton and are not seen again.

    Q to S 
  • Quit Your Whining: Violet (amiably... for her) says something to this effect to a recently jilted Edith who's worrying what to do with her life.
  • Rags to Riches: Matthew and Branson each, via the means described under the trope below. On a lesser scale, in Season 3 Robert has bankrupted the estate and there are plans to downsize (they would still appear rich and classy by modern standards, but to them it might as well be poverty), until Matthew comes into (another) inheritance and catapults them back to wealth. (At this point begins Matthew's — and later Branson's — ongoing campaign to modernise the estate and turn it into a profitable, modern agricultural enterprise. It works.)
  • Rags to Royalty: Branson, after he marries Lady Sybil. It starts out as the opposite, with his wife being "cast down" by the match, but when he's forced to flee his native Ireland and Sybil dies in childbirth, the family take pity on him and his daughter and take them in.
  • Rape as Drama: Anna, in a way that will break your heart.
  • Reaction Shot: So many great ones.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Isobel Crawley went to France in series 2 because Penelope Wilton was busy starring in A Delicate Balance at the Almeida Theatre.
    • During series 3, Dan Stevens revealed that he wanted to leave the show, putting Fellowes in the quite awkward position of having to write Matthew out after he and Mary were married. Ultimately the only way out was to kill him.
    • Charles Edwards wasn't able to commit to the show once Fellowes decided to make Gregson a more prominent character, hence the awkward storyline where his status is up in the air for a couple years before Fellowes finally decided to just kill him off.
    • Samantha Bond was busy doing stage work during filming of Series 3, hence Rosamund's mysterious absence from Mary and Edith's weddings.
  • Rear Window Witness: Daisy.
  • Rebellious Princess: Though she's not quite royalty, Lady Sybil is a rebel who is interested in politics, supports women having the vote, wears trousers, consorts with servants and in Season 2 goes so far as to — shudder — actually get a job as a nurse, not to mention marrying the socialist Irish chauffeur, which her father has a hard time coming to terms with.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Primarily for Mary and Tom:
    • Following Matthew's death, Mary gets two new love interests, Anthony Gillingham and Charles Blake. And by the time the Season 5 special rolls around, with Gillingham essentially out of the picture, Henry Talbot shows up as a replacement for a replacement.
    • Less successful in the case of Tom: first comes Edna, a maid who at first seems to admire him but then starts guilt-tripping him and eventually attempts a Baby Trap. Later, Sarah Bunting appears to be a clear replacement, with character traits quite similar to the late Sybil, but turns out too extreme and rude.
  • Rescue Romance: Played with after Sybil's rescue. Mary assumes that Sybil has a crush on Matthew, but it's Branson who's interested in Sybil.
  • Reset Button: Edith at the beginning of Season 3.
  • Revenge: Lady Mary and Lady Edith just seem to chase each other in an endless circle of one-upmanship that increases in cruelty at every new level.
  • Rich Bitch: Mary and Edith, usually to each other.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Robert fits this trope, as it is revealed in Season 3 that his poor management of Downton has bankrupted the estate, and it is the former solicitor Matthew (with an unexpected windfall) and chauffeur/sheep farmer’s nephew Branson who reorder the running of the estate to bail it out.
  • Riches to Rags:
    • Sybil undergoes this by marrying Branson, although it's an unusual variation in that it's her choice and she welcomes her new lifestyle and claims that she is happy to be “just Mrs Branson”. (This is a very weird occurrence also in that it is synonymous with Branson’s Rags to Royalty rise.)
    • This looks like it is going to happen when Robert loses Cora’s fortune and it looks like they’re going to lose Downton — they wouldn’t be reduced to anything like 'rags', but they would have to suffer a major reduction in their standard of living. Luckily, this is averted at the last minute.
    • Violet's former beau Prince Kuragin, and many other Russian aristocrats, after the Russian Revolution.
  • Rich Language, Poor Language:
    • The RP of the Crawley family (plus Carson the butler) and other aristocrats versus the Yorkshire accent of Downton's servants and townsfolk.
    • At Duneagle Castle in Scotland, the RP of the MacClare family versus the Highland accents of their servants.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In Season 4, Thomas accuses one of the nannies of mistreating the children just because he takes a dislike to her. Of course, Cora should go up to hear her side of the story at precisely the moment that she's telling baby Sybil to "shut up, you filthy little half-breed" because she's keeping her blue-blooded cousin awake.
  • The Rival: Isobel Crawley to Violet Crawley. This seems less so during Season 3, as they seem fonder of each other and even decide to get a car home together. Even less so when Isobel nurses Violet back to health in Season 4.
  • The Roaring '20s: The setting for Series 3 onward.
  • Romantic False Lead: Lavinia, Matthew's fiancée.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: A recurring theme is the polarisation of the household between the more modern members who want to embrace change (notably Matthew, Sybil and Edith upstairs; Gwen, Thomas and Branson downstairs), those who would rather leave it the way it is/return to the past (Robert and Violet upstairs; Carson downstairs), and those happy to compromise (particularly Cora, Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore). Things start to reach a head in Season 3, as Matthew and Robert are now co-owners of the estate and have wildly different ideas about how to run it.
  • Romantic Rain: When Lady Mary is being escorted by her suitor Henry Talbot to her aunt's place where she is staying in London, it starts raining and they end up sharing a kiss under a roof. Lampshaded by her brother-in-law who says it was romantic.
  • Rule of Three: Used In-Universe. After the sinking of the Titanic and the death of the Turkish gentleman, Daisy is certain that something else is bound to happen. It takes two years, but sure enough... Maybe people should listen to Daisy more often. Cruelly averted in Season 3, though, when tragedies come in four.
  • Runaway Groom: Sir Anthony, albeit for selfless reasons.
  • Running Gag: Beginning with Season 3, the Abbey's more or less always in need of some extra cash.
  • Saying Too Much: In Season 1, Bates lets slip to Robert that Sybil attended the suffragette rally.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    • Branson turns down Robert's offer of a bribe to abandon Sybil.
    • Ethel refuses to give her baby to Major Bryant's wealthy parents, as she believes it's better for him to grow up with a poor but loving mother. This is later averted in a redux of the same situation.
    • Matthew refuses Reggie Swire's inheritance claiming that it would be "taking money under false pretenses" as Reggie didn't know the truth of him and Lavinia. Of course, after two episodes he's given a convenient excuse for accepting.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!:
    • Jane has no shame in asking Robert to influence a prestigious grammar school to award her son a place.
    • A running theme throughout the show is how this changes over time the Crowley's and by extention the entire aristocratic upper class have less and less connections as time goes on. At the start Robert is a member of the House of Lords with a Conservative government in power several close friends and family members as high ranking members of said government. This allows for them to use their influence (and brag about it) to among other things get William transfered to an officers only hospital and for Robert to find out what happened to Mrs. Patmore nephew. But by the final season the Blue Bloods literally had the upcoming generation die off in World War I, a new Liberal government has taken over and greater economic oppurtunties in cities for lower class people mean less people to work tenant farms or in service so many older families die off or go bankrupt.
  • Scullery Maid: Daisy. Also Ivy, when she gets there.
  • 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.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Several, regarding the Kemal Pamuk affair, but someone spills the beans.
    • Mrs Patmore regarding Mrs Hughes' cancer scare.
    • Mrs Hughes keeps Anna's secret about being raped. (Though she eventually lets it out to Mary, to explain why Bates needs to stay home rather than accompany Robert to New York. Mary keeps it thereafter.)
    • Rosamund regarding Edith's pregnancy at first, although more people find out or figure it out on their own later.
  • Secret Other Family: The Season 5 Christmas special reveals that Lord Sinderby has a mistress and love child somewhere off on the side. Rose's quick thinking after Sinderby's Secret Other Family shows up at a party finally endears her to her father-in-law.
  • Self-Made Man:
    • Cora's father was this as part of his backstory.
    • Matthew and Richard Carlisle. Lampshaded by Carlisle himself when he explains to Mary that he sees no shame in not being from "old money".
  • Separated by a Common Language: From the Season 4 Christmas special, when Martha and Harold Levinson cross the pond to visit their Crawley in-laws:
    Martha: Well, the gang's all here!
    Violet: Is that American for "hello"?
    Martha: Harold, I don't believe you've met Tom, Sybil's husband.
    Tom: It seems strange we never met when she was here to introduce us.
    Harold: Well, I'm glad to know you now.
    Violet: How curious these phrases are!
  • Series Fauxnale: Season 2 ended with Mary and Matthew getting engaged and Sybil getting pregnant.
    • The TV series finale (Season 6) ends up serving as this due to the two feature films serving as a continuation of the series.
  • Serious Business: Oh no! We may have to sell our enormous castle and move into a slightly smaller mansion! Branson lampshades this, pointing out that even the smaller mansion is a "fairy palace" by most peoples' standards.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lang, the footman.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Carson, Cora, Robert, The Dowager Countess, Rosamund (although perhaps in part out of guilt for shooting it down the first time), possibly Branson, even Isobel and Anna, even Lavinia, at the end of her life... at this point, is there anyone who doesn't ship Mary/Matthew? Apparently so, for Martha Levinson isn't fond of them to begin with, but it grows on her.
    • Maybe Edith. Sir Richard.
    • Mary, for her part, ships Anna/Bates rather blatantly.
    • Isobel for Sybil/Branson in S2. Matthew jumps on board in S3. (And they do need the support).
    • Cruelly subverted/deconstructed with O'Brien in Season 3. After discovering that Jimmy not only suspects that Thomas has a crush on him, but is revolted and a whisper away from reporting him to Carson, she starts encouraging Thomas that Jimmy feels the same way. This hearsay evidence is enough to convince Thomas to sneak into Jimmy's room half-undressed and kiss him as he sleeps.
    • Branson for Mary/Henry in season 6, to Mary's annoyance.
  • Shipping Torpedo:
    • Daisy is not fond of anyone Alfred flirts with.
    • In Season 2, everyone towards Tom and Sybil, and Violet and Rosamund towards Matthew and Lavinia.
    • Mary effectively and intentionally ruins the engagement between Edith and Bertie Pelham by revealing that Marigold is Edith's daughter.
  • Ship Tease: If Carson cheerfully singing "She Stole My Heart Away" whilst polishing silver after Mrs Hughes is declared cancer-free — while that lady looks on biting her lip and beaming like a giddy schoolgirl — isn't this, then nothing is. And then in the Season 4 Christmas Special Carson and Hughes holding hands on the beach.
  • Shirtless Scene:
  • Shock Value Relationship: Though Rose does genuinely care for Jack Ross, she also plans on marrying him explicitly because she "want(s) to see mummy's face crumble when she finds out." Ironically, she actually does get to see "mummy's face crumble" when she marries a very nice (and aristocratic, if recently so) Jewish boy whom she genuinely loves and who loves her back.
  • Shot at Dawn: The fate of Mrs Patmore's nephew, for cowardice.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work/Truth in Television:
    • There was in fact a real Earl of Grantham. The title was created in 1698, but became extinct upon the Earl's death in 1754, because he had no surviving male heirs. Ironically, this also averts the trope of did not do the research, for the press pack states that the First Earl of Grantham (in the show) became earl in 1772, eighteen years later.
    • Though it's played for laughs, acting was seen by many at the time to be just as disreputable a profession as Carson believes it to be.
    • It may seem to views like an Ass Pull to have Lavinia die of the Spanish flu rather than Cora, especially when the latter was initially responding worse to it. However, part of what made the 1918 flu unique was that, unlike other strains, most of the deaths were from teenagers and young adults with healthy immune systems.
    • Edith's plans to move to Detroit might sound like a bad case of Critical Research Failure - why would an earl's daughter ever want to move to a place whose name is synonymous with urban decay and high crime? But in fact, back in the 1920s, Detroit was one of America's most beautiful and affluent cities, known as "the Paris of the Midwest". So in fact it would be a perfect place for Edith to live a comfortable life and probably not be tracked down.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Mary and Edith. Culminates most viciously in the end of Season 1 when Mary learns that Edith ruined her reputation by informing the Turkish ambassador of the circumstances of Mr Pamuk's death, and ruins Edith's prospect of a good and happy marriage in revenge.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Matthew and Mary, holy crap.
  • Sleeping Single: Averted by Robert and Cora, despite the fact that "really smart people sleep in separate rooms". Technically Robert's bedroom is his dressing room, essentially a very large walk-in wardrobe adjoining the marital bedroom that also happens to have a small bed in it. This was actually a fairly common practice for aristocracy and royalty at the time, so husbands who had stayed up late playing cards, travelling, or working wouldn't wake their wives by coming to bed late. In Season 3, Cora refuses her bed to Robert because she blames him for Sybil’s death. This is one of the few occations where Robert's own bed gets some use.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Larry Grey does this to Tom at one dinner early in Season 3; he is roundly condemned for it by everyone, especially his father.
  • Slut-Shaming: Premarital sex was just short of a crime. For women.
    • Lady Mary's unfortunate dalliance with the Turk wasn't just unlucky, but very nearly a social disaster, and not merely because he died.
    • From the second season, housemaid Ethel loves a man in uniform, and when caught with one is sacked without notice and without references. The gentleman has to put his trousers back on. Pregnancy leaves her destitute and him... mildly inconvenienced when people try to rub his nose in it.
    • By the third season, Ethel has become a prostitute. It goes as well for her as you might imagine when she asks for help. Her son's grandparents are divided: the grandmother is sympathetic and caring, the grandfather heaps her with recrimination and hatred. When Mrs Crawley takes her in as a maid (and later cook), her cook has nothing but contempt for her and eventually leaves Mrs Crawley's service over it. Lady Violet doesn't care for it either, and eventually helps Mrs Crawley get her a position in London, away from the village and its gossip.
    • Cousin Rose's mother even calls her a slut in the Season 3 Christmas special for wearing a dress in the latest fashion. Lady Violet, of all people, defends her ("Dear me, that's not a word you often hear among the heather"). Amusingly, she then says she has no place to criticise when in her youth she had once worn the latest fashions of the 1860s and '70s:
      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 criticise.
    • Lady Edith in Season 4 is called out by Aunt Rosamund for spending the night with Gregson. Rosamund eventually helps Edith give birth to a child discreetly in Switzerland.
  • Small Reference Pools: The writers were wise making the sinking of the RMS Titanic as the starting event for the series considering it is the one historical event at the time that is widely known with the general English-speaking public that would logically make such a big impact on the nobility.
  • Smug Snake: Thomas.
  • Snow Means Love: The moment when Matthew finally pops the question to Mary (at the end of the Season 2 Christmas special) provides the image on this trope's page.
  • Someone to Remember Him By:
    • Gender Swapped with Baby Sybil. It's the mother who dies in this case.
    • When Matthew is killed in an accident right after the birth of his son we’re even treated to a shot of an unsuspecting Mary holding their baby in the hospital right afterwards to close out the episode.
    • Though Michael Gregson's fate was unknown when Edith had their baby in Season 4, the confirmation of his death in the following season puts Edith in the same boat.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Patrick.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Mary and Sybil.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Upstairs Downstairs and Gosford Park. Julian Fellowes, who created both Downton and Gosford, says so himself.
  • Spousal Privilege: Anna is forced onto the sidelines at Bates' trial.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The chauffeur Tom Branson and Lady Sybil. Subverted in that they elope in Season 2.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Edith's pregnancy is covered up with the pretext of going on a long trip to Switzerland with Rosamund.
  • The Stoic: Bates. Except when he cries alone in his room. So a Stoic Woobie, really.
  • Straight Gay: Thomas.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In the pilot, both Daisy and Robert think its pointless to install electricity in the kitchen.
  • Succession Crisis: Two of the Earl's heirs die on the Titanic.
  • Suffrage and Political Liberation: Lady Sybil is a suffragist and socialist. She tries to help women and takes part in a socialist rally. She bonds with Tom Branson, an Irish chauffeur employed at Downton, who is very active politically, too; he's a socialist and fights for the liberation of the Irish. He had a cousin killed in the Easter Rebellion (an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week in April 1916; launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War). There's also a moment where he and Sybil spar over it when she doesn't understand why Tom has such a strong dislike of the English government and military. She views the issue from the English side of things, and even though she's a rebelling daughter, she still grew up among aristocracy.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • Gwen Dawson, now Mrs Harding, reappears in season 6. It is revealed that she has made a successful career in government alongside her husband John, and helps to support young women from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds to progress their careers. John is named as a trustee at a woman's college for middle-class girls who want to do other jobs aside from service.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: The resolution to the mystery of Vera Bates's death.
  • Sunday Evening Drama Series: In both the U.K. and in the U.S., interestingly enough.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • An ambitious redhead that doesn't want to stay in service but go out and make it big. Where have we heard that before, Ethel? Although there are some differences: Gwen's ambition ran only to the much more realistic goal of becoming a secretary; Ethel wants to be a movie star. And Gwen actually works toward her goals (with some help from Lady Sybil), while Ethel seems to think she should just be handed them. In turn, the ends for each of their characters are also very different.
    • After Sybil's death, Rose seems set to take her place as the upstairs "modern girl", although, in true M*A*S*H fashion, there are clear differences between their characters (Sybil was an idealistic reformer and Rose is a party girl).
    • After William is killed in World War I, Season 3 brings us Alfred: tall, fair-haired, awkward, and a potential love interest for Daisy.
    • It takes a while to determine who fits this role most closely, but by the end of Series 4, it appears that Charles Blake is turning out to be this regarding Matthew. He and Mary start out with an initially hostile relationship, then share a sweeter moment or two, and by the end of the season wants to marry her. Sound familiar?
      • And in season 5 and 6, Henry Talbot. Mary fears the racing enthusiast may be too similar to her late husband and suffer a similar fate.
    • Sarah Bunting has strong opinions, particularly where politics and class are concerned, likes helping people, and is attracted to Tom, much like the late Sybil.

    T to Z 
  • Take a Third Option: Several, of course, but most significant is the Dowager Countess' effort to repair Robert and Cora's marriage after Lady Sybil's death in Season 3. The nub of the dispute was that Robert had believed Sir Philip Tapsell that Sybil's troubles around delivery time was more or less normal and that her best chance of survival was to leave her alone; Cora, on the other hand, believed Dr Clarkson's assessment that the confusion, etc., were symptoms of toxemia (i.e. pre-eclampsia) and that she could be saved by having the baby by Caesarian section. Violet convinces Dr Clarkson to say, in essence, that both he and Sir Philip were wrong: that yes, it was toxemia, but on the other hand the Caesarian was extremely unlikely to save Sybil, and she would in all likelihood have died no matter what the doctors did. As awful as the assessment was, it helped Cora stop blaming Robert for Sybil's death, so the plan worked.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Thomas executes a furious Trash the Set when he discovers his black market goods are all but worthless.
  • Team Mom:
    • Anna, upstairs and down.
    • Mrs Hughes.
  • Technical Virgin: Kemal Pamuk promises Mary she'll still be a virgin for her husband. God only knows exactly what happens before he keels over and dies in her bed. Rest assured, nothing untoward occurred. According to the script book, they cut out the line, Pamuk: "Or mine. But a little imagination, a phial of blood hidden beneath your pillow. You wouldn't be the first." According to his commentary Julian Fellows deeply regrets this cut and never intended for there to be anything unimaginable happen to Mary.
  • Tempting Fate: In Season 2, Anna and John Bates can't stop telling each other how in love they are and how happy they are going to be. Cue something horrible to keep them apart in the same episode.
  • Thanatos Gambit: In Season 3 Anna figures out that Vera Bates poisoned and ate her own pie in order to frame Mr Bates for her murder.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Bates' reaction to Downton's potential sale: "That makes me sad".
  • They Do: Bates and Anna, Matthew and Mary, Branson and Sybil, Mary and Henry, Edith and Bertie
  • They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Used in a unique and strictly platonic sense between Thomas and O'Brien. He's attractive, young, gay and snarky; she's a plain, stern woman in her forties, and it generally seems as if their only interest in each other stems from a mutual desire to cause trouble. However, it's rather sweet when you find out that they have consistently and faithfully stayed in touch with one another during his years at the front, and she appears to genuinely worry over his welfare and displays a great deal of happiness (for her) when he returns safely from the war. Though this all pretty much goes out the window in Season 3, when they’re carrying a Conflict Ball.
    • Notably averted between Mary and Edith; in Season 1 the two oldest Crawley sisters genuinely loathe each other and have no Aww, Look! moments to soften it. Following the death of Sybil after giving birth in the fifth episode of Season 3, Edith asks if she and Mary can ever be friends. Mary responds "No. But here and now, we'll pretend".
    • The second season does give one moment, when Edith tells Mary about Matthew being MIA, not out of a desire to hurt her, but because she genuinely believes Mary ought to know. It's not much, but it is something after how much they're been at each other's throats.
  • They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason
  • Think Nothing of It: Matthew to Sybil.
  • Thunder = Downpour: Played as straight as straight can be in episode 6-6. Mary and Henry are walking down a cobblestone street, a clap of thunder is heard, and torrential rain instantly appears.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: A "known gang of toughs in brown shirts ... preaching the most awful things" are responsible for Michael Gregson's disappearance in Munich in 1922 (Season 4).
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Matthew goes from experiencing confusing tingling feelings to becoming fully erect (what are you sniggering at?) in the course of one episode, barring the occasional Hand Wave that he'll need to "take things slowly". Though the way time works on this show, the space between the two episodes could have been months.
  • Time Skip: Several times at regular-spaced intervals throughout. The first season begins in 1912 (sinking of the Titanic) while it ends in 1914. The second season begins two years later in 1916 and ends in 1919. There’s a one-year gap between the Season 3 finale and the same season's Christmas special.
  • Tomboy: Lady Sybil is less interested in ladylike pursuits than her sisters, dislikes fiddly corsets and skirts and eventually begins wearing ankle-length culottes instead of a dress.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: The Spanish Flu episode, as hinted in the previous week's On the Next montage. Actually used Manipulative Editing for the purpose, as the clip of a hand falling limp onto a bed was an entirely innocent gesture by a perfectly recovered Cora; Lavinia was the one who really died.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: If you're a nice, sweet character in this series you will wind up dead — William, Lavinia and Lady Sybil all die, and just happen to be the most sympathetic and pure characters in the series. All three even get a scene where they are mourned on their death bed.
  • Too Happy to Live: At least one half of any couple who produces a baby in this show. Sybil dies of eclampsia moments after giving birth; Matthew is killed in a car crash on his way home from the hospital where Mary has just birthed his son. Cora miscarries as soon as she and Robert realize their unborn son will solve the Succession Crisis. Michael Gregson goes missing after he and Edith consummate their relationship, which later results in a baby daughter, and is later confirmed to have been killed in a Nazi-related brawl in Germany.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Robert in Season 3 seems to become vastly more arrogant and reactionary while his mother, formerly the show's token conservative, mellows somewhat and is given more chances to Pet the Dog. A lot of the change seems to stem from his disapproval of his former chauffeur now being a member of the family, his wounded pride at having to take Matthew's money, and his general creeping irrelevance to the household as a whole — he still feels all the same responsibilities as patriarch of the family, but regularly sees his opinions ignored or mocked as outdated.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: O'Brien. Edith, after caring for the injured soldiers staying at Downton. Mary also grows far nicer over the course of the series (as Matthew points out at the end of Season 3). Violet in Season 3. Thomas, by the end of season 6, to the point that everyone is genuinely sad to see him leave Downton. Luckily, it doesn't last.
  • Train-Station Goodbye:
    • In Season 2 between Mary and Matthew. No, she didn't run after the train, but you know she wanted to.
    • Not much later, Mary has a more sedate and business-like one with Sir Richard.
    • In Season 4 Carson dramatically emerges from the steam to make his reconciliation with Griggs.
  • Translation by Volume: Apparently, Rosmond communicates with foreigners by shouting. This is how Violet guesses that Rosamund's given excuse to visit Switzerland - to improve her French - is bunk.
    "If Rosamund wants to be understood, she shouts."
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Matthew's ability to move between Downton and the Western Front in France.
  • Understatement: According to PBS's episode guide for Season 4, "Anna encounters trouble" in 4x02. The "trouble" in question happens to be a rape. Needless to say, some viewers were not pleased.
  • Unexpected Successor: Matthew Crawley goes from being a Mancunian lawyer to the heir of the Earl of Grantham and his estate, thanks to a couple of casualties in the line of succession and the current Earl's lack of a male child. Not that either Matthew or Robert are thrilled about this at first.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • Edith; Mary's the eldest and Sybil's the tearaway, but Edith is just the unassuming, dutiful Middle Child, and nobody pays her much attention. Lampshaded in the Comic Relief parody when she is introduced as "Daughter Number Two".
    • Robert's unfavorite son-in-law, hands down, is Branson for most of Season 3. He might not have been thrilled about Strallan as Edith's choice of husband, but at least he was friends with the man, and he thought of Matthew as the son he should have had. But he didn't even go to Sybil & Tom's wedding and cut Tom out of the decisions concerning his wife's treatment during childbirth. Decisions which ultimately led to her death.
    • Sybil also becomes this by association in Season 3. She and Cora are still on affectionate terms, but Robert is blatantly disapproving of her marriage and life choices.
  • Unique Pilot Title Sequence:
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: A quick example with Daisy and Andy in the series finale. She is cold and disinterested right up until he gets the hint and stops paying attention to her. They sort things out by the end of the episode.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Found in the earlier seasons mostly between Matthew/Mary and Branson/Sybil (resolved favorably in both cases. Later, between Edith and Gregson, and Mary and Gillingham or Charles.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Violet and the Sixth Earl, of course, had Robert and Rosamund, but history repeats after skipping a generation (Robert had three daughters and Rosamund is childless). By the end of the second movie, all of Mary, Edith and Tom have one of each tho, unlike Violet, each with a different partner. Mary bore George to Matthew and Caroline to Henry, Edith bore Marigold to the late Michael and Peter to Bertie, and Tom had Sybbie with Sybil and (as of yet unnamed) baby boy with Lucy.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Thomas takes advantage of Daisy's crush on him to manipulate her into his plans to ruin Bates. She eventually wises up and can't stomach the dishonesty.
  • Uptown Girl: Sybil and Branson fall in love in Season 2.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Thomas and O'Brien's conversations all start like hostile interrogations ("And just where have you been?"), but the two are thick as thieves, sharing secrets during their smoke breaks. Until their falling out in a latter season.
    • By season 3, Violet and Isobel are undoubtedly this.
  • Wartime Wedding: William leaves to fight in WWI and asks Daisy to marry him when the war is over; she doesn't love him and wants to turn him down, but accepts because Mrs Patmore tells her that William should not have to go to war heartbroken. He is mortally wounded in the trenches, and marries Daisy hours before his death because he wants her to have a widow's pension.
  • Webcomic Time: While the first two seasons quite explicitly take place over eight years (April 1912 to January 1920), the characters tend to act like it has been a shorter period of time, and the younger characters do not seem to have aged eight years. In particular, (nearly) eight years go by with none of the Earl's daughters getting married. At their ages, in that era, this would be a huge problem — although the war provides some excuse for the delay, it's still cause for scepticism. In fairness, it is considered a huge problem with Mary, though Robert is not aware of her, uhm, past. It's less emphasized with Edith, as both Robert and Cora seem to have decided early on she's nigh-on unmarriageable. Sybil was just barely of marriageable age before the war, and winds up marrying Tom almost immediately after it. (A few of the actors have alluded to the time issues in the show. Dame Maggie Smith commented in an interview that "she must be about 110" by the show's last season, and Sophie McShera has joked that Daisy must have been about 10 when the show started. (Note that it's All There in the Manual on the Dowager Countess' part; she was apparently born in the 1840s, which would make her in her 60s at the start of the series and in her 70s or 80s by Season 4).
  • Wedding Episode:
    • Matthew and Mary get married in the Season 3 opener.
    • Subverted with poor Edith and Sir Anthony in episode 2 of Season 3. The whole ceremony is prepared, but he leaves her at the altar.
    • Rose and Atticus' wedding day in Season 5. Much commentary over the fact that it's held at a court instead of a church, Rose doesn't have a veil, etc. etc. etc. (Atticus is Jewish).
  • Wedding Finale: The series finale is a wedding day for Edith and Bertie.
  • Welcome Episode: Introduced Bates, Isabel and Matthew.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The ante-penultimate episode of Season 2 — where to start? Richard tries to pay Anna to spy on Mary, Carson finds out and refuses to work for him; Matthew gets almost total use of his legs back over the course of about ten minutes, and Violet wastes no time in trying to set him back up with Mary; Ethel bursts in on dinner to present her lovechild to its grandparents; Bates reveals he bought the rat poison his wife used to kill herself; Thomas invests all his money in a black market business and gets screwed over; Sybil elopes with Branson and her sisters chase her down and bring her back to the house.
    • There’s the Season 3 Christmas special, when Matthew is brutally killed in an automobile accident in the final seconds... right after everyone started breathing a sigh of relief that the succession was finally in the bag.
  • Wham Line:
    • "It seems James and Patrick were on board [the Titanic]."
    • Even if you knew this was coming, the last line from the first season changes everything:
      Robert: I am sorry to announce that we are at war with Germany.
    • "Are you saying all the money is gone?"
  • Wham Shot: At the end of 4x07, Green nonchalantly reveals to the whole table, thanks to a little prompting from Baxter, that he came downstairs during the Nellie Melba concert when Anna was raped. The final shot of the episode is Bates, who had been led to believe that Anna's rapist was a burglar who broke in; his hands are trembling and he is glaring right at Green. Bates knows.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Mrs Patmore forced Daisy to pretend to be William's sweetheart as he went to war. It started with Daisy giving him a picture and ended with a deathbed marriage. Daisy got increasingly unhappy with the lie and ended up calling the cook out for it.
    • When Mary walks in on Matthew and Mr Murray discussing the management of Downton on the morning after the death of her sister, Sybil, she rather gently chews them out for their poor taste.
    • Cora blames Robert for Sybil's death after he makes the wrong call in a case of conflicting medical advice, and he accepts that there's some truth to this, despite Violet's attempt to comfort him.
    • Branson calls Mary out for spitefully revealing to Bertie, Edith's fiance, that Marigold is secretly Edith's daughter, pointing out that it nearly ruined Edith's life.
    • Carson, whose treatment of Thomas in season 6 drives him to attempt suicide.
  • What Were You Thinking?:
    • Sybil when she goes to a dangerous political meeting where she gets injured.
    • Ethel when she gets involved with Major Bryant. Anna even tried to warn her.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: The concern is not so much who killed Mrs Bates or Mr Green, it's proving that certain people didn't.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The flower show conflict is almost a straight rerun of the Best Picture-winning 1942 film Mrs. Miniver (except that the old man is not killed in a German air raid the same night).
  • The Wicked Stage: It's revealed that the Comically Serious head butler, Carson, was a vaudeville performer in his youth. Carson is deeply ashamed of this. The rest of the characters look on this revelation as amusing at worst, and Lord Grantham is actually quite impressed by it.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sybil and Daisy.
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • Bates and Anna. They Do.
    • Matthew and Mary. They Do...but Matthew dies in a car crash.
    • Daisy and William. They Do...on his deathbed, and she doesn't know if it was the right decision.
    • Branson and Sybil. They Do...but Sybil dies in childbirth.
    • Daisy and Alfred. They Don't.
    • Ivy and Alfred. They Don't.
    • Ivy and Jimmy. They Don't.
    • Thomas and Jimmy. Incompatible Orientation ensures that They Don't.
    • Robert and Jane They Don't.
    • Edith and Anthony Strallan. They Don't.
    • Edith and Michael Gregson. They Do, and she has his baby, but he is murdered by Those Wacky Nazis.
    • Edna and Branson. They Don't.
    • Rose and Atticus. They Do.
    • Carson and Mrs. Hughes. They Do.
    • Mary and Tony Gillingham. They try but They Don't.
    • Mary and Charles Cross. They Don't.
    • Mary and Henry Talbot. They Do.
    • Edith and Bertie Pelham. They Do.
    • Mrs Patmore and Mr Mason. No Romantic Resolution yet.
  • Women Are Delicate: The men think so, but the women prove them wrong.
  • Women Are Wiser: A common pattern as Cora, Mrs Hughes, Sybil and Anna are generally more tolerant, sensible and level-headed than their male counterparts Robert, Carson, Branson and Bates.
  • Worst Aid: Incompetent doctor Sir Philip — and Lord Robert's insistence in believing him over Dr Clarkson, who made the correct diagnosis—leads to Sybil's death from eclampsia in Season 3.
  • Wretched Hive: Jazz clubs, apparently. The utter horror of high-born Edith and Rosamund (and even formerly middle-class Matthew) upon entering one is one of the funniest moments in Season 3.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Lady Sybil is stated as being 21 years old when she marries Tom. That same year at Christmas it is revealed that she’s pregnant. In the episode where she gives birth to Sybbie she is said to be 24 when she ought to be either still 21 or at the most 22.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Basically all of Molesley's subplots.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Thomas's fellow stretcher-bearer in France says words to this effect right before a German bullet goes through his head.
  • You Didn't Ask:
    • Bates uses this once. Word for word.
    • Later, in Season 3, Branson says this to Sybil after they have to flee Ireland when the authorities catch wind of his political involvements.
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything: Which may seem anachronistic, but in fact the Judges' Rules on police arrest procedure came out in 1912.
  • You Just Told Me: How Carson gets confirmation of Mrs Hughes' health problems from Mrs Patmore
  • Zany Scheme: All of Thomas' schemes to become Lord Grantham's valet, but plotting to steal and then return his beloved Labrador, Isis, takes the cake. Zany, perhaps, but note that this was the scheme that ended up getting him the job. Lord Grantham was so touched by Thomas spending all night out searching for his dog, that he decided to give Thomas a try after all.

Video Example(s):


Downton Abbey Opening

A time of upstairs and downstairs

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