An Alphabetical Guide To “Downton Abbey”
“Downton Abbey”: if you’re not watching it, you’ve probably heard someone talking about it and have wondered what all the fuss is about. If you are in latter category but would like to get up to speed and perhaps start watching, allow me educate you. I took it upon myself to watch all of season one of “Downton Abbey” this weekend. The show is an hour-long British television drama that has aired two seasons on the BBC in the U.K.; so far, only all of season one has aired in the U.S., with the second season premiering last night on PBS and airing every Sunday at 9 p.m. Is it A for Awesome and this is my alphabetical guide to the show’s first season so if you’re a fan who needs a refresher or a new viewer who wants to know what you’ve missed before you jump into season two, click onward!
Anna Smith: The head housemaid at Downton, Anna is kind and trustworthy. In season one, she fell in love with Bates, Lord Grantham’s old friend and valet.
Anthony Strallan: A friend of the Crawleys, Anthony Strallan was a suitor of Lady Edith, but his plan to propose to her was thwarted by Lady Mary, who was getting revenge on her sister for spreading rumors about the circumstances of Mr. Pamuk’s death.
Baby Boy Crawley: Towards the end of season one, Countess Crawley became pregnant. She lost the baby — a boy, who would have been Lord Grantham’s heir apparent — when O’Brien left a bar of soap outside the bath, causing her to slip and miscarry.
Bates, John: Lord Grantham’s valet. He’s got a bum leg and a past history as a drunk and a thief. Initially disliked by some of the staff for being given such a prestigious position, he found an ally in Anna, the head housemaid, who quickly fell in love with him. Bates is an old friend of Lord Grantham and has earned his loyalty (and thus his position) for some unknown reason related to their serving in the Boer Wars together.
Branson, Tom: Downton Abbey’s chauffeur is from Ireland and has socialist political views which technically put him at odds with the family he serves. His would be the ass I would tap, so I hope Lady Sybil does it for me in season two.
“Butlers With Feelings”: John DeVore’s nickname for the show.
Carson, Charles: The Butler and head of the staff at Downton Abbey has come to consider the Crawley family his own. Though he’s a bit on the cranky side, he’s a total marshmallow underneath and is always fair in his leading of the staff.
Cora Crawley: Countess of Grantham, Cora is Lord Grantham’s American wife. The Countess had a sizable fortune that legally became her husband’s when they married. But because they have not produced a male heir, her money will someday go to Matthew Crawley, Robert’s third cousin once removed, his closet male heir.
Daisy: Kitchen maid. Daisy is quite young and immature, equal parts sweet and clumsy. For a time, she had a crush on Thomas the footman, but when he used her in his plan to frame Bates, she realized he’s a scumbag. Will she realize William is much cuter and kinder in season two?
Downton Abbey: The fictional estate in North Yorkshire where the show is set and where the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley, and his family live.
Duke of Crowborough: The gay lover of Thomas the footman, the Duke was a suitor of Lady Mary’s, but only because he was looking for someone to help save his own estate from financial ruin.
Edith: Lady Edith Crawley, the middle daughter of Lord and Countess Grantham, is considered to be the least, well, marketable of the Crawley girls; her mother once even remarked that she would be taking care of them in their old age rather than having a husband and children of her own. Edith was often at odds with her eldest sister in season one; it was revealed that she was the reason Mary’s tryst with the Turk became a rumor. Edith actually caught the interest of her own suitor, Sir Anthony Strallan, but Mary’s revenge was to sabotage the possibility of a proposal.
Entail: An estate of inheritance in real property which cannot be sold, devised by will, or otherwise alienated by the owner, but which passes by operation of law to the owner’s heirs upon his death. In this case, the entail in question, which sets the series plot in motion, is that of Downton Abbey (the estate) and the Crawley family titles. Because Lord Grantham and Countess Crawley do not have a male heir — and the initial presumptive heir, who Mary was presumed to marry, died when the Titanic sunk — the titles and inheritance of their children will no longer be theirs upon the Lord’s death. The only resolution is for Mary to wed Matthew so that the estate stays within their direct line.
Evelyn Napier: Evelyn, first of all, is a dude. A suitor of Lady Mary’s who was briefly considered as a possible husband for her. Sadly, he’s a bore and made the mistake of bringing Kemal Pamuk with him to visit Downton Abbey, and Mr. Pamuk quickly cockblocked and went for Mary himself.
Footman: The position has nothing to do with feet, if you were wondering. It’s just the formal word for a male servant.
Gwen Dawson: A housemaid at Downton Abbey, Gwen secretly took a typing course in hopes of becoming a secretary. She was encouraged in this endeavor by Lady Sybil, who believes that women of all classes should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Heir apparent: The person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting. Lord and Countess Grantham have no heir presumptive for the Crawley estate, as it stipulates that the heir must be male and they only have daughters. Therefore, their estate is to be handed down to the heir presumptive.
Heir presumptive: The person provisionally scheduled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honor, but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir or heiress apparent or of a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the position in question. Patrick Gordon was the heir presumptive to the Crawley estate until his death on the Titanic; Matthew Crawley then became the heir presumptive.
Hughes, Mrs. Elsie: Downton’s housekeeper is often Mr. Carson’s confidant. I love Mrs. Hughes. She doesn’t fuck around.
Isobel Crawley: Matthew Crawley’s widowed mother who moved with him to Yorkshire after he found out he was the new heir presumptive. Isobel is a trained nurse and was not content to sit at home all day, so she began working at the local hospital. Isobel isn’t into the formal manners and values of the Crawley family — something she has also instilled in Matthew — so she and the Dowager Countess were frequently at odds. I have hopes that they will find common ground and become besties.
Julian Fellowes: The creator and writer behind “Downton Abbey.”
Mary: Lady Mary Josephine Crawley is the eldest daughter of Lord and Countess Grantham. Mary was informally engaged to her cousin Patrick Gordon, the Lord’s heir presumptive, but he died in episode one, throwing the plans for the estate into question. Much of season one revolves around trying to find Mary a new suitable husband, but Mary slowly becomes less and less interested in just being married off, rebelling at one point by giving her virginity to a Turkish dignitary who then dies mid-coitus. Mary is a somewhat infuriating character; she has gumption, but she’s also caught between the old-fashioned way of doing things and the modern and more progressive way the world is headed, causing her to make some boneheaded decisions (like not agreeing to marry Matthew right away!).
Matthew Crawley: The heir presumptive to the Crawley estate, Matthew, a lawyer, is Lord Grantham’s third cousin once removed who moves to Yorkshire with his mother in order to become more familiar with what will eventually be his. Matthew initially was considered as possible husband for Mary, as their marriage would ensure that both her title and the family money would stay with Lord and Countess Grantham’s lineage. While Mary was not initially taken with Matthew, they developed a bond and by the end of season one, Matthew had proposed, but Mary took to long in deciding whether, despite being in love with Matthew, she wanted to marry him. Because Cora was pregnant at the time, Matthew took this as a sign that Mary was only interested in marrying him if she was sure he would be the heir and her mother’s pregnancy (which eventually miscarried) made that unclear. Matthew remained the heir presumptive at the end of season one and Mary was left heartbroken.
O’Brien, Sarah: O’Brien is the Countess’s maid and a major gossip and troublemaker. O’Brien assisted Thomas in his attempt to frame Bates for theft and also was the cause of the Countess’s miscarriage, an occurrence that she seems to — and should! — feel immense guilt about.
Pamuk, Kemal: A diplomat from the Ottoman Empire Embassy who visited Downton Abbey with Evelyn Napier. Pamuk immediately gave Lady Mary a total girl boner with his tawny skin and good looks and in the process of sexing her, he had a stroke and died in her bed. Their tryst was covered up by Mary, Countess Crawley, and Anna, who dragged his body back to his bedroom so he wouldn’t be discovered dead in Mary’s bed.
Patmore, Mrs. Beryl: Mrs. Patmore is the cook at Downton Abbey. Her deteriorating eyesight was making it impossible to do her job, so Lord Grantham sent her to London for an eye operation which improved things a bit at the end of season one.
Patrick Gordon: The second cousin of Lord Grantham and the initial heir to the Crawley estate. His presumed death (in the sinking of the Titanic) in the first episode of the series is what set the series plot in motion.
Robert Crawley: The Earl of Grantham, head of the Crawley house, husband of Countess Crawley, son of the Dowager Countess, and father to Ladies Mary, Edith, and Sybil. Before he married Cora, the Crawley estate was on the verge of financial ruin; her fortune, which immediately became part of the entail when they married, is what saved Downton from having to be sold.
Rosamund Painswick: Lady Rosamund Painswick is Lord Grantham’s sister and Violet’s daughter. She influenced Mary in postponing giving Matthew an answer to his proposal.
Sybil: Lady Sybil Crawley is the middle daughter of Lord and Countess Grantham. Sybil is the spitfire of the Crawley girls, interested in progressive politics and women’s rights. Sybil is awesome. When she was sent to a seamstress to have a new dress made, she came back with a pair of gauzy pants. Personally, I hope that Sybil ends up falling in love with Branson, the Crawley’s Irish and socialist driver.
Thomas Barrow: The Footman at Downton Abbey is a closeted homosexual whose plans to rise up the ranks were thwarted when Bates was brought on as the Lord’s valet. Thomas tried to get Bates fired by framing him for stealing a bottle of wine, but his plan was unsuccessful. Thomas had a brief affair with Evelyn Napier, a suitor of Lady Mary’s. At the end of season one, Thomas quit his position at Downton is order to join a medical unit in advance of the impending war in hopes of avoiding combat.
Valet: A male servant who is the personal attendant to their employer.
Virginity: Maintaining ones’ virginity until marriage is obviously considered a necessity for women during this time period, especially for women of nobility. That’s why it’s such a big deal that Lady Mary f**ked the Turk, Mr. Pamuk, and must find a husband ASAP lest the gossip gets out and she becomes unmarriable.
Violet Crawley: The Dowager Countess and Lord Grantham’s mother. She is determined to see her granddaughter Mary inherit the Crawley estate which would require that Mary wed Matthew, the heir presumptive, even though she doesn’t approve of Matthew because he’s only upper middle class rather than nobility. Violet is an old-fashioned matriarch, but also a totally hilarious mouthy badass.
Women’s rights: At the point at which the series begins, women do not have the right to vote. This is one of Lady Sybil’s biggest political interests.
William Mason: The second footman at Downton, William is sweet and kind and has a crush on Daisy.