Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is a British historical drama that airs on PBS in the United States. It takes place in the early 20th century on an estate in Yorkshire County. While the show mainly focuses on the family drama that takes place in Downton Abbey, the show’s writers sneak in references to a number of historical events that happened during the time. Watch Downton Abbey online to catch up on all the latest episodes.


Series Overview

Downton Abbey revolves around the lives of the Crawleys, who own the eponymous estate. Much of the story line also revolves around the servants of the estate as they live out their lives and gossip about the aristocrats they serve. The very beginning of the series begins as one of the Crawleys dies aboard the HMS Titanic. At the end of the fourth season, the story has spanned from 1912 to 1923.

Main Characters of Downton Abbey

This show has an unusually long list of characters. Some of the main characters include:

Robert Crawley

Robert Crawley is Lord Grantham, the lord of the estate. He is married to Cora, an American whom he married for money and fell in love with later. His heir died on the Titanic in the first episode. At the end of the first season, his wife loses a baby, which turns out to have been a boy. Later in the series, he invests all of his wife’s money in a single company and loses it all. The question of who his heir will be is a large focus of the show.

Lady Sybil Crawley

Sybil is the youngest daughter of Lord Grantham. She becomes a nurse during World War I, after which she falls in love with an Irish chauffer. She runs off to Ireland with him to get married. The couple eventually comes back to Downton Abbey, but Sybil soon dies during childbirth.

Lady Edith Crawley

Edith is the middle daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham. There is running theme in the show that her family often ignores her. Labeled as a spinster, she seeks the attention of a much older neighbor. He eventually agrees to marry her, but he abandons her at the altar. She then falls in love with Michael Gregson, an editor who publishes her articles. She has a child with him out of wedlock.

Lady Mary Crawley

Mary is the uptight eldest daughter. One of the main plotlines in the first and second seasons is that she sleeps with a Turkish diplomat who dies in her bed. She was meant to marry the heir who died on the Titanic, but she eventually marries Matthew Crawley. She gives birth to a son that becomes the heir after Matthew dies in a car crash.

Violet Crawley

Violet is the antagonistic old matriarch of the family. She is old-fashioned, but she occasionally surprises the audience with some lax views when it comes to her family.

Matthew Crawley

Matthew Crawley becomes the heir in the first season. He is a middle class lawyer who moves to Downton, fights in World War I and dies over the course of the series.

John Bates

John is the valet of Lord Grantham. He is a disabled war veteran who was a comrade of the Lord. He is separated from his wife and so pursues a relationship with a lady’s maid named Anna. He is later arrested and found guilty of the murder of his wife. Anna works to free him, which is successful. Later, they marry and move in together.

Thomas Barrow

Thomas Barrow is first footman at Downton Abbey. He is secretly gay, but this is revealed in Season 3. The Crawleys are accepting of his sexuality.

Season 1

The first series starts with the death of Lord Grantham’s heir. While there are several sub-plots, the main storyline is Matthew Crawley, the new heir, coming to Downton Abbey. Only males can inherit, and thus, there is some question over whether one of the Lord’s daughters will marry the heir and keep the family fortune in their immediate family.

Season 2

The plot of season 2 is focused on World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic. Several of the main characters, including Matthew Crawley, go off to fight in the war. Sybil becomes a nurse and goes to Ireland with Tom Branson.

Season 3

Sybil marries Branson in season 3. The Crawley family is put into panic when the Lord loses all of his wife’s money. Matthew saves them by giving the Lord some money he inherited from a now-deceased fiancé. Sybil dies in childbirth, and John Bates is released from prison.

Season 4

Matthew has died, leaving Mary in mourning and her newborn son as heir to the estate. She is already being courted by two men. The late Sybil’s daughter is treated unkindly by a nanny who is fired for her remarks about the child being a crossbreed. Watch Downton Abbey online to learn more about how Mary is faring and who will take care of the children next.