Good parenting is not a walk in the park and not many parents can say without an iota of hesitation that they had never made mistakes while bringing their kids up. In fact, no one comes into the world knowing how to be good parents, so a bad choice or two here and there is part and parcel of the journey.
The hit British period drama Downton Abbey is first and foremost about family and relationships. A fair number of people tried their hands at parenting, and a fair number of questionable choices were made. Some of these decisions had some rationale behind them while some might appear simply dubious, but in any case, here are ten such choices made by parents for their children in this lavish historical drama.
10Robert Refusing To Fight For Mary’s Inheritance
Robert Crawley was a man of honor in spite of the few times he fell from grace, such as when he almost ended up having a whirlwind affair with the housemaid Jane. But his honor came in the way of his putting up a fight when his estate was on the verge of being entailed away from his daughter Mary.
Of course, Robert thought he was doing the right thing. But to not put up a fight for his daughter’s inheritance and let the estate, as well as his wife Cora’s inheritance that was tied to it be taken away, seemed like an odd choice for a parent.
9Lord Grantham Deciding Not To Hurt Sir Tapsell’s Feelings During Sybil’s Delivery
Instead of trusting Dr. Clarkson who was familiar with Lady Sybil as a patient, Lord Grantham put his faith entirely in the knighted Harley Street doctor, Sir Phillip Tapsell, letting him take complete charge of Sybil.
Fans know that Sybil died tragically from pre-eclampsia, which is a risk factor for mothers during childbirth even today. There was an entire plotline revolving around Cora’s belief that had Robert allowed Clarkson to prevail, Sybil’s life might have been saved. But he didn’t want to hurt Tapsell’s feelings–an odd decision when your child’s life is hanging in the balance–and ultimately regretted it immensely after his daughter’s death.
8Cora Helping Mary With Kemal’s Body
Cora Crawley was a quick-thinker and one of the most level-headed characters in Downton Abbey. She was known for acting reasonably and rationalizing things with both sensitivity and intelligence.
In the very first season, Cora helped cover up a potential scandal for her daughter Mary by sneaking the handsome Kemal Pamuk’s body from Mary’s bed to his own at the break of dawn. Now, while this was a very astute move at the time, in hindsight it might not have been the most morally correct thing a mother could have done. But then again, she was a mother. So naturally, Mary’s reputation would have been the first thing on her mind.
7Cora Content With Sir Anthony Strallan As Edith’s Prospective Husband
Cora was a good mother and as a parent of three daughters in early 20th century England, one of her major anxieties would have been marrying her children off.
In that light, Sir Anthony Strallan as Edith’s protective husband might have seemed like more than what Cora had hoped for her second daughter. But to let one’s daughter gamble her life away because she seemed unlikely to make a better match appears a tad twisted. Of course, Sir Anthony wasn’t a bad sort at all and seemed to genuinely love Edith, but fans would agree that Edith, for all her annoying ways, deserved better. And lo and behold, she eventually married an earl.
6Tom Taking Sybbie To And Fro
Tom Branson was yet another fan-favorite like Cora and a gentle, caring father to his daughter Sybbie. Tom was a tragic hero for the most part as the love of his life, the beautiful Sybil Crawley, died shockingly in childbirth, leaving him with a little daughter.
Parenting is essentially a trial and error and Tom was no exception. He decided that he wanted to bring Sybbie up amongst his own people and took her off to Ireland until he realized that Sybbie’s real family were the Crawleys. Packing Sybbie off and then bringing her all the way back again must have confused the poor thing but she was too young at the time, so one hopes that she wasn’t too flabbergasted by all the gallivanting about and the new people.
5Lady Flintshire Being Overtly Critical With Rose
Susan or Lady Flintshire was Violet Crawley’s niece, portrayed as an unpleasant nag who spent much of her time fussing over and criticizing her only daughter Rose. Susan could have been going through mental health issues such as depression, although this was never addressed per se. After all, mental health was not even a conversation in the post-Edwardian era.
But if one was to simply consider Susan an unhappy woman bent on making everyone around her miserable, then her constant criticism of and interference into Rose’s life was nigh unbearable. However, there was a moment between Susan and Cora when the former seemed to be genuinely anxious for her daughter’s well-being, and as fans would agree, Rose was indeed a handful.
4Susan Trapping Atticus To Stop Rose’ Wedding
A mother fussing over her only daughter is something one can get behind, but the way Susan tried to trap Rose’s fiancé, Atticus, by falsely setting him up during his stag party, was simply out of line.
Lady Flintshire paid a woman to accost Atticus after his stag party so that they could be photographed together, giving everyone the impression that Atticus had been unfaithful to Rose. Susan claimed that she had done it to ensure her daughter didn’t make an unhappy match
3Violet Crawley Allowing Her Children An Hour A Day
One of the most hilarious running storylines in the series was the love-hate relationship between veteran actress Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess and Penelope Wilton’s Cousin Isobel, replete with dry British humor and witty repartee.
In one such scene, Isobel is seen telling Violet that she didn’t imagine the Dowager being a very hands-on mother. In fact, she imagined her meeting her children when they were young for just an hour, that too surrounded by their nannies. To this, Violet replies characteristically that she met her children for an hour, every day, emphasizing the last part. Hysterical as it was, one might be allowed to question Violet’s belief that an hour daily for her kids was more than enough parenting.
2Edith Deciding To Keep Marigold With Mr. Drewe
Lady Edith Crawley got dealt a raw deal for a long time in her life until the tide finally turned. But before that happened, she struggled, especially when it came to decisions regarding her daughter Marigold, born out of wedlock with Michael Gregson.
Edith decided against informing her own family about Marigold, afraid that they would force her to separate from the child. She also didn’t want the truth about Marigold’s identity leaked, which, given the social setting, was understandable. But keeping Marigold with a foster family, the Drewes, wasn’t fair to either party involved. Not only did it potentially perplex the poor child, but the decision also ended up hurting Mrs. Drewe badly.
1Robert Not Believing In Edith
One cannot squarely blame the parents for how their children turn out but to not believe in them, judge them or label them mediocre at best, might be considered questionable parenting.
In that sense, Robert Crawley’s average expectations for his middle daughter who already appeared doomed in life didn’t exactly make him Father of the Year. In the very first season, Robert and Cora are seen discussing that Edith might spend her entire life at Downton. And although Robert disapproves of Strallan marrying Edith unlike Cora, he never seems to hold his daughter in very high regard, questioning her career choices, and doubting her at every step.