Fans of Downton Abbey were devastated when Matthew Crawley met an untimely end in Season 3, with many wondering what would happen to his widow, Lady Mary Crawley. As it turned out, Mary had many more romantic adventures ahead of her. She eventually fell in love again with a handsome racecar driver by the name of Henry Talbot.
Henry’s middling prospects made him an unappealing match for an earl’s daughter who refused to marry down. Moreover, his enthusiasm for racing reminded Mary of her trauma from losing Matthew in a car accident. The two seemed woefully mismatched, yet somehow Henry managed to sweep Mary off her feet and carry her into the sunset. Here are ten potential love interests Mary should have run away with instead.
The Honorable Evelyn Napier always carried a torch for Mary, but his timing was never right. For some reason, he would only visit Downton with another handsome government official by his side. First, there was his friend Kemal Pamuk, who monopolized Mary’s attention during a hunt. Then, his colleague Charles Blake proved to be ample competition for her affections. It seemed that Mary always found Evelyn boring, but with his combination of good looks, genteel charm, and heirdom to the Viscountcy of Branksome, it’s a mystery why she never considered becoming his Viscountess.
As a lady’s maid, Anna was responsible for maintaining Mary’s wardrobe, drawing her bath, and keeping her bedroom tidy. The two developed a close friendship, with Mary frequently confiding in Anna as she dressed for dinner or undressed for the day. While the two women were alone together, Mary showed Anna her vulnerable side that was inaccessible to almost anyone else, particularly her family. Those moments in front of the mirror were more intimate and meaningful than any scene Mary shared with Henry.
Matthew and Mary were the central romance for the first three seasons of the show. After a rocky introduction, they became fast friends and eventually something more. Matthew was drawn to Mary’s beauty and independence and he brought out a softer side of her that would have shocked Edith.
We like to imagine how the show might have continued had Dan Stevens not left. Would Matthew and Mary have inherited the Grantham titles and estate from Robert and Cora? Would the new Lord and Lady Grantham modernize the estate and do away with the entail? Alas, we’ll never know.
Before Mary ever knew who Matthew Crawley was, she was engaged to her cousin Patrick. She didn’t love him, but it was the closest she could get to inheriting Downton without breaking the entail. As the eldest Crawley child, Mary believed the estate was rightfully hers, and she was bitter that she must be passed over for a male heir. To keep the estate in the family, she was willing to marry for practical rather than emotional reasons. What if Patrick hadn’t been lost on the Titanic and lived to see his and Mary’s wedding day? We’d love to see how that alternate universe plays out.
Mary and Matthew’s first engagement came to an abrupt end shortly before the Great War broke out. Over the next few years, they each moved on with other people. Mary became engaged to Richard Carlisle, a powerful and ruthless newspaper proprietor. Mary knew that Carlisle was a self-made man in need of the Crawley name to boost his status in society. In return, he would keep her scandals a secret, protecting the family name. Carlisle brought out Mary’s cold and careful side, and though their marriage would have been loveless, there’s no doubt they were a great power couple.
For a character that made only one appearance, Kemal Pamuk had a tremendous impact on Downton Abbey‘s first two seasons. Kemal was a dignitary and friend of Evelyn Napier’s who visited Downton to see a traditional English fox hunt. He was immediately attracted to Mary, who returned his feelings on the hunt. Later that night, he propositioned Mary in her bedroom. And we all know what happened next.
It’s hard to see Kemal’s storyline ending with anything other than a heart attack in Mary’s bed. The point is, Mary still showed more enthusiasm for him than Henry.
The Crawleys weren’t the only aristocratic family in the Yorkshire countryside. They made the occasional reference to their neighbors, whose sons came out of the woodwork as soon as Mary was widowed. Tony Gillingham even broke off his engagement to another woman in order to pursue Mary. Unfortunately, after an illicit tryst, Mary decided she wasn’t interested in Tony after all. They seemed to be a good match on paper, but the physical aspect just wasn’t there.
Out of all the people on this list, Tony probably had the most in common with Henry. Both were tall, dark, and handsome with reserved personalities. Tony at least had the benefit of being a childhood friend Mary knew for more than one season.
Tony’s jilted fiancee was none other than the Honorable Mabel Lane-Fox, who Mary described as “the heiress of the season.” (For her part, Mabel described Mary as a “cross between a fashion plate and a stick of dynamite.”) Mabel was understandably hostile towards Mary — she was on a mission to win back her fiance. Mary’s insistence that she was no longer interested in Tony and that she wanted their relationship to happen changed her mind.
However, Mary couldn’t make it too easy to win Tony back, and Mabel was clearly amused when she said as much. Instead of arguing over Tony, perhaps these two could ride off into the sunset on their own…together.
Tony Gillingham wasn’t the only suitor Mary entertained in the years between Matthew and Henry. His old war buddy, Charles Blake, also tried to win her heart. Blake was a government official studying how great estates like Downton Abbey were handling the post-war economy. When Mary assumed he was there to ensure the estates’ survival, he quickly corrected her. Witty banter ensued.
Charles and Mary couldn’t stand each other at first but quickly warmed up after they both got muddy bringing water to pigs. We even got to see Mary cook for the first time. This progression from enemies to something more was far more interesting than Mary’s dynamic with Tony and, later, Henry.
This was the most confounding one of them all. A match between Mary and Tom made so much sense given their work on the estate, their mutual interest in Henry Talbot, and the emotional payoff of seeing two long-running characters get together. The show seemed to be headed that direction too, with many of their scenes hinting at a growing connection between the icy widow and ex-chauffeur. Sadly, this turned out to be wishful thinking. It was a lost opportunity to give the show an overarching storyline and partner off Mary with someone who was worthy of her.