Downton Abbey gave audiences a chance to live the British high life of the early 20th century. Garish dinners, butlers, and stately homes filled the scenes of Downton, and its cast of aristocratic characters brought it all to life.
While much of the series is concerned for both sides of the social coin, focusing on both the aristocracy, servants, and everyone in between, there is no denying that the show mostly concerns itself with the aristocratic family of the Crawleys. In preparation for the return to Downton Abbey this fall, here are the top ten aristocratic characters ranked.
Martha Levinson, mother to Lady Cora Crawley, might not be a member of the established British elite, but she sure as hell has the money and connections to be considered aristocratic. He no-nonsense behavior makes her an equal match at jabs to the Dowager Countess, giving audiences so especially juicy dialogue.
Sadly, Mrs. Levinson is absent for so much of the series that he impact is less felt than most. While she is certainly a delight, her stories are rarely explored enough to make much of a difference. But she is always fun to have in an episode, serving as the American disruptor for the time being.
9Lady Rose Aldridge
Before she was Cinderella, Lilly James held a long stay in the home of the Earl of Grantham. Lady Rose was the cousin of Lord Robert and daughter of Lord and Lady Hugh and Susan MacClare. Staying at Downton during her early adulthood, Rose found her first loves.
Rose was a girl of her age, reveling in Jazz and innovation. Her sweet demeanor made her very likable, and she rarely made choices that tarnished her personality. Sadly, it is this reason that leaves her lower on the list. While she isn’t horribly written, she’s certainly not the most enthralling character to follow.
8Lady Cora Crawley
Cora is a fascinating figure at Downton. While she holds a prestigious title, her background is far less traditional. Hailing from America, Cora isn’t always the first to honor tradition. But, she is always supportive of her daughters and husband.
Sadly, while Cora is an established mainstay in the Downton household, she rarely gets to spread her wings narratively. She certainly has had challenging and heartbreaking moments, but her journey is far more in the periphery. Still, she is played wonderfully by Elizabeth McGovern, embodying the maternal warmth of the Grantham family.
7Lady Sybil Cora Branson
Tragic Sybill’s story was cut short before she really had a chance to flourish. The youngest daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham, Sybill was a radical from the start. A feminist, socialist, and humanitarian, Sybill was averse to the privilege she grew up in. She married her beloved Tom Branson, the family’s Chauffeur, and had a beautiful baby girl.
Sadly, her character arc was relinquished when she died post-childbirth. It is a shame because Sybill had so much potential as a foil to her family’s privilege. Finally, someone who disagreed with the philosophy of the household could remain as a voice of reason. The choice to kill her off was one that hurt the character in the long run.
Isobel might not have aristocratic beginnings, but she unwillingly climbed the ladder through marriage. After her son became heir, she became a mainstay at the Abbey. Ever afterward she eventually married Lord Richard Grey. This one-time nurse became a fully-fledged lady!
Isobel is a lovely character and a wonderful mirror to Violet Crawley. She embraces change, values justice, and is loyal beyond belief. Penelope Wilton, also of Doctor Who fame, did wonders with the character. Arguably, Isobel remains one of the more underrated characters of the whole series.
5Lord Robert, Earl Of Grantham
Robert as a character is a sad one to watch most of the time. Much of the world that he is used to crumbles around him, giving way for one that is incredibly alien. That being said, he is still an insanely privileged individual stuck with much easier problems than most of Britain at the time let alone half of his staff.
The problem is, Hugh Bonneville is so damn charming in the role, you can’t help but root for Lord Grantham. While he might be considered a villain by today’s moral standards, he remains a powerful figure in his local community and one who is beneficial to the greater good. He’s not perfect and certainly a bit morally gray, but Hugh Bonneville makes it work perfectly.
4Lady Edith Crawley
Lady Edith is a character that might not be very likable but is sympathetic beyond belief. The utter garbage that gets flung at her constantly throughout the series would be enough to send most of us on a soul searching journey far, far away from the halls of Downton. Instead, like a good Brit, Edith keeps carrying on.
Edith is a constant disappointment to her family and herself, often by her own doing. For that, we love her. We all feel like the Edith in our families at times, and honestly we stan an imperfect queen.
3Lady Mary Crawley
Lady Mary gets a bad rap from day one. She is cold, she is determined, she is often even mean. But so are most protagonists on TV. The only difference? She’s a self-assured woman. Mary has to juggle a lot of crap from her family and the expectations of her role. While she does not always cater to tradition, she is not naive enough to fully embrace the change against it.
Mary stands in the middle between the younger crowd of social revolutionaries and the guardians of the old ways. Because of that, Mary is the one who has to make the tough decisions. There’s a reason we follow her for most of the show, and that’s because she is the show personified.
Dan Stevens was cast as the Beast in Disney’s live-action remake for one reason and one reason only: Because Matthew Crawley is a Disney Prince in disguise. Matthew is the perfect man. He is humble, handsome, brilliant, and thrives in a period piece.
Matthew was one of the shows best characters. Like Mary, he stood as a figure in the middle, coming neither from the aristocracy or poverty. This middle-class hero was set to take over Downton and bring it into the new age. Sadly, the show had to kill him off as Stevens wanted out. What we got of him though was perfection.
1Violet, Dowager Countess Of Grantham
If anyone was going to take the number one spot it was Maggie Smith. While she really stands as nothing more than comic relief and witty remarks, Violet the Dowager Countess is the ultimate aristocrat of Downton Abbey. It’s no wonder that with a performer as renowned and iconic as Maggie Smith behind her that Violet is as beloved as she is.
Violet as the best lines of the show, which every fan rocks on some kitschy t-shirt they won’t admit they own. She exudes old world-class and survives as a pillar of tradition. The best aspect of her character though is when she is challenged and proven wrong, showing a small hint of (short-lived) remorse. It shows the bit of humanity essential in a sassy character such as this.