Although HBO’s The Gilded Age takes place decades before the start of Downton Abbey, many Downton characters are alive and here are their whereabouts in 1882. The Gilded Age is also created by Downton Abbey’s mastermind, Julian Fellowes. Set primarily in New York City, The Gilded Age depicts an era of astounding wealth and rapid social and economic change. While Downton is focused on the Crawley family of Yorkshire, United Kingdom, The Gilded Age is about the conflict between ‘old New York,’ epitomized by Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski), and the ‘new money’ represented by railroad tycoon George Russell (Morgan Spector) and his ambitious, social-climbing wife, Bertha (Carrie Coon).
Downton Abbey is a global sensation that spanned six seasons on BBC and Masterpiece PBS from 2010-2016 as well as a 2019 feature film and a sequel, Downton Abbey: A New Era, arriving in theaters in March 2022. Set in the post-Edwardian era of the UK, Downton begins in April 1912 on the day the RMS Titanic sank and spans over 15 years into the late-1920s. Throughout, the Crawley family headed up by Lord and Lady Grantham, their daughters Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), their various family members, and Downton’s indomitable servants have weathered multiple marriages, tragic deaths, and all manner of socio-political upheaval. In Downton Abbey 2019, the Crawleys even welcomed King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).
By contrast, The Gilded Age begins 30 years before Downton Abbey, in 1882 New York City. Originally, Fellowes’ idea was for The Gilded Age to serve as a Downton prequel depicting the courtship of Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora Levinson (Elizabeth McGovern), but that concept changed to be about the Russells staking their claim in the power structure of old New York. The Levinsons don’t appear in the first episodes of The Gilded Age so it’s not yet clear whether HBO’s lavish period drama is indeed set in the Downton Abbey universe. But if it is, then many Downton luminaries are living across the pond in 1882, and here’s where the Crawleys and their future servants are.
Lady Violet Crawley
Lady Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) is the Countess of Grantham during The Gilded Age‘s timeframe. Violet was born in 1842 so she’s 40 during The Gilded Age, and she married Patrick Crawley, the 6th Earl of Grantham, sometime before 1960. Both of Violet’s children, Robert and Rosamund (Samantha Bond), were born in the 1860s. Downton Abbey season 6 also revealed that Lord and Lady Grantham stayed at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1874. Decades before Downton Abbey, Lady Violet was romantically pursued by Prince Igor Kuragin (Rade Sherbedgia), and she nearly ran away with her Russian lover. As Lady Violet wistfully recalled, her generation was the Edwardians.
Lord Robert Crawley And Cora Levinson
Robert Crawley, the 7th Earl of Grantham, was born in 1866, which makes him 16 when The Gilded Age begins. Robert was no doubt living in Downton Abbey in 1882. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Robert’s future wife Cora Levinson was born in 1868 as the only daughter of a dry-goods multimillionaire, Isidore Levinson. Cora resided in both Rhode Island and New York City before her mother, Martha (Shirley MacLaine), brought her to London in 1888 to find a suitable husband. Robert married Cora for her fortune, which was entailed to the Downton family estate, to financially rescue the Crawley family. Although Robert didn’t love Cora when they married, he grew to love her, and the Crawleys’ eldest daughter, Lady Mary, was born in 1891.
Isobel Turnbull (Penelope Wilton), the future Isobel Crawley, and, later, Isobel Grey, Baroness Merton, was born sometime between 1853-1862. Isobel was the daughter of a doctor and trained as a nurse during the Boer War. During The Gilded Age‘s timeframe, Isobel lived in Manchester, England after she became “sick with love” and married Dr. Reginald Crawley, who died between 1909 and 1912. In 1885, Isobel and Reginald’s only son, Matthew (Dan Stevens), was born.
Charles Carson, the future butler of Downton Abbey, was born in 1856, which makes him 26 when The Gilded Age begins. In 1875, Carson left his position as fourth footman at Thrushcross Grange to move to Downton Abbey and become second footman to the Earl of Grantham. But Downton Abbey season 1 also revealed that between 1870-1875, Carson had another life on stage as a song-and-dance man with his partner, Charles Grigg (Nicky Henson), and they were known as the Cheerful Charlies. By The Gilded Age‘s 1882 timeframe, Carson is at Downton taking enormous pride in maintaining the great house’s high standards, which led to his rise to become Downton’s butler.
Elsie Hughes (Phyllis Logan), the future Mrs. Hughes who eventually marries Mr. Carson in 1925, was born in 1862, which makes her 20 when The Gilded Age begins. Elsie was originally born in Argyll, Scotland, and she has a sister named Becky who was “not right in the head.” Elsie’s savings were spent taking care of Becky, which left her with no savings. Elsie doesn’t arrive in Downton Abbey’s timeline until 1895, when she took the position of Head Housemaid. Mrs. Hughes is later promoted to Head Housekeeper in charge of all of the female servants.
Lady Rosamund Crawley
It’s not clear when Rosamund Crawley, the future Lady Rosamund Painswick (also known as Aunt Rosamund), was born but it’s some time between 1860-1874. Rosamund is definitely alive when The Gilded Age begins and she is either living in Downton Abbey or she has already been presented to London society. Rosamund marries the wealthy banker, Marmaduke Painswick, who is deceased by the time of Downton Abbey season 1.
John Bates (Brendan Coyle), the future valet to the 7th Earl of Grantham, was born in 1869, which makes Bates 13 during The Gilded Age season 1. Bates wouldn’t meet and save the life of Robert Crawley until the Boer War of 1899-1902, which is when John injured his leg. Meanwhile, Bates’ beloved future wife, Anna Smith (Joanne Froggatt), was born in 1886 during The Gilded Age‘s timeframe.
Beryl Patmore (Lesley Nicol), was born in 1869/1870, so Downton Abbey’s future cook was 12 or 13 when The Gilded Age season 1 starts. Not much is known of Mrs. Patmore’s life before Downton Abbey season 1, but she has two sisters, one who died before 1912 and the other, Kate, who is mother to Beryl’s nephew, Archibald.
Martha Levinson And Harold Levinson
In Downton Abbey‘s history, Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson, was born in the 1840s or early 1850s. Martha married Isidore Levinson, the dry-goods multimillionaire, who was originally from Cleveland. By the time of Isidore’s death, Martha possessed homes in Rhode Island and New York City, but the institutions of ‘old New York’ looked down upon the socially ambitious Martha. It’s not clear when Cora’s brother, Harold (Paul Giamatti), was born and if he’s younger or older. It remains to be seen if the younger versions of Martha, Cora, and Harold Levinson will appear in The Gilded Age in the decades before Downton Abbey.