Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) -- Lord of the manor, literally, he has lived an uncomplicated life until now, when he finds himself pulled between the forces of tradition and modernity. He's level-headed and often too nice for his own good. He married his wife, Cora, an American heiress, in 1889, largely for her money and although there is no denying her cash put the estate back on its feet, over time they have grown to love one another deeply. The marriage contract, as we know, stipulated that her fortune, once invested in the estate, was inseparable from it. Neither Robert nor his wife anticipated that this clause (demanded by his late father) would cause problems, since they both confidently expected to have a son and heir. The trouble is they didn't. They had three daughters, Mary, Edith and Sybil. Until now, the heir was Robert's cousin, James Crawley, and his son, Patrick. But the news has arrived of their deaths on board the Titanic.

x   Cora Levinson Crawley, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) -- The earl's decorous, U.S.-born wife brings an American's tolerance of equality and change to the peerage. She is the beautiful daughter of Isidore Levinson, a dry goods multi millionaire from Cincinnati. She arrived in England with her mother, in 1888, at the age of 20, and was engaged to Robert, then Viscount Downton, by the end of her first season. She accepted the clause, at the insistence of her father-in-law, assuming she would have a boy. Now that the cousin she did at least know is dead, and the new heir is a distant cousin, she does not believe he would have wished his granddaughters to be robbed of their mother's money, which would instead be given to a complete stranger. She had counted on a marriage between Patrick and Mary. She thinks Robert should overturn the settlement and the entail, to benefit their children.
  Violet Crawley, dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) -- The earl's mother and the acerbic voice of propriety. Robert's mother. She is immensely proud, immensely loyal to her son and immensely insufferable to her American daughter-in-law, whom she regards as an interloper, a living compromise the family has had to make. She was born the daughter of a baronet, which Cora does not believe entitles Violet to carry on as if she were a Plantagenet, especially as she brought virtually no money with her. In other words, both women think themselves the superior of the other. Publicly, Violet supports the arrangements made by her late husband. But in reality, once Patrick is dead, she favors her grand daughter, Mary, over some distant stranger. This paves the way for an unholy alliance between the two Countesses, as they plot against Robert to overturn the arrangements. When the cross-breed heir arrives, with his middle class mama, she finds the situation intolerable, even if she, like Cora, sees one solution in Matthew's marrying Mary.The funniest cast member, by far.
  Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) -- Eldest of the three Grantham daughters, Lady Mary is the most intelligent and most sensible -- although capable of being rash and temperamental. Clever, good looking, hard. Mary had (just about) accepted that she was not to be, as she had imagined, an heiress, like her mother, while her cousins lived. On the arrival of the news of their deaths, she assumes she will now inherit. The realization that she will not, enrages her. Particularly when she learns that her father refuses to fight for her rights. She was confident of her cousin, Patrick, and she was holding him in reserve if she couldn't bring her favored choice, the handsome, young Duke of Crowborough, up to the mark. In other words, in the first episode Mary Crawley goes from a win-win situation to a lose-lose one.
  Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) -- The middle Crawley daughter is the quiet sister, although she likes to tread where her sisters won't. For instance, she was the first Crawley to drive a car. Edith resents Mary. She is less good looking and less sought after, but no less ambitious. She doesn't care that the settlement will not be overturned, since she would not have inherited either way. If anything, she is pleased that Mary will not be able to lord it over her. Their rivalry is fueled by the fact that she genuinely loved the dead heir, Patrick, but no one took her feelings seriously. She is anyway in a half-permanent rage that the interests of her beautiful sister are always placed above hers in any family plan. Soon she will be curious about the new heir, and will eventually attempt to use him to be revenged on Mary.
  Lady Sybil Crawley Branson (Jessica Brown Findlay) -- The youngest and most headstrong of the Crawley girls. Lady Sybil created a scandal by marrying the chauffeur. Sybil is the family rebel. She is fiercely political, devoted to the cause of votes for women, and generally angered by injustice everywhere. She exasperates both parents. She will go through the motions, when it comes to Society, but her goals all lie beyond what they consider the proper field. She is detached from most of the family quarrels about inheritance as she doesn't care about it.
  Martha Levinson (Shirley Maclaine) -- Lady Grantham's rich, boisterous American mother arrives to attend Lady Mary's wedding -- and to butt heads with any stuffy Englishman (or woman) who crosses her path.
  Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) -- The third cousin of the earl and the fiancé of Lady Mary. Matthew became heir of Lord Grantham when closer male relatives died on the Titanic. The son of a doctor and a nurse, Matthew is comfortable with both Downton's titled and untitled denizens. He is a third cousin, once removed, of Lord Grantham. His father was a doctor, which is amazing to Lord Grantham and offensive to his wife. Matthew himself has qualified as a solicitor and is already practicing in Manchester. Now, he finds himself heir to an earldom and a large estate and he is invited to move there and to become part of the local community. He eventually agrees but only if he can continue to work. Cora Grantham is partly infuriated by this interloper and partly determined that he will marry one of her daughters, so her attitude to him is completely schizophrenic. As for the girls, Mary sees him as a possible fall-back position, Edith as a possible instrument of revenge and Sybil as part of a dying system.
  Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) -- Matthew's widowed mother, the daughter of a doctor (her husband studied under her father) She is not entirely comfortable with her son's pending ascension to the peerage. She and the dowager countess make for the show's odd couple, simultaneously friends and rivals. She is and she comes from the professional middle class, and thus embodies an entirely different set of values from those of the main family. Being far better educated than either Violet or Cora, she is at loggerheads with Violet. She is intensely proud of her son and not because he has turned out to be the heir to a great name. If anything, she thinks he is throwing away a brilliant career. She agrees to come and manage her son's house on the estate, but she has mixed feelings about the whole set up.
  Tom Branson (Allen Leech) -- A radical and an Irish nationalist, he struggles with his in-laws' status as part of the oppressor class. Robert's new spirited, Irish chauffeur, whose political ideologies aspire to a more modern society. Driving Sybil to a political rally he discovers they have a meeting of minds, and with his encouragement Sybil puts her beliefs into practice. The erstwhile family chauffeur moved upstairs when he married Lady Sybil. However, Sybil's newfound enthusiasm leads her into danger for which Branson later feels responsible - a sentiment with which Robert certainly agrees.
  Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond)-- Robert's only sibling. She did not marry a great aristocrat and has no country seat, but the late Marmaduke Painswick, a banker, was immensely rich, so she has a good deal of freedom of movement. She has two children, Lavinia, who is married to a landed colonel in the Grenadiers, and Cyril who does something slightly nefarious in the Far East. She is devoted to Robert, but she feels it her duty to speak her mind on every possible occasion. Her interference in her nieces' decisions has a potentially disastrous result.
  Charles Carson (Jim Carter) -- That's "Mr. Carson" to just about everyone. He's Downton's butler, the head of the male staff and consultant to the earl about practical matters. Carson is in charge of the pantry, wine cellar and dining room. The male staff report to him. Butlers were usually expected to be bachelors without the distractions and temptations of a family of their own. Carson has worked at Downton since he was a boy. He is endlessly nostalgic for the way things were, and consequently, during the series, he more or less becomes an agent for the Dowager Countess and is potentially disloyal to her American successor. His instinct will be to support Lady Mary, whom he genuinely loves as a surrogate daughter, against her interloping cousin. Mr. Carson is a staunch defender of the status quo. His dark secret: He used to perform in (gasp!) music halls.
  Elsie Hughes (Phyllis Logan) -- The housekeeper, female equivalent of the butler. The straitlaced but motherly 50-year-ols woman is called Mrs. Hughes despite being unmarried. Responsible for the house and its appearance, the Housekeeper is in charge of the female servants competing for head of the household with Mr Carson, Mrs Patmore and Mrs Hughes. Hughes is probably right. She is unsentimental but moral and decent. In fact, as we will see, she is a kind woman but she feels her strength is derived from the fear she inspires. She respects and, to a degree, protects, Carson. But she is hard task-master.
  Anna Smith Bates (Joanne Froggatt) -- The steadfast head housemaid, confidante to Lady Mary, she also maids the daughters of the house, and is the highest ranking of the lower female servants. She hopes to free her husband from prison. Anna comes from a background of tenant farming and service. She feels she may have missed her chance at marriage. She is clever and resourceful, a thoroughly sympathetic character, and is generally appreciated, if not always by Mary or Edith.
  John Bates (Brendan Coyle) -- The valet receives orders only from his master. He dresses him and accompanies him on every journey. An ex-soldier, John Bates was Robert's batman during the Boer War. He arrives at Downton in the first episode to take the position, but Bates was wounded in the war and it has left him lame, which makes him both defensive and fiercely loyal to Robert for giving him another chance. His natural ally within the house is Anna, and he is obviously attracted to her. But for some unknown reason he cannot declare himself.The earl's valet until he was unjustly convicted of killing his ex-wife. Mr. Bates is married to Anna.
  Sarah O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) -- Lady Grantham's personal maid. The dour, scheming Miss O'Brien has few friends among the rest of the staff. The lady's maid. O'Brien's responsibilities are to her mistress. She can be called from doing her mistress's laundry at any moment of the day to help with her hair or her dress. O'Brien is a watchful, vengeful, malign spinster. She has sacrificed all thoughts of family and hearth to advance in her profession and now she is lady's maid to a countess, in a great house, which should make her happy. But it does not, because nothing will. She may seem to flatter Lady Grantham or Lady Mary or any of them, but ultimately she will always follow her
  Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) -- Promoted from footman to the earl's valet after Mr. Bates went to prison. Thomas thinks he is a fine fellow and that most of his fellow workers are country bumpkins who know nothing. He is a liar and a petty thief and he is always on the look out for the main chance. This must mean he is looking to leave Downton, since he wants to be a valet and Mr Bates isn't going anywhere. So he makes up to any rich visitor, to see if there's a position going. He is also gay and knows one at least of the family's visitors better than might be expected. His natural ally in the house is O'Brien. They are both entirely self-interested, but loyalty, even like to like, is probably beyond him. The bad boy of the staff, he has been showing flashes of good of late.
  Beryl Patmore (Lesley Nicol) -- The cook. Mrs. Patmore is good-hearted but highly emotional. She enjoys a mother-daughter style relationship with Daisy. Mrs Patmore is in charge of the kitchen and kitchen staff. She does not accept that Mr Carson has jurisdiction over her, nor, most of all, Mrs Hughes, and religiously defends her rights and privileges, against all comers.
  Daisy Robinson Mason (Sophie McShera) The naïve, not-too-bright scullery maid, at the bottom of the heap, who reluctantly married a fellow servant who then was killed in the war. Daisy's mother was a true Victorian and Daisy is one of eleven children. The scullery maid had to clean, scour and scrub hundreds of knives, forks, pots and pans every day. She also had the smallest bedroom, and eats with the cook and the kitchen maids, away from the other servants. She is constantly in the firing line with Mrs Patmore and develops feelings for Thomas not realizing his true character
  Gwen - The under housemaid. Gwen is essentially an ambitious girl. She works as a housemaid because it is the only profession open to the daughter of a farm worker, but she has big plans. She is the natural rebel of the female staff, albeit in a quiet way, and this makes her a natural ally of Sybil.
  William - The second footman. There's no harm in him but he's a fool, and Thomas has no hesitation in using him to do half his own work. William is soft on Daisy but she isn't interested in him as she is quite taken by Thomas, fruitlessly. William is very loyal to his parents, as their only child, and his home was a happy one. But his talent is in caring for horses, not serving in a grand dining room.
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