Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (née Levinson; born 1868) is the American heiress daughter of Martha and Isidore Levinson and sister of Harold Levinson. She married Robert Crawley, Viscount Downton who became Earl of Grantham upon his father's death, and brought her large dowry to Downton.
Lady Grantham has three daughters, Mary, Edith and Sybil, and her main focus has been their happiness and success. Eighteen years after the birth of her last child, Sybil, Lady Grantham fell pregnant once again with a son, but miscarried. In 1920, after giving birth to Sybil 'Sybbie' Branson, Sybil died of complications, and Cora blamed her husband, who ignored Dr. Richard Clarkson's warnings in favor of the opinions of stuffy London doctor Sir Philip Tapsell. A year later Cora became a grandmother for the second time when Mary gave birth to a son, George. Within the hour of his birth, George became the heir to his grandfather's title and Downton Abbey as his father, Matthew Crawley, was killed in a car crash. Cora is also grandmother to Edith's illegitimate daughter, Marigold, and Mary's daughter, Caroline Talbot.
- Violet: "I've written to your mother. She's very anxious, naturally. She suggested coming over."
- Cora: "Oh, God."
- Violet: "Well, that's what I thought. So I put her off. Told her to come and admire the baby."
- — Violet and Cora discussing her pregnancy.[src]
As a young woman, she was brought to London in 1888 for her first season by her socially ambitious mother, in order to marry a member of the British nobility. During the season, she met Robert Crawley, Viscount Downton, the future Earl of Grantham. Much to Robert's mother's chagrin, Cora became engaged to him and the two of them married on 16 February, 1890. As part of their marriage contract, Cora's fortune was entailed to the family estate to prevent it from going bankrupt.<tabber>
While their marriage was initially one-sided in love, after a year, Robert fell in love with her and their marriage was perfectly happy . After her father-in-law died, Cora became the Countess of Grantham, her husband Robert became the Earl of Grantham, and, over their long marriage, spanning twenty-three years by the time of 1912, the Countess would give birth to three daughters: Mary in 1891, Edith in 1892, and Sybil in 1895. However, none of her daughters could inherit the title or her wealth. The solution was to have the eldest daughter, Mary, marry the heir Patrick Crawley.
We first see Cora in bed, the morning after the Titanic has sunk. She is reading The Sketch magazine about the tragedy. "Isn't this terrible?" she says to her husband Robert when he walks in. He informs her that there is a very good chance that the heirs, James Crawley (Robert's first cousin) and his son Patrick, have died on the Titanic. Cora doesn't believe it, as she thought they were going to America in May. Robert says that they must have changed their plans because they are definitely on the passenger list. She is disappointed at their deaths and believes that her eldest daughter, Mary, was in love with Patrick as she was unofficially engaged to him. This is not so. Mary did not have particular romantic inclinations toward her second cousin and is not too sad at his death. Edith, however, loved Patrick and was jealous at Mary for being engaged to him. She is heartbroken and cries at his funeral. This is overlooked by Cora and the rest of the family.
But this changed more than Mary's romantic life. James and Patrick were the heirs to Downton Abbey, and now it is unclear who the heir is. Robert does not think his mother, Violet, has heard about the tragedy, but when she visits Cora she announces that of course already knows about it and wants to talk about the ramifications.Cora was curious about Evelyn Napier, especially since the man seems to be of importance to Mary. Cora asks Mary whether she likes him and Mary replies by saying "I don't dislike him". This then builds up more questions from Cora to Mary about Napier such as "What is he writing about?", "Where is he staying?", "Who are his friends?" Later she insists that he must simply come to Downton Abbey. Cora also reveals that she had a connection of friendship to Napier's mother, but does not know she is deceased, which Mary informs her. There is a possibility that because Cora was a friend his late mother, she feels quite comfortable that Mary is writing to him. Cora then starts a discussion with Violet and Robert about Mary's prospects and actions about Napier. Violet agrees that Mary should pursue Napier since Mary is not interested in Matthew anyway. Cora reports that the Napiers have plenty of money. Cora feels concern because Violet does not seem pleased. Violet says that she is pleased, but she does not think the whole scheme of Mary pursuing Napier is brilliant. Violet says that she does not want Robert to use marriage as a fight over Mary's inheritance, Cora reassures her of no such thing, saying that it won't make any difference. She says that the price of saving Downton is to accept that Matthew is the heir of the fortune and the estate. She, in fact, points out that she rather admires Matthew but she does not believe that it is sufficient reason to hand over the money. Cora visits Mary's room to announce that there was a letter from Evelyn Napier which says that he will bring a friend from the Turkish Embassy, a man named Kemal Pamuk. She continues reading to say that Kemal Pamuk is son to one of the sultan's ministers and is here to attend the Albanian talks, to create an independent Albania. Cora invites this Mr.Pamuk to stay at Downton for the hunt as well. She finishes by saying that Mary will ride out with him.
The very next evening Cora meets Mr.Pamuk and Napier, greeting both of them whilst getting a little kiss on the hand from Mr.Pamuk. During dinner on their discussion of Gwen's dream of becoming a secretary, Cora expresses that it matters because she wants the people who work for the family to be content.
Cora watches Mr.Pamuk's and the rest of the people's opinion about jobs, social class and their impact on the world. Cora smiles at Mr.Pamuk's joke and resumes discussion in the background with Napier while eating. Cora then asks if Mr.Pamuk enjoyed the hunt with Pamuk's reply being " I can hardly remember a better one".Cora is told about Pamuk's death in Mary's bed much to her great despair and disappointment. She proposes to both Anna and Mary that the three of them decide what to do for the best. Anna suggests to them to carry the body to Pamuk's bedroom. Cora is evidently shocked about the suggestion, but then realizes the huge scandal this would be and how Mary's reputation would be destroyed. She suggests covering him up and that they need to hurry because the servants will be up soon. Cora removes the sheet covering Pamuk and sees to it that Anna puts on the blanket upon him. Mary cries over Pamuk's body but then is interrupted by Cora who stands in front of the door, holding the sheet. Cora says that she can never forgive Mary for what she has put her through, but hopes in time she will be more merciful. Cora's eyes filled with anger and sheer disappointment. Cora promises to keep the secret from Robert because she knows that telling him would kill him and adds that she keeps the secret, not for Mary's, but for Robert's sake. She also tells Anna she will not insult her by asking her to conceal Mary's secret, and with that they leave the room. The next morning, Evelyn Napier says goodbye to Cora as she takes a walk, Cora asks whether they will see Napier again, but he says that he is quite busy. He makes himself quite clear that he does not consider himself an interesting person and he believes that a woman who marries him, but thinks that he is boring, can never love him because he believes marriage should be based on love. Cora compliments Napier that his instincts do him credit. To get over Pamuk's death, Cora suggests Mary visit her aunt in New York. Violet replies " Oh, I don't think things are quite that desperate". Cora told Violet that Mary is quite upset about the death of Pamuk, and Violet asks, "Why?" as she is unaware of the secret Cora was carrying. Cora points out again that the Entail is unbreakable, confident that Mary cannot inherit. Cora orders Branson to take Sybil to Ripon the next day for a new frock. She says " So women's rights begin at home? Well I'm all for that" in Sybil's discussion on women. Violet asks Sybil why she wants to go to a real school and Sybil replies that a governess only teaches French and how to curtsey. Violet thinks that is enough. Cora follows Mary to her room to find her crying, she learns how sad and angry and jealous Mary is about Robert's attention toward Matthew. Cora keeps reassuring her that her family loves her. Mary ends by saying "Things will look better earlier in the morning, isn't that what you always say" and Cora replies "that's because its usually true." Cora then finishes by saying that she must not quarrel with Matthew because Mary might need him someday. When Sybil appears at dinner the next night wearing a new frock of a daring design, the family is surprised.
Upon returning to Downton Abbey from the London season in July 1914, Cora feels ill and Dr. Clarkson pays a house call on her. After examining her, she learns that she is pregnant again after 18 years, much to Robert's shock. Both she and Robert were thrilled at the news, as they hoped they would finally have a son and heir. Dr. Clarkson tells Robert that Cora is probably about four months pregnant.
The pregnancy complicates the situation between Matthew and Mary. Mary is staying with her Aunt Rosamund in London and promised that she will answer Matthew's marriage proposal when she returns to Downton. Rosamund tells Mary that she shouldn't accept Matthew now, but that she should wait to see whether the baby is a boy. Violet advises she should accept Matthew now, and not wait for the baby to be born. Mary still hesitates. Matthew assumes it is because if Cora gives birth to a boy, the boy will supersede Matthew as the heir. Mary is actually hesitant because she feels that she must reveal the secret of her and Kemal Pamuk to Matthew.At the same time, Violet is trying to find a replacement for her lady's maid Simmons and requests Cora's assistance. Sarah O'Brien misinterprets that Cora is looking to replace her, and grows bitter and resentful. While Cora is bathing, Sarah slides a wet bar of soap next to the bath. Sarah, realizing that this is too evil and has second thoughts, but as she is about to stop Cora, Cora slips on the floor causing a miscarriage. Robert, in tears, tells Bates that he learned from Dr. Clarkson that the baby would have been a son. Cora is still recuperating when news arrives that Britain has declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914. Sarah's guilt causes her to be completely loyal and protective of Cora. Had the baby been born, he would have become Viscount Downton at birth, and the heir apparent to the Earldom of Grantham, superseding his father's heir presumptive, Matthew Crawley.
Cora is all into the war effort at the beginning of Series Two, as she is hosting a concert benefitting the soldiers at the front. When Isobel comes forth with the news that Matthew has moved on from Mary and gotten engaged to a Miss Lavinia Swire, she is not happy
Mary comes back to Downton and is getting ready for the concert with Cora, Edith, and Sybil, when Mary says "Why didn't you tell me about this wretched concert? I'd have come back tomorrow," and Edith replies haughtily, "But you would've missed Matthew ." Cora then tells Mary that Matthew is on leave and is coming to Downton with Isobel. Then Edith adds slyly, "And his fiancée ." Cora is exasperated at Edith and says, "Edith ...I don't know how helpful you're being." Mary puts on an act to cover her sadness at losing the man she loved forever and says she is happy for him. Sybil asks Mary, "So you don't mind?" to which she replies, "Of course not. Why should I? Good luck to him!" Only Edith, as told by an obvious smirk on her face, doesn't believe Mary. Mary tries to change the subject. Then the following exchange goes on between Cora's two oldest daughters:
Edith: The one with all those horrid newspapers? How old is he?
Mary: Old enough not to ask stupid questions. Anyway, I can't wait for you to know him.
They all go down to the concert where Robert warmly welcomes Isobel, Matthew, and Lavinia. Cora sympathises with Lavinia and defends her against her mother-in-law:
Violet: So that's Mary's replacement? Well, I suppose looks aren't everything.
Cora: I think she seems rather sweet. I'm afraid it must be rather intimidating meeting us all here together.
Violet: I do hope so.
When Cora's maid, O'Brien, overhears Isobel encouraging Lady Sybil to volunteer as a nurse (Sybil felt she was useless after hearing one of her beaus, Tom Ballesis, had been killed in the war) and reports it to Cora. O'Brien tells her that there are gruesome sights--men come back with limbs blown off, and "Lady Sybil has been nurtured so very carefully". This makes Cora decide Sybil should not be a nurse. Violet and Isobel surprisingly unite in their disapproval of Cora's decision.
Violet: I mean, you can't pretend it's not respectable! When everyday we're treated to pictures of princesses ladling soup down the throat of some unfortunate.
Cora: Yes, but if Dr. Clarkson wants help, I'd prefer him not to find it in my nursery!
Isobel: But Sybil isn't in the nursery!
Violet: And in case you hadn't noticed, she hasn't been there for quite some time.
Cora: Oh, you know what I mean.
Sybil, since she has no knowledge of cooking or household skills, goes downstairs and asks Mrs. Patmore for help. Daisy is eager to help her, and they agree to give her private lessons on cooking basics. Mr. Carson disapproves and tells Cora, who is delighted to see Sybil doing something herself and says she does not mind.
She consents to Sybil's being a nurse, even though she goes away for training for two months. Cora is very proud of her youngest daughter.
When Sybil hears of Edward Courtenay's suicide because he did not want to leave his friends at the Downton hospital to go to a convalescent home at Farley Hall, she knows that there needs to be a convalescent home nearer to the hospital. Isobel thinks of Downton Abbey, and Sybil thinks it's a good idea. They present the idea to the family, and Violet forbids it. Cora reminds Violet snappishly that she is Countess of Grantham now and she will make the decision as to what to do with her house.
Violet: I think it's a ridiculous idea.
Violet: Because this is a house, not a hospital.
Mary: Granny, a convalescent home is where people rest and recuperate.
Violet: But if there are relapses? What then? Amputation in the dining room? Resuscitation in the pantry?
Cora: It would certainly be the most tremendous disturbance. If you knew how chaotic things are as it is.
Isobel: But when there's so much good that can be done
Violet: I forbid it! To have strange men prodding and prying around the house. To say nothing of pocketing the spoons! It's out of the question.
Cora: I hesitate to remind you, but this is my house now. Robert's and mine, and we will make the decision.
Violet: Oh, I see. So now I'm an outsider, who need not be consulted!
Cora: Since you put it like that, yes.
Cora and Robert eventually agree to have Downton become a convalescent home, and nurses, supplies, and food start rolling in. Isobel is very interested and wants to be sole manager. She starts changing so many things around the house (i.e. the servants' meal times) that Cora becomes angry and believes Isobel is overstepping her boundaries. They have an argument where Cora presents her feelings and Isobel immediately, abandoning her manners, defends herself, stating she has medical experience and she feels she would be better suited to run Downton. Cora is outraged and tells Isobel immediately that Downton is her house and she can run it as she pleases. Isobel threatens to leave Downton and Cora thinks that is a good idea. Isobel goes to Northern France to help the Red Cross, and no one can contact her for many months.
Matthew Crawley is injured, along with his war valet William Mason, in a battle in France. The telegram arrives at Crawley House and Mr. Molesley brings it to Downton as neither Isobel nor Matthew are there. Robert opens it and is horrified to learn that Matthew has been seriously injured, adding to the long list of casualties of World War I. Mary is very shaken, as she is still in love with Matthew, though she tries to deny it.
When Matthew arrives at the Downton Village Hospital, Mary wants to go see him as she had read somewhere that it was important not to leave men alone when they first came back from the front. Robert tells her that he called Lavinia Swire, Matthew's fiancée, and asked her to come see Matthew. Mary pauses, then says, "Good. I'm glad someone thought of that" , which impresses Robert greatly as he sees Mary has given up Matthew and resigned to the fact that he is going to marry someone else.
While Matthew is recovering at Downton, Mary takes extra care of him and pushes his wheelchair around the estate. By this time Matthew has sent Lavinia back to London, because he would not let her throw away her life. But Cora and Sir Richard bring Lavinia back, because Cora is worried that Mary might go back to Matthew and she wants Mary's marriage to Carlisle to be a success. But when Matthew recovers completely Cora is of course very relieved and happy for him, however, she isn't happy about Robert's decision of holding Matthew's wedding at Downton, which would mean Mary's wedding must be delayed.
During the preparation for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding, Spanish flu breaks out at Downton with Cora, Lavinia, and Carson becoming ill. O'Brien stays with her the whole time and hardly sleeps at all. Robert is extremely worried as her condition gets worse. In fact Cora is nearly at death's door and according to Dr. Clarkson she'll live if she makes it through the night. Meanwhile, Lavinia's condition, which hasn't appeared that bad, suddenly gets worse and she dies. The next day Cora is feeling better much to Robert's relief.
Cora and her family gives presents to the staff, after decorating the Christmas tree. As everyone she is worried about Mr. Bates because his trial will be soon. One evening she receives a letter from Sybil in which she tells her that she is pregnant, but ashs her not tell anyone yet, not even Sybil's sisters.
As Robert wonders why Mary still stays with Sir Richard, when in fact she so tired of him, Cora tells him the story about Mr. Pamuk dying in Mary's bed and that Sir Richard may threaten to expose Mary's story if breaks with him.Robert receives the good news that Bates won't be executed in the end and both are very relieved. Cora and Carson open the servants' ball together. Later that evening she tells Robert that she wants Sybil, Tom, and their child to come to Downton in the future.
Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, comes to visit Downton for Mary and Matthew's wedding, as news reaches them that Robert has lost most of their fortune (including most of the money Cora brought to the marriage) on a bad investment. Cora fully supports and comforts Robert. She says that she will be fine as she is an American, "have gun will travel". He thanks God for her. Cora plans a picnic to a smaller property that Robert owns, Downton Place, and tries to encourage Robert to think positively about moving there. Cora tells Robert that her mother will bring her own drama. Cora learns that Mary is planning to ask her grandmother for the money, but Cora is against this, as it is undignified, and enough of her father's money has been put into Downton. She tells Mary that they have made their own problems, but her mother and Harold should not have to pay for them. Thomas has spread a rumour that O'Brien is leaving, and Cora has come to depend on her so much that she feels let down, even when O'Brien insists that it is not true, and she had no part in starting it. Cora learns from Carson that Mrs. Hughes may be suffering from a serious illness. Cora tells her that she may stay at Downton as long as she wishes and that she need never worry about where to go or who would take care of her because the Crawley's will. Mrs. Hughes is touched and moved to tears. When the stove breaks and there is no cooked food for the dinner party, Cora contemplates sending the guests home. As Martha's laughs and says that it will be interesting, Cora says, "Thank you, mother."In mid-1920, Cora's youngest daughter Sybil must come home to Downton, as her husband Tom is wanted in Ireland for his participation in a revolutionary group. Therefore, she is at Downton when she gives birth to her daughter later on (Episode 3.05) Lord Grantham has arranged for specialist obstetrician Sir Philip Tapsell to be there, but Cora insisted that the doctor who knew Sybil best Dr. (Richard Clarkson) be consulted and involved. When Dr. Clarkson believes that Sybil is suffering from pre-eclampsia, he wants to take her to a hospital for a Caesarian section, Robert, listening to Sir Philip, disagrees. The baby is born and all seems well. Sybil speaks to Cora about Tom getting a job as a mechanic, Sybil thinks that it would be a step back for him and wants her mother to prevent Robert from using this as an opportunity to get Tom out of Downton, her mother says that they can speak of this later. When Sybil goes into convulsions and dies after giving birth, Cora sits up talking to her daughter. She tells Mary that it is the last time they will be together. She promises Sybil to care for Tom and her baby. Cora at first blames Robert for her death as he sided with Tapsell because he is "knighted, fashionable, and has a practice in Harley Street," but they later reconciled after Violet convinces Dr. Dr Clarkson to say that even if Sybil had gone to hospital, she likely still would have died. Cora, though she never voices her religious views (other than to say not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Debrett's), does support Tom in his decision to baptise his daughter in the Catholic Church, and attends the christening, remarking that she knows Sybil is watching. She is eager to not have Tom leave right away, always remembering Sybil wanted more for him. She supports Violet in suggesting Tom become the new agent for Downton when Jarvis resigns (she still calls him Tom even after Violet is relieved they could call him Branson again if he's the agent), and in 1921 is sorry he won't be joining them on their holiday in Scotland. She is still mourning Sybil; Violet assures her they all miss her very much.
Cora's goal in life is to "have fun" after the intense grieving she went through after having lost her youngest daughter, Sybil.
When Thomas tells Cora that the nanny is neglecting the children, Cora goes to investigate and overhears her insulting Sybbie about her parentage, and Cora immediately makes her presence known. She fires the nanny on the spot and will not let her near the children again. She tells the nanny that her "values" (referring to her insulting Sybbie on account of her parentage) have no place in a civilized home.
Cora also employs a new lady's maid, Edna Braithwaite who used to work at Downton before as a housemaid. She does not tell Cora the truth about why she had to leave in the first place, saying she had wished to train as a lady's maid instead of being a housemaid, but since Mrs. Hughes had given her a good reference, Cora had no reason to be concerned.
On Edna's first day, Cora discovers one of her dresses has been ruined. Edna refuses to tell her how it was damaged. Cora later passes Thomas Barrow who tells Cora that Edna was protecting someone. When Cora asks who, he tells her that Anna Bates was to blame when truthfully it was Edna who damaged the dress. It seems as though she and Thomas have set out to cause trouble. Cora seems surprised that Anna could make such a mistake, but tells Robert what has happened. When Edna leaves Downton for a second time, she claims it is due to family troubles, but in truth was because Mrs. Hughes had foiled her plot to trick Tom Branson with a false pregnancy into marrying her. Cora never learns the truth of why Edna left, but is pleased with her replacement, Phyllis Baxter.
When a letter from Matthew is found in which he states that in event of his death his last wish is for Mary to be the sole heiress of his shares in the estate. Cora supports her daughter's decision to be more involved in how Downton is run. She defends Mary at dinner when Robert shows that he not happy about Mary's involvement, being determined to make sure that the letter is not seen as a will so that Mary does not inherit Matthew's shares. During a contentious conversation at dinner, he tells her about the many things she will have to understand about running an estate and when Mary asks if he has a point, Cora tells him them that Robert is trying to say that a woman's place is in the home. She tries to get Robert to accept their daughter's new outlook in life and is delighted when he finally does accept the fact that the letter has been determined to be a will.
Cora was excited that the singer Nellie Melba is coming to Downton to sing at her house party. She is delighted when she hears that Nellie Melba had arrived, but was shocked to find out Carson and Robert had thought it best if Nellie ate in her room rather than with them because of an old custom. Cora thought this was ridiculous believing times had changed and Nellie, as a famous singer honored by the king and a guest of the house, should be allowed to sit with them. She angrily tells Robert, who hadn't actually said such a thing since and that Carson had actually made the decision, to allow Nellie to eat with them. She later happily watches Nellie sit next to her husband with Robert being impressed by Nellie's knowledge of claret.
She is later delighted when her husband admits that Michael Gregson is a "decent cove". However, when Gregson disappears she tries to comfort her daughter, insisting that if anything terrible had happened they would have found out. Unfortunately, she does not learn why Gregson really went to Germany, or that Edith is in fact pregnant with his child. Even after Edith returns from Switzerland, having given birth to a daughter, Cora suspects nothing.
When Tom presents the possibility that he might leave Downton and move to America, taking Sybbie with him, though she does not want him to leave, she respects his decision about why he wants to leave, to the point where she defends him from Robert, who does not want him to take Sybbie.
Cora befriends an art historian named Simon Bricker who comes to Downton repeatedly to study a painting at the house. He begins to flirt with her, saying she is beautiful. She enjoys his company, until he unexpectedly comes into her bedroom one night and tries to make advances on her. She tells him to leave, but Robert arrives and gets into a fistfight with Bricker. While Bricker leaves, Robert and Cora's relationship becomes frosty. Then one night, Cora tells Robert if he has never let a flirtation get out of hand or given a woman the wrong impression since their marriage, he can by all means stay away. Robert returns to her bedroom, remembering his relationship with former housemaid Jane Moorsum. He later decides to sell the painting. Cora asks if it is because she ruined it for him because of Bricker. Robert tells her every time he looks at the painting he remembers he did not trust her, and wishes to forget the whole episode by selling it.
Cora notes Edith's unhappiness when she receives word that Michael Gregson has been long dead. She also remarks on Gregson's generosity in leaving his publishing company to Edith, and that she almost expected it. Like the rest of the family she is shocked when Edith hastily leaves Downton. Violet and Rosamund know Edith left with her daughter, Marigold, and Violet insists now that they have to tell Cora the truth. Though Rosamund questions if that would be betraying Edith's trust, Violet insists if anything happens to Edith and then Cora learns later they knew all along she would never forgive them. Violet would not blame her thus, citing it as Cora's right to know, as Edith's mother.
Violet and Rosamund try to get Cora alone, but before they can, Barrow tells Cora Mrs Drewe has come to see her. Cora asks him to escort Mrs. Drewe into her sitting room. Cora thus learns from Mrs. Drewe that Edith is Marigold's mother and she therefore has a third grandchild. She confronts Rosamund and Violet before dinner, and is very upset that they never thought to involve her from the start. When she learns they wanted to send Marigold abroad again, she sees immediately this is the real reason why Edith ran away. While she agrees the secret is not theirs to tell, she insists they must find Edith and "hear from her what she wants." Cora tells Violet later she can never trust her again. While Rosamund feels she does not mean it, Violet remarks it is the most honest thing Cora has ever said to her.
Cora and Rosamund go to the London office of the magazine in hopes that they may be able to help find Edith. The receptionist insists they have no way of knowing whether Edith will come in, and asks if it would not be enough to leave her a message that they want to see her, but Cora declines. She and Rosamund then find Edith there, and Cora admits she shares Mrs. Drewe's feeling that Edith used her "badly". Cora threatens to discuss the matter of Marigold in front of Edith's employees when Edith refuses to talk to them so Edith agrees to meet them at a tea room nearby.
Cora to see Marigold, but Edith refuses. Rosamund calls Edith's initial thought of going to America and inventing a dead husband "ridiculous" to which Cora asks why because she reminds Rosamund that Edith is half-American. She then tells Edith she wants her to bring Marigold back home, proposing a plan where the Drewes make a public "reluctant conclusion" that they can no longer afford to raise their friend's child, and that since Edith has grown so fond of the girl (something she and Robert noted before Cora learned who Marigold really was), she would adopt her. Rosamund objects to this plan as "ludicrous" and "insane" but Cora ignores her. Cora agrees to Edith's insistence that the truth be kept secret from Robert and Mary, though she herself feels Robert would understand in the end.
Cora calls Mr. Drewe for his help that night to meet them at the Downton train station and to take Marigold, so that after she and Edith discuss the Drewes' situation with the rest of the family, Edith could bring her back to Downton in broad daylight. As they train home, Cora smiles at Edith and Marigold, but then spots Mary on the station. Edith quickly gets through the situation when she sees Mr. Drewe, calling him to ask his help with their bags but really wants him to take Marigold to the next station, and return. Mary and Robert object to the "adoption" but Cora stands by Edith, and Robert agrees when Cora insists they offer Marigold a home.
Robert mentions Edith's obsession with Marigold to Cora after the girl joins Sybbie and George in the nursery. He tells her that there is something about Marigold, a "sense of deja vu", he cannot quite understand. After the unveiling of the war memorial, Robert tells her he has realized Marigold reminds him of Michael Gregson, and Cora confirms the truth to him that Marigold is Edith's daughter. Cora asks him not to tell Edith he has guessed and that the secret should remain Edith's a little while longer, to which he agrees. To her delight, he admits he thinks he will love his new granddaughter.
Cora is introduced to Atticus Aldridge and his parents Lord and Lady Sinderby by Rose. She encourages Rose's relationship with Atticus. Lord Sinderby speaks to her about her late father, who like the Aldridge family was Jewish. He asks Cora if it was difficult having a different religion from her father, and if her mother never considered converting to Judaism. Cora does not believe so in both cases, and admits she is not ashamed of her father, citing that her family did not change their name (Lord Sinderby's grandfather had changed the family's name to Aldridge) after coming to England from Russia.Sinderbys for the grouse season at Brancaster Castle, Cora sees Robert is hiding something and repeatedly asks him what is going on. He finally admits he has been having pains in his chest and tummy and that he will be going for tests when they return home. Cora insists he should not be shooting then, and when he has a severe episode, she settles the matter and stops him shooting for the rest of the visit, telling Mary she wants to get him home in one piece. When it's determined he has an ulcer, she puts him on a strict diet, which to his dismay does not include alcohol. The diet ends on Christmas Eve, and she tries to stop him from giving a speech at the party as he has started drinking again, but later on is amazed when he does speak in praise of their son-in-law Tom and wishing him well, for he did not sound drunk at all. When she asks him how he did that, he told her he was concentrating, citing his training as a soldier.
Cora happily supports Edith's plans to appoint a female editor for her business after Edith fires him during an argument. Meanwhile, Mary meets a charming race car driver and Cora attends the races, but horror strikes when Henry's friend and racing rival crashes and is killed. The year 1925 proves to be a very stressful for Cora as during a dinner with the Health Minister, her beloved husband began throwing up blood violently due to a burst ulcer. Cora comforts him and accompanies him to the hospital. During this time Cora argues with Violet over what is to be done about the government take over of the Downton hospital and merging it with the larger York hospital. Cora is then appointed the successor to Violet. Cora feels torn as her loyalty first is to her family, yet she does want to take the position. Cora eventually takes the position of Hospital Chairman. Later on, when the doors of Downton are opened to the public in an effort to raise money to support the local hospital, Cora and her daughters prove to be very unknowledgeable about the history of the Abbey. Violet soon storms in and is angry with Cora as she has accepted the position. When Violet runs off to France to cool off, Cora feels responsible for tearing apart the family. When Bertie Pelham proposes to Edith, Cora worries over what he will make of Marigold. Cora constantly offers advice to Edith with her difficult situation with Pelham, and pushes her to tell him the truth. Later, when Bertie becomes the new Marquess of Hexham, Cora is very happy and later addresses him incorrectly, but he takes lightly and the two laugh. Cora then comforts Edith when Bertie leaves after finding out about Marigold and that Edith did not trust him enough to tell him the truth. Cora is overjoyed when Mary marries Henry.
Cora is generally a sweet and tolerant person. She always sees the best in people around her and seems oblivious to certain peoples' dark sides (examples being O'Brien, Thomas, and Edna). She also accepts things and accepts change easier than others in her family, as seen by her acceptance of Tom Branson before and after Sybil's death. She loves her family very much, which is shown when she tells off O'Brien for insulting Matthew, supporting Mary after her affair, her deep mourning for Sybil, being unforgiving of Nanny West and firing her on the spot for her treatment of Sybbie, and her arranging for Edith to raise Marigold at Downton. She is also very loyal showing her disappointment after O'Brien leaves without warning. She has been shown to have a temper (one example being after Matthew shouted at Robert for his failed investment in season 3, another being her confrontation with Isobel Crawley over running the convalescent home during the war), and does not forgive distrust and dishonesty (she lost her trust in Violet after the truth about Edith's daughter came out).
Cora also loves her husband, Robert, which was not always the case for arranged marriages between wealthy American heiresses and English nobles. She also has a tendency to blame herself in times of trouble; for instance, when she nearly died of the Spanish Flu and her husband was flirting with a maid, she apologized to him. Again, in 1924 she punishes herself for Robert's confrontation with Simon Bricker.
- Cora's father is revealed to have been Jewish in season 5.
- The true extent of Cora's original fortune is unknown.
- Many British and European nobles married wealthy American heiresses, who were known as dollar princesses. Some of whom are listed here: list of American heiresses.
- "I believe there is an answer, which will secure your future and give you a position." - to Mary about marrying Matthew and becoming Countess of Grantham
- "No one ever warns you about bringing up daughters. You think it's going to be like "Little Women." Instead they're at each other's throats from dusk till dawn."
- "We're alright. Aren't we, Robert?" - talking to Robert after she survived Spanish flu and Lavinia didn't
- "Don't worry about me, I'm an American. Have gun, will travel!" - to Robert after his confession of losing most of her money
- "Very, very good luck my beautiful daughter!" - blessing Mary right before her wedding
- "You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling. Being tested only makes you stronger." - comforting Edith after she was jilted at the altar
- "Because you are my baby. My beauty and my baby." - saying goodbye to Sybil
- "Welcome to the Highlands." - to Robert after being woken up by a bagpipe at Duneagle Castle
- "You don't have to give money after every conversation, Mother." - talking to her mother as she pays a visit to Downton for Mary's wedding
- "Downton Place. How lovely." - to Robert as they visit the house they may have to move into
- "And you never thought to involve me, her own mother?! You, Rosamund! You looked at that little girl, and you never thought it was my business too?!" - to Violet and Rosamund for never telling her about Edith and Marigold.
- "We have quite the contrary daughter." - Season 6 Episode 8 - talking about Mary and spouse options for her to Lord Grantham.
Behind the scenes
- The inspiration for the character of Cora was in part the American Mary Leiter, who through her marriage to George Curzon would become Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and Vicereine of India. Mary Leiter was the daughter of a rich Chicago merchant (he would be one of the founders of what became the Marshall Field's department store chain) and property speculator. Unlike Cora's father, however, Levi Leiter was not Jewish, but was instead a Lutheran of Pennsylvania Dutch background. In addition, unlike Cora's mother, Mary Leiter's mother Mary Theresa Carver Leiter was not a brash or vulgar figure in New York society, but lived in a mansion on Dupont Circle in Washington, DC..
- The Downton Abbey Series 1 Press Pack describes Cora as "She arrived in England, with her mother, in 1888, at the age of 20, and was engaged to Robert, Viscount Downton, as he then was, by the end of her first season" thus confirming her birthdate of 1868. As well as this, The Downton Abbey Series 1 Script describes her, in 1912, as "She's pretty, in her forties, and American" which helps to back up the Press Pack date.
- It is unknown as to whether the aunt was from her mother's side or her father's side, or whether the aunt was by blood or by marriage, but Cora mentions in Episode 1.06, that she has an aunt
- Cora was an heiress at the time, so it must have been on or after her twentieth birthday that she came to London, as her father died sometime before she turned 20
- Even though the Downton Abbey Season 1 Press Pack says that Robert and Cora married in 1889, Episode 5.01 shows the couple celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary in 1924.
- In episode 1, when Robert states that Mary would never be happy with a fortune hunter, Cora says "I was." thus showing that her marriage, despite Robert only marrying her for her money, was a happy one.
- "24 years ago, you married Cora, against my wishes, for her money. Give it away now, what was the point of your peculiar marriage in the first place?"; Violet says this in 1912 and thus, places Robert and Cora's marriage in 1889; the press pack also confirms that Robert and Cora married in 1889:
- McGovern talks spoilers for Series 4
- The woman who saved Downton: How America’s Dollar Princesses married into the crumbling British aristocracy
- Marshall Field's
- Marshall Field's was also the source of wealth for Harry Gordon Selfridge, portrayed in another ITV series, Mr Selfridge.
- DOWNTON ABBEY SPECIAL: The Press baron and the heiress were larger than life and Cora and Richard Carlisle were based on them, Jessica Fellowes, Daily Mail, 17th September, 2011.