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Robert: "Poor old Edith. We never seem to talk about her."
Cora: "I'm afraid Edith will be the one taking care of us in our old age."
Robert: "Oh, what a ghastly prospect!"
— Edith's parents discussing their middle daughter.[src]

Lady Edith Crawley (b. 1892[1]) is the second daughter of Robert and Cora Crawley, sister of Ladies Mary, and the late Sybil, Granddaughter of Violet Crawley, sister-in-law of Tom Branson and the late Matthew Crawley; and the aunt to her niece Sybbie Branson and her nephew George Crawley. Her father's sister, Lady Rosamund Painswick and her deceased husband Marmaduke Painswick are Edith's aunt and uncle. Also, her mother's brother, Harold Levinson is her uncle. She is second cousins with Rose MacClare, Lady Annabelle and James MacClare, Earl of Newtonmore, and her first-cousin-once-removed is Rose's mother, Susan MacClare, wife of Hugh MacClare, Marquess of Flintshire.

Biography

1912-1914

Lady Edith Crawley is the second daughter to Lord and Lady Grantham, born in 1892. During the first series Edith is often said to be the "forgotten" one. This is because she was seen not to be as pretty and smooth-talking as her older sister Mary and less daring and passionate than Sybil, the youngest. Her rivalry with Mary is further fuelled by the fact that Edith genuinely loved the dead heir, Patrick, but she stood no chance to win his affection once the beautiful Mary decided to pursue him. Everyone favoured the engagement to keep the money in the immediate family, despite the fact that Mary was no more than fond of Patrick. After initially trying to woo Matthew Crawley, she begins a relationship with Sir Anthony Strallan. Towards the end of series one he is on the verge of asking for her hand, but changes his mind when Mary implies that Edith was simply leading him on for her own amusement. Anthony Strallan was Edith's last chance at making a successful marriage, and Mary intentionally intervened in revenge, because Edith had written a letter to the Turkish Embassy in London informing them about the exact nature of their attaché's death in Mary's bed.

1914-1920

During the second series Edith steps out of her comfort zone. She was the first of the Crawley family to learn how to drive an automobile, taking lessons from the chauffeur Branson. Upon the outbreak of the First World War Edith uses her driving skills to work on a local farm driving tractors, much to the bemusement and gratitude of the farmer. She starts a relationship with him, eventually sharing a kiss although his wife is an unknown spectator to their embrace. She receives a letter shortly after this saying that her services will not be needed at their farm anymore. Edith is at first saddened by this, because she felt she had a purpose working on the farm. She decides to ask her sister Sybil what to do about her situation and Sybil encourages her to work as a convalescent helper. She is cheered by this, although it exposes her to the horrors of war first hand while helping Sybil and the nurses care for the wounded soldiers. As a result she becomes more sympathetic and was commended by a visiting general Matthew brought back to Downton while on leave. When an injured veteran claiming to be the late Patrick Crawley comes to Downton to convalesce, Edith believes his story. He tells her he always knew she loved him and wants to marry her once the family accepts him again. Edith believes "Patrick" whereas most in her family do not. When Patrick suddenly leaves, he leaves her a note that reads: "Dear Edith, It was too difficult. I am sorry. P. Gordon." She cries that they drove him away by not believing him.

After the war ended, she tries to resume a relationship with Sir Anthony Strallan, but he refuses as he sustained a severe injury that rendered one of his arms useless and does not want to tie her down to a disabled veteran.

1920-1923

Sir Anthony Strallan eventually proposes to Lady Edith and they become engaged. Some of the family doesn't really approve of the marriage, but they allow it for Edith's happiness. They are set to marry but Anthony has second thoughts and jilts her at the altar, leaving Edith devastated, believing she is destined to the life of a spinster. However in episode 6, she receives a very interesting proposition to write in a newspaper. Her family of course do not approve with the exception of Matthew and Tom. She wants to move on and make something of her life, so she accepts an offer from the editor of the Sketch, Michael Gregson, to write in a regular column on issues which modern women are faced with. It soon becomes clear that Gregson is attracted in her. However, it is revealed that he is married to a woman who has been confined for years to a mental asylum due to insanity without any chance of divorce. On learning about this, Edith wants to resign her new position but reconsiders after he pleads with her to stay on.

When the family goes on vacation to Scotland, Michael makes the decision to follow Edith. He stays not too far away from Duneagle Castle, claiming he is attending a sketching and fishing holiday which causes Mary and Matthew become quite wary of him. Cora and Robert decide to invite to dinner at the castle because Cora expresses a desire to meet him. At this dinner, Edith asks Michael why he is there, causing him to profess his love for her and that the reason he followed is because he wants her family to accept him. She tells him she does not see a happy ending for them. After an afternoon fishing with Matthew, he determines that Michael's love is good and honest and he and Mary agree that they think he is going to propose. However, upon discovering that Michael has an insane wife who he cannot divorce, he decides Michael is wrong to pursue Edith and tells him to say his last farewell to her that evening. He does so, but is surprised when Edith tells him she doesn't want this to be their last evening together because she does love him

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In the six months which followed the trip to Scotland, Michael and Edith had grown closer. On Valentine's day, he sent Edith a card and invited her attend a party in London with him in order so he could introduce her to his literacy friends. He met her at the train station. At the party, Edith and Michael during a moment together, almost kiss before another guest interrupted them.

She later attends dinner alone with him at the Criterion where he tells her some of his plans to get a divorce. He tells her that in Germany he can be granted a divorce on the grounds that his spouse is mentally ill. This means he would have to become a citizen of Germany. Edith seemed surprised to hear that Michael would be willing to move countries for her and become German for her, especially so soon after the Great War. They then kiss without worry of being seen in the restaurant.

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Michael and Edith in his apartment.

Before Edith left London to return to Downton, Michael tells her although he has begun the long process of becoming a German citizen, he also wishes to try and gain her father's approval before their marriage because he thinks this is the only way they can have a future together. She suggests he visit Downton but he is a little worried about that. She suggests he attend an upcoming party at Downton, which he agrees to do. While he is there, she tries to encourage her father to talk to him more. Later, as Michael prepares to leave for Munich to finalize his citizenship change and divorce, she signs a document he gives her, entitling her more control over his own assets. He starts kissing her, and she ultimately does not resist. They spend the night together. 
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Rosamund confronts Edith.

Unfortunately, her Aunt Rosamund is the first to discover the truth about her relationship with Michael and confronts her about it. She defends Michael and insists she trusts him, and is upset when Rosamund reminds her of what happened between her and Anthony Strallan.

But after Michael leaves for Germany, time goes by and Edith receives no word from him and has no idea what has become of him. Her mother at first remarks he is probably busy. Her father is certain Michael will be fine, both he and Violet ultimately telling her to be patien. Nevertheless, Edith loses hope of seeing Michael again. She still wants to know what happened to him.

Edith has lied about why Michael has gone to Germany, remarking he was sight-seeing. She later makes a secret trip to London to see a Dr Goldman. Later, as Edith's worries intensify, Cora assures her daughter that if something terrible had happened they would have heard by now. Then one night Edith receives a letter in the evening post from Doctor Goldman.

She realizes she is pregnant with Michael's child. Robert tries to comfort her later when he finds her distraught. But she pushes him away, insisting that whatever he might say about his love for her, that she was never loved as much by him as her sisters. Rosamund later asks her what is troubling her. Edith confesses the truth, including that she has been considering getting an abortion for fear of becoming an outcast, despite loving Michael still and having "wanted" this child. She goes to the clinic with Rosamund (who is opposed to Edith's decision), but then decides at the last minute not to do it after seeing another woman there crying. She admits that the truth will soon break out among the rest of her family.

But by the time of the local bazaar, the family still does not know about Edith's condition. Rosamund suggests Edith travel to the continent, to Switzerland, ostensibly to "learn French" but in truth to give birth and then have someone adopt her child without anyone in England knowing. Edith is not too happy about this plan because she wants to be a part of her child's life and upbringing.

When Rosamund visits Downton for the bazaar and mentions the possibility of going abroad and taking Edith with her, Mary questions Edith, citing she never wanted to learn French and immediately suspecting it is an "incognito" search for Michael. Tom reminds her that it is a serious situation, for which Edith thanks him. Violet soon sees through this plan but agrees with Rosamund. She promises to remain silent about Edith's secret and support her. Still, Edith is in despair, beginning to wonder if God does not want her to be happy. 

By the summer of 1923, Edith deals with a moral quandary. She cries a lot, and wears many more loose-fitting outfits. She fears becoming a scandal, and has to deal with the pressure of both her aunt and grandmother knowing her secret.

Relationships

Patrick Crawley

Although Mary was set to marry Patrick before his death on the Titanic, Edith had true feelings for him and was deeply upset by the news of his death; it is unknown if Patrick had any romantic feelings for Edith (as it is never confirmed that Patrick Gordon was Patrick Crawley), but Anna tells Mr Bates that it must have been hard for Edith to love someone who did not love her back. This is contrasted with Mary's reaction of relief about being released from a loveless engagement, as shown by her annoyance at having to wear black in mourning.

Matthew Crawley

Edith decides to go after Matthew following Mary's initial rejection of him as a suitor. Matthew has eyes only for Mary, and clearly has no interest in Edith's advances. When Mary begins to return the affection, Edith is once again left alone.

After Matthew and Mary wed, Matthew treats Edith like a sister. He encourages her to become a journalist and then tells Michael Gregson he will not let her slide into a life of scandal (meaning become Michael's lover) "without lifting a finger to stop it" after learning about his insane wife, but also says Michael should use the Gillies Ball to say a proper good-bye to Edith, telling Michael he owed her that.

Matthew told Edith he would not tell Mary about Michael, but hoped Gregson made it clear what had to happen, meaning he had to stop pursuing her. Edith told Matthew "we both know what happens next" which he did not know actually meant she had decided her relationship with Michael was not over.

Sir Anthony Strallan

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Originally invited to Downton as a suitor for Mary, Edith enjoyed Anthony's company. To her delight, Anthony is more interested in her than in Mary. They go on many drives together in Season 1. Yet when Sir Anthony was looking for Edith in order to propose, Mary takes revenge for the exposure of the scandal regarding Mr. Pamuk by making him believe the love is unrequited. In the Christmas special, a now injured Strallan forbids Edith from thinking they might be together, because he's far too old, and a cripple. She disagrees, and says that she "won't give up on anyone who calls her lovely." In the third season, she tells him she would like to see more of him, to which he replies he should like that very much, probably more than he ought to. He also tells her at one point that she has given him back his life, and she kisses him on the cheek. Unfortunately, her grandmother does not approve and tells her father to tell Strallan to stay away. Strallan is willing, but Edith is devastated. She seeks solace from her American grandmother Martha who is visiting at the time. Martha and Edith manage to persuade Robert to relent and give the marriage the go-ahead. A lavish wedding ceremony is laid on for the two of them, but at the altar Strallan chooses not to go through with it. Still at the altar, Edith is stunned, apparently unable to cope, when her granny Violet steps in and says that by abandoning the wedding Strallan had done "the only sensible thing ... in months". Edith is initially devastated by this experience, and seems to think she will always be alone, saying, "I’m a useful spinster, good at helping out. That is my role."

John Drake

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Branson taught Edith to drive and as a result she offers her services to Longfield Farm to drive the tractor. Although first surprised by the offer, Mr and Mrs Drake soon accept. John Drake falls for Edith, tells her that she is beautiful, and she shares her first kiss with him. However, Mrs Drake sees them and Edith is later informed by letter that she is no longer needed on the farm, that they have found someone else to help.

Patrick Gordon

When a severely burnt soldier, Patrick Gordon, arrives at Downton from Canada with claims to be Patrick Crawley, no one but Edith believes him. She spends lots of time with him reminiscing about their childhood and tries to convince the others that after the Titanic sunk he suffered from amnesia so they mistook him as Canadian, where he took his name from a bottle. It apparently wasn’t until he was blasted in war that he completely remembered about Downton. Worried that Matthew Crawley would not be the future heir, Robert Crawley investigates the matter and finds out that one of Patrick Crawley’s friends, Peter Gordon, emigrated to Canada a year after the sinking of the Titanic. Shortly afterwards, the soldier says goodbye to Edith in a letter. She still believes he was her cousin, and the whole thing leaves her devastated.

Sybil Branson (née Crawley)

Edith gets along with Sybil better than her eldest sister Mary. Edith does not initially agree with Sybil's politics in Series One, because she believes they will cause her harm in the end. In Series Two, she asks Sybil for advice on what to do to make her feel useful again. Sybil suggests finding her strength, and Edith becomes a convalescent helper. Edith went with Mary and Anna to try and bring Sybil back to Downton when she elopes with Branson. Together with her sister Mary, she attended Sybil and Tom's wedding in Dublin. When Sybil dies, Edith is horrified and left heartbroken. She, in honour of her younger sister's memory, encourages Tom and Little Sybbie to stay at Downton for as long as they need.

Mary Crawley

Edith has always shown that she was jealous of Mary, because she was beautiful and easy in conversation, and thus received the majority of the attention. Edith tried to make life hard for her in season one. After Edith had been out competed for the attention of Patrick Crawley and Matthew Crawley. Edith challenges Mary that she cannot take Sir Anthony's attention. Mary proves her wrong and in retaliation Edith exposes her sister's Kemal Pamuk scandal, by writing a letter to the Turkish Embassy. In season two the sisters seem to get along a lot better with each other, probably as a result of their newly developed maturity. They perform in a talent show for the convalescents together, to which all the family is surprised. Edith plays the piano and Mary sings.

On Edith's wedding day, Mary acknowledged that they had not gotten along well in the past but that she wished Edith happiness on this day, which brought out a smile in Edith (especially when Mary gave her a sisterly kiss). Mary, like the rest of the family, was genuinely upset and heartbroken for Edith when Anthony Strallan jilted her at the altar. When Sybil died Edith asked Mary if their relationship would ever get better. Mary doubted it would, but that for now they should "love each other now, as sisters should." They shared a hug.

Mary supported Edith's decision to become a journalist, but treats her editor Michael Gregson with contempt and suspicion. Following Matthew's death, Mary becomes cold toward Edith again, later saying her sister is "about as mysterious as a bucket."

Michael Gregson

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Edith receives an offer to write a newspaper column from Gregson. Eventually an attraction develops between them, but Edith soon learns he is already married. She confronts him and insists on resigning, repulsed by a married man flirting with her. However, Gregson explains to her that his wife, whom he loved very much, has been in an asylum for years and no longer knows him. When she asks him why he has not divorced her, he explains he cannot because his wife cannot be deemed responsible in the eyes of the law simply because she is a lunatic; she is neither the guilty nor innocent party.[2] After he professes how much it means to him to read her column and meet her, she stays on.


She meets him again in Scotland in September 1921 while holidaying there with her family at Duneagle Castle. Mary and Matthew then disagree over his motives for pursuing Edith. When Michael reveals he loves her she insists that she cannot see a happy ending with him. Nevertheless she does ask Matthew of his opinion of Michael after the two men had gone deer stalking, and defends Michael against Mary's cruelty towards him. While fly fishing, Michael confides in Matthew about his wife. Their conversation convinces Matthew of Gregson's deep love and honesty towards Edith, but he finds the prospect of Gregson's future liaison with Edith socially unacceptable. Matthew tells them that he will say nothing for now, but that if they pursue a relationship he cannot remain silent. He effectively instructs Gregson to put an end to his courtship and say good-bye to Edith. True to his word, Matthew does not tell anyone. Gregson does try to say goodbye to Edith, but she insists that it is not their last evening, that she is now absolutely sure that she loves him.

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Edith and Michael kiss.

She reunites with him again in 1922 at King's Cross after the family's mourning period for Matthew's death. She not only continues writing for the Sketch, but she dines with Michael at the Criterion and later visits him at his flat. They even meet writer Virginia Woolf at a party.

When she learns of his plans to become a German citizen in order to divorce his wife and marry her, she is worried that people will hate him, citing that the royal family themselves had renounced their German heritage. Nevertheless he is undeterred, especially when she assures him she will love him more than ever. She then asks Michael to come to Downton and get to know her family even more. Then she returns to Downton again, but admitting "it is getting harder to say no" - meaning to stay the night with him. She eventually does stay the night with him, creeping back into her Aunt Rosamund's house in the early hours of the morning. She is seen by a servant who tells Rosamund. Rosamud then confronts her, warning her to be careful but promises she will not tell anyone.

After Michael leaves for Germany, Edith doesn't hear from him for a very long time. She soon learns no one else knows where he is, with both his office and the police looking for him. Edith later secretly goes to see a doctor in London. Later she receives a letter from the doctor telling her she is in the first trimester of pregnancy. Wishing not to be an outcast to her family, she decides that she will 'get rid' of her baby even though she loves Michael and wants his child. After seeing a woman cry at the clinic however, she decides that she loves Michael enough to keep the child. But she is later presented with the proposition of giving birth in another country then having the child adopted. But by 1923 she has done nothing.

Appearances

Appearances and Mentions
Series 1 Episode 1
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Episode 2
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Series 2 Episode 1
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
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Series 3 Episode 1
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
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Series 4 Episode 1
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
   
Series 5 Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7 Episode 8 Christmas Special
   
Series 6 Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7 Episode 8 Christmas Special

References

  1. Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season One, by Julian Fellowes, states that Mary is 21 in 1912, that Edith is 20 and that Sybil is 17.
  2. Divorce law in England 1857-1937
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