- Isobel: "And furthermore, I intend to marry him as soon as it can be arranged."
- Amelia: "This is ridiculous. Father, Mrs Crawley wants to take you away from your son and your family and kidnap you into marriage. What do you say?"
- Lord Merton: "How perfectly marvellous."
- — Isobel decides to marry Lord Merton, following Amelia's disapproval.[src]
Isobel Grey (née Turnbull, formerly Crawley; b. between 1853 and 1862), the Baroness Merton, is a doctor's daughter and a member-in-law of the Crawley family by her first mariage with the late Dr Reginald Crawley and her late son Matthew Crawley's marriage to the aristocratic Lady Mary Crawley and by her grandson George Crawley and of the Grey family by her second mariage in 1925 with the Baron Merton.
Isobel Crawley was well-educated for someone of her social standing and breeding, and trained as a nurse. She comes from a middle-class background and values family, charity, and education. She was a daughter, sister, and wife of doctors, as her father, Sir John Turnbull, her brother, Dr Edward Turnbull, and her late husband Reginald Crawley all practised medicine. Further contributing to her medical knowledge, she herself studied to be a nurse during the Boer War. Isobel and her only son Matthew both lived in a house in Manchester, England, where Matthew worked as a solicitor. At some point before 1885, Isobel, "sick with love", married Reginald and in 1885 gave birth to the couple's only son and heir, Matthew.
Matthew received a letter informing him that he was Robert Crawley's heir, next in line to the title Earl of Grantham, the estate, and the wealth of Downton Abbey. At first Matthew considered turning it down, but the inheritance was automatic. She and Matthew both moved to Downton to start their new lives, where they lived in Crawley House with their new butler/valet Molesley, their cook Mrs Bird and their housemaid who moved from Manchester with them.
Isobel used her nursing skills when she took an interest in the Downton Cottage Hospital. She found a local farmer, John Drake, who was dying of dropsy. She was more familiar with the new technique to cure it and persuaded Dr. Clarkson to try it, saving the man's life. Isobel was later appointed Chairman at the Downton Cottage Hospital, which she co-chaired with Violet Crawley.
Isobel embodied a different set of values to those of the Crawleys, and because of this was often in conflict with Violet, and Cora Crawley.
Isobel found fault with the tradition of Violet winning the rose competition of the flower show every year, and she succeeded in persuading Violet of this, which allowed Bill Molesley to win (at least, she motivated the Dowager Countess to lie and publicly state that Bill Molesley had won it).
Isobel persuaded Robert and Cora to turn Downton into a convalescent home for injured soldiers, so as to free up hospital beds at the cottage hospital for critical patients. She took up a position of authority at Downton, as co-person in charge alongside Cora, during the war. She and Cora clashed about the daily running and management of Downton's convalescent home. As a result she left Downton for France to work with the Red Cross. She later returned when she discovered that Matthew was injured in the war, and she has stayed at Downton ever since.
Isobel suggested to Violet and Cora that they kept Downton convalescent home open after the war to help the soldiers to rebuild their lives and recover, much to their dismay since both wanted life to return to normal as soon as possible. Violet managed to convince Isobel that refugees left displaced and disadvantaged by the war needed her help more than Downton.
Shortly before Matthew and Lavinia's wedding, Lavinia showed mild symptoms of Spanish flu, so because she would be feeling unwell for the next couple of weeks Isobel decided the wedding day would have to be delayed until everyone recovered from Spanish flu. A few hours later, Isobel and Matthew learned that Lavinia's condition had taken a turn for the worse, and sadly Lavinia died of Spanish flu. Isobel attended her funeral. Later on Isobel attended Christmas and New Year celebrations at Downton with her son.
Isobel and the Crawley family showed their support for John Bates who was arrested for the murder of his first wife Vera Bates. Alongside the Crawley family and some of the staff, who truly believed that he was not a murderer, she attended John's trial and supported John's second wife Anna Bates, and Downton staff members who were called up to the stand during the trial.
She was initially opposed to Matthew's relationship with Mary Crawley, but after the death of his fiancée she helped persuade him to propose to her again, which he did, and Mary happily accepted in January 1920.
Isobel was one of the few who felt Sybil should return to Downton with her husband Tom, for Matthew and Mary's wedding, and stood up for their right to do so. Sybil later asked her father if he sent her the money to come to Mary's wedding. Robert said that he suspected that Isobel had done so, and Sybil was determined to ask her, before Violet admitted that she had sent it. When Matthew announced he wanted Tom to be his best man, she happily applauded his decision. Though kind and sympathetic to Tom, she did not disagree with Violet when they insisted he dress the part for the wedding.
Isobel's new cause was helping woman reduced by circumstances to prostitution. She found former maid Ethel had turned to prostitution after falling on hard times, and was determined to help her. She supported Ethel through the difficult decision to give up her child to the Bryants. Afterwards, she was kind enough to hire Ethel as her maid despite the disapproval of others, including Mrs. Bird who resigned in protest. Ethel was snubbed in a grocery store, and Isobel said that they should not shop there in the future. Violet Crawley put an ad in the newspaper to find her a new position, in a different place, where she could make a new life. Isobel insisted that it must be Ethel's decision. Isobel was the first person that Matthew told when he learned that he may be heir to Lavinia's father's estate.
After Edith was jilted at the altar, Isobel said that the only way to help her was to find something for her to do. Isobel was at the train station to see Matthew off to Scotland to visit Duneagle Castle. She invited both Tom and Dr Clarkson to dinner at her house whilst the rest of the family were away. She praised Tom for his rise, and later attended the Thirsk fair with Dr. Clarkson. She realized that Dr. Clarkson was going to propose to her and she gently let him know that she had no interest in marriage, thus maintaining their friendship. She saw Matthew again at the hospital when baby George was born, and when Matthew arrived he sent her home. It was the last time she ever saw him.
She quarrels with the Dowager when the latter suspects a gardener Isobel and Dr Clarkson persuaded her to take on of stealing. Isobel goes out of her way to prove his innocence, eventually being proven right. However when Violet falls ill with bronchitis after her son travels to America to see his in-laws, Isobel diligently nurses her, and later they play cards together. She also grows closer to Tom, encouraging him to stay when he considers leaving Downton, and to rekindle his interest in politics.
She finds an admirer in Lord Merton, Mary's Godfather. He comes over for tea with Isobel and Violet. At the end he offers to walk Isobel home but while talking about occupations and children, he asks about Matthew (who is obviously dead). He later sends her flowers, hoping to apologize for his behavior which he felt was rude. He continues to see her by 1923, and when she sees he has arrived at the ball at Grantham House she becomes very nervous, especially when he asks her to dance. Violet notes his interest.
Isobel is still being pursued by Lord Merton and Richard Clarkson (the family doctor). Violet tries to help her, but Isobel does not seem interested. She along with Violet, went to Lord Merton's estate for tea, where he tries to discuss with Isobel the science of quarantine, on which he was reading in a book.
Lord Merton later proposes and after considering for a few days, Isobel accepts. However she becomes visibly hurt when both his sons treat her with disrespect and contempt. As she tells Violet before Rose's wedding to Atticus Aldridge, she wonders if it would be right to marry Dickie when she knows perfectly well his sons would hate for them to be happy. Seeing the inevitable failure of the marriage, Isobel refuses Merton to which Violet remarked about how delighted Dr.Clarkson will be.
Isobel heavily disagrees with Violet over what should be done withy he Hospital as she believes the Crawleys should relinquish control and look forward to the joys of new equipment whereas Violet thinks the hospital should be left to the family. When the Hospital is taken into the new control Violet is in effect "fired" from the role of Chairman with Cora apptioned as the new. Isobel remains the arminor and happily supports the change. Later, Amelia Cruikshank begins to push for Crawley to marry Lord Merton, this would allow her to control the household while Isobel became Merton's nurse. Isobel pays a visit to Amelia and this leads to Isobel telling Amelia that she needs Merton to declare his love for her before she marries him. When Violet runs off to France she asks Isobel to deliver a letter to Robert which tells him of her plans, with this she introduces the family to the dog left by the Dowager as a present. Later when Henry Talbot arrives uninvited to Downton and Mary decides to marry him Isobel declares she is utterly delighted at the thought. And attends the wedding.
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