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All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.(Molesley to Baxter)

Joseph Molesley (b. 1873) is a butler who at first works at Crawley House in Downton village. Later he goes to work at Downton Abbey as Matthew Crawley's valet until the latter's death. After some time away, he returned to Downton as footman, despite moving down the ranks. After helping Daisy with her studies, Molesley took the position as a teacher at the Downton School, returning to Downton Abbey to be a footman for larger events and parties.

Biography

Background

Molesley grew up in Downton village with his father, Bill Molesley, a prolific gardener. His mother had died just prior to the events of Series One. Prior to South African war, Molesley and John Bates served together as footmen in a house near Stafford.

Molesley expresses a desire to have once been a teacher, but due to family financial troubles he had to leave school early at the age of 12 and go to work.

1912-14

When Matthew Crawley becomes heir to the Earl of Grantham and moves to Downton Abbey, it is arranged for Molesley to work at Crawley House. At first Matthew does not think it necessary to have either a butler or, especially, a valet. Molesley, much to his chagrin, is reduced to standing around watching Matthew dress himself. Matthew eventually gives in to this new way of living and comes to understand the responsibility they owe to the people they employ. Shortly after the Crawleys' arrival the Dowager Lady Grantham asks Molesley how it is to be home again in Downton village; it is unclear where he was working immediately beforehand.

While working in his father's garden, Molesley develops a rue allergic reaction which the Dowager Countess of Grantham correctly diagnosed.

1916-19

Molesley is attracted to Anna Smith, something hinted at at the end of the first season. He wishes to get to know her better. He takes the opportunity to ask her if they could see more of each other when Mr Bates has left Downton Abbey in Episode 2.01 but she declines, as she is still in love with Bates and feels she could never love again. Afterwards, Molesley still held a torch for Anna, though after she marries it is unclear how his feelings changed.

During WWI, when Matthew was away serving on the Western Front and his mother Isobel went off to work at a hospital in Northern France, Molesley began to work at Downton Abbey after Lang (Bates' replacement) had been dismissed. Molesley was eager to take on the role of valet to the Earl of Grantham, but does not as Bates later returns and resumes his former role. Molesley, like footman William Mason was initially found physically unfit for active war service but these were both arranged by the Dowager to keep the family's staff from leaving service; when this ruse is uncovered by Isobel Crawley, Molesley lies to Dr Clarkson that this error is in fact true, so that unlike William, he will not be called to active service.

He insists on tasting the wines when helping out at Downton one dinner. Later, his condition deteriorates. With Spanish flu breaking out in the house, it is thought at first he has caught it (like Carson, Lady Grantham, and Miss Swire). However, Doctor Clarkson immediately realizes that he is just drunk. Mrs Hughes later tells Carson she doesn't want him helping out at dinner anymore, saying his liver won't stand it.

1920

When Matthew Crawley is to be married to Lady Mary, Molesley eagerly anticipates moving there with him to finally be, as he long dreamed, a valet in the the main house. Matthew, however, says that Molesley is "essential" to his mother and he intends to leave him with her as a butler. Molesley is flattered, but disappointed. He talks about it to O'Brien, as he is going to rush back to Crawley House to open the door for Matthew and Isobel, when they finish dinner at Downton. O'Brien questions if Molesley fears for his job, as he is trying very hard for someone "essential". At Matthew's wedding he is sincerely thanked by Matthew for getting a proper outfit ready for best man Tom. He shakes Molesley's hand, and Molesley gives O'Brien a smug look.

When Alfred is deemed not suitable to be Matthew's valet, Lord Grantham sends for Molesley to take his place. He continues to show care and concern for Anna while her husband is in prison; he asks how she is often. Molesley is dragged into the feud between Thomas and O'Brien, when Thomas Barrow starts a false rumor by telling him that O'Brien is leaving Downton and Cora's service, so that the daughter of his friend may be able to apply for that position. Thomas makes him swear to not tell anyone below stairs. Cora is upset when Molesley asks about this, but hides it and says that she knows that O'Brien is leaving. Eventually the story does get to Carson and O'Brien threatens Molesley that she will see to him later. Daisy tells him that he is in the soup, and she wouldn't be in O'Brien's black book for a gold clock. Molesley explains to O'Brien, but says that Thomas made an honest mistake. O'Brien doesn't believe that, but forgives Molesley for his part.  He later shows no sympathy for Tom Branson when he is exiled (and says Lady Sybil married beneath her), nor Ethel Parks for having become a prostitute to feed her son.

Upon the arrival of the annual cricket match of the House Team against the Village Team in 1920, Molesley and his father inspect the cricket pitch and debate which team takes the game the most seriously. Leading up to the match, Molesley became very enthusiastic, claiming he was born with cricket in his blood.  When asked why he had never played before, he said it was because he was not working at the house. He continues to show off his so-called moves to the staff, but during the match he proved to be a very poor player. The wicket is knocked over by his first delivery. His father says that he could always talk a good game, he could just never play it.

2012 Christmas Special

While packing up for the family's trip to Duneagle, Scotland, in 1921, Molesley was in a dither over whether shotguns should be brought, and questioned Carson about this.   With an air of indignation, Carson informs Molesley that they will not be needed because they would only be stalking, and that requires rifles.  He suggested they take them, just to be sure, but Carson frustratingly insists he is already sure.

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At Duneagle, since Molesley is Mr. Crawley's valet, he is referred to as Mr. Crawley below stairs. At the Gillies Ball, he takes a drink that Lady Flintshire's maid Wilkins spiked and intended for O'Brien, then goes off to get another one.  He starts dancing wildly immediately afterwards, making a big fool of himself in front of everyone present. He is later seen having passed out completely, to the laughing of Mary and Matthew. The next day Mary is going back to Downton early and Matthew wants to go with her. She has many reasons for why he shouldn't, one of which is that Molesley, after the night before, wouldn't be well enough to travel.

1922

With the death of Matthew Crawley, Molesley is out of a job.  He places advertisements, but gets no answers.  Violet later invites her friend Lady Shackelton to lunch and, hearing she needs a butler, invites Molesley over to help out so he can impress her.  Unfortunately he fails because Violet's butler Septimus Spratt (who believes Molesley is after his own job) sabotages his efforts.

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Molesley is eventually reduced to working as an unskilled labourer, and sinks into debt. Anna offers for her husband and her to lend him - then just give him - some money. But he turns down her offer, too proud to accept it. Her husband eventually fabricates a debt he failed to pay Molesley, thereby helping him. Molesley later takes a job delivering groceries.

Later, when Alfred Nugent considers leaving for London to pursue his dream of becoming a chef and receive training, Carson tells Molesley he could offer him possibly Alfred's position, certain after what he has been through he will accept it. But Molesley only says he will think about it, when in truth he would prefer not to as he feels he would be downgraded, on account that he has trained as a valet and a butler. But Alfred does not leave and Molesley does not the get the job.

However, when Alfred replaces a candidate who dropped out, Carson, recalling Molesley's hesistance before, is not willing to hire him, seeing him as reluctant as Kaiser Wilhelm was when he abdicated. But after Mrs Hughes and Mrs Patmore plead his case, Carson, albeit grumpily, agrees and takes Molesley on. Even so, the family continue to refer to Molesley by his last name instead of his first.

When Thomas Barrow accompanies Lord Grantham to America, Molesley grows closer to Lady Grantham's new maid, Phyllis Baxter, who is kind and encouraging toward him. He is surpised when she calls him lucky, as he and everyone has never considered himself as much. He makes her some coffee, and later defends her against Barrow when the underbutler returns from America.

2013 Christmas Special

By 1923, Molesley is still working as a footman for Downton, and joins the family and other servants at Grantham House for the London season. After the Prince of Wales comes to the ball there, Molesley approaches Baxter, putting his hand out to her, and insists that she cannot let Barrow bully her and pull her into his schemes. He insists he does not want to know what is in her past, but advises that it is sometimes better to take a risk rather than do what is wrong. She later surprises him when they and the other servants go to the seaside by saying he encouraged her not to be afraid, that his strength has made her strong (to which he replies "My what?!").

1924

After Jimmy's dismissal, Molesley remains Downton's only waiter. He continues to defend Baxter from Thomas and even dyes his hair to look younger in her eyes, but he's shocked when Barrow reveals Phyllis' past, which includes a jewelry theft from her old employer and subsequent conviction. to three years in prison. Molesley did not expect such an event in the least and he's firmly convinced that if she did, she had a good reason, such as a need for money, or she was forced to. Indeed, he is right, but Baxter has not told yet the whole truth either to him or to the countess: he simply said she stole, but she was really forced to do that. However, she tries to convince Molesley that even if she was forced to, she made the choice to steal when she could have resisted, but she reassures him by saying that she would rewrite that chapter of her life, but she cannot do it, even for him (and that quote makes a little smile in Molesley's mouth, but he's still sorry and thoughtful). She claims to have changed and that in the future she will never allow herself to be manipulated by anyone or repeat what she has already done.

Meanwhile, Molesley convinces Baxter to tell the countess the whole truth, to reduce the risk of her firing her. Phyllis realizes it's the right thing to do and decides to tell her the whole truth. Later she also talks about it to Molesley, who is now privy to everything. Lady Grantham decides not to fire her personal maid, who asks not to bring up that trait of her past again.

The bond between Baxter and Molesley is strengthened and it seems that it is resulting in something more than a simple friendship: we notice it from several conversations and actions that take place this season, but nothing is official, not yet.

1925

Molesley believes that Marigold Gregson is particularly lucky to have gotten the attention of Lady Edith, otherwise she would have grown up in a peasant environment and certainly not in a particularly wealthy situation.

Furthermore, when Bates and Anna Smith are cleared of the investigation of Mr. Green's murder, Molesley and Baxter take the couple's thanks, as they had together visited seventy venues to find someone who remembered Bates's face, confirming his innocence again. After that, they celebrate together in the servants' hall and Molesley dances with Baxter.

Molesley gives Daisy some papers with assignments already done by other students in the past, in order to practice the answers and take a worthy exam. He also helps Miss Baxter, summoned by Sergeant Willis to discuss Mr. Coyle, her old manipulator who forced her to steal: the sergeant's request is to bring the woman to testify in court during Coyle's trial. She initially does not accept, but when she learns that other girls who had been deceived by Coyle had ended up in misery, had prostituted themselves or even died, she is unable to resist and decides to testify, also prompted by the will of Mr. Molesley and Thomas to have some justice. Molesley says that "all that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing". Despite this, the two go to court and discover that Coyle, after reading the list of witnesses in the indictment, has pleaded guilty. Later, Baxter receives a letter from Peter Coyle, inviting her to find him in prison. Baxter does'nt know how to act and takes the advice of his friend, who tells her to leave everything and throw the letter. After thinking about it, she throws the letter and leaves in the past what belongs to the past.

Quotes

  • "I've felt fragile my whole life." - to Miss Baxter.
  • "Sometimes it's better to take a risk than to go down the wrong path." - to Miss Baxter regarding Thomas Barrow.
  • "I think if you expect a lot you get a lot!" - Season 6 Episode 8 - talking to Miss Baxter regarding education and making lesson plans for the children in the village.
  • "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." - to Miss Baxter.
  • "I believe that education is the gate that leads to any future worth having." - to Mr. Dawes.
  • "Have you missed your vocation?" "I've missed everything, Mr Dawes-but Daisy doesn't have to." - Mr Dawes and Mr Molesley
  • "You must never think education is only for special people, you know for clever people...Education is for everyone...I’m not anyone special. I’m a teacher now, but I’m an ordinary bloke. I spent my life in service, fetching and carrying...and I was glad to get the work...But I never gave up on learning, do you see? I read as much as I could, and I taught myself. And I hope to be able to teach you. Maybe give you the shortcut that I never had.” - to his students in Season 6

Appearances

Appearances and Mentions
Series 1 Episode 1 Episode 2
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Episode 3 Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6 Episode 7
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Series 2 Episode 1
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Episode 2
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Episode 3 Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7 Episode 8
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Christmas Special
   
Series 3 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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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
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Series 4 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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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
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Series 5 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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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
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Series 6 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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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
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The film The film
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Behind the scenes

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References

  1. Molesley states he is 51 in Episode 5.01 (around February 1924; see the Timeline). This would conflict with his eligibility for conscription in 1916 (Episode 2.01), as that would make him 43 at the time and thus two years too old. At the time conscription applied to men up to the age of 41.
  2. The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era, by Jessica Fellowes & Matthew Sturgis, Harper Collins Publishers, 2012, Series 3 cast list, page 316.
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