- "You'll be my Mary always because mine is the true Mary."
- —Mary's first husband, Matthew Crawley, to her
Lady Mary Josephine Talbot (née Crawley; b. 1891) is the eldest daughter of Robert the Earl of Grantham and Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham she is the sister of Lady Edith Pelham and the late Lady Sybil Branson, granddaughter of Violet Crawley, sister-in-law of Tom Branson and Herbert (Bertie) Pelham, and the aunt to her nieces, Sybbie Branson and Edith's daughter, Marigold (last name undetermined). She was married to Matthew Crawley and with him had a son, George Crawley, in 1921. Shortly after their son's birth, Matthew was killed in a car accident. Mary married Henry Talbot in 1925, and they have a daughter, Caroline Talbot, in 1926.
Her father's sister Lady Rosamund Painswick and her deceased husband Marmaduke Painswick are Mary's aunt and uncle. She also has an uncle on her mother's side, Harold Levinson. She is second cousins with Lady Rose Aldridge, along with her sisters Lady Annabelle and James MacClare, Earl of Newtonmore. She has a second cousin-in-law in Rose's husband Atticus Aldridge, and their daughter Victoria Aldridge is her second cousin-once-removed. Rose's mother, the Marchioness of Flintshire, is her father's first cousin.
The news of the deaths of her two cousins, James and Patrick, is a shock to her because it disrupts the family's strategy for dealing with the entail. The entail requires that the family's estate, incorporating her mother's large marriage dowry, along with the title, pass to male heirs only. The family had arranged that Mary would marry Patrick, second in line to the title after James, but Mary did not have strong feelings for him and questions whether she must even wear black mourning clothes since the engagement was never publicly announced.
Mary's parents and grandmother focus on finding suitors for Mary, including the Duke of Crowborough, Evelyn Napier, and Anthony Strallan. She herself is seduced by a visitor to the house, Napier's friend Ottoman attaché Kemal Pamuk, who suddenly dies in her bed. Her infuriated mother and head housemaid Anna help her carry his body out of her bedroom and back to his room in the bachelor's corridor in order to try to prevent a public scandal that would ruin her marriage prospects.Mary's relationship with the new heir, her distant cousin Matthew Crawley, who is not an aristocrat, begins coldly as she overhears him complaining to his mother that he expects the family will "push" one of the daughters on him. She refuses to acknowledge him as the new heir, declaring that he was "not one of us" and could "barely hold a knife properly". Over time, however, the pair grow closer and a romance develops. In 1914, Matthew asks Mary to marry him, but she is cautious and says she won't give him an answer until the end of the London Season in August. However her mother becomes pregnant, and if the baby is a boy, he will inherit the title instead of Matthew, so Mary refuses to give Matthew an answer, on the advice of her aunt, Lady Rosamund. Another reason for her hesitancy was that she feels she would have to tell Matthew about the one-night "fling" with Pamuk. Heartbroken and angered by her supposed motive, Matthew withdraws his proposal and decides to leave Downton, but World War I breaks out and he joins the British Army.
While Matthew is away at war, Mary becomes engaged to Richard Carlisle, a wealthy newspaper magnate who, after Mary's confession and request for his assistance because someone threatens to expose it, promises to help keep the Pamuk affair under wraps. They plan to marry in July 1919, after the marriage of Matthew and his new fiancée Lavinia Swire, and to move to a neighboring, stately home that Sir Richard plans to buy. After Lavinia's death, it becomes clear that Matthew and Mary continue to have strong feelings for one other.
The couple, after a brief moment of doubt the night before the wedding, happily marry in 1920 and go to France for their honeymoon. The doubt came after Mary learned from her father he had lost so much money he was going to lose Downton, and that Matthew might be the heir to Reggie Swire's huge fortune. Mary felt if he inherited, then Downton could be saved, but Matthew insisted he could not inherit it because he still blamed himself for Lavinia's death. When it came to light Lavinia wrote to her father telling him the whole story and that Reggie respected him still, Matthew refused to believe it, so Mary questioned the servants and learned Lavinia had indeed written to her father (Daisy Mason had posted the letter). Matthew then accepted it, investing in Downton and saving it.
After Sybil and her husband, former chauffeur Tom Branson, were exiled from Ireland, they returned to Downton Abbey where Sybil went into labor. Mary visited her beforehand, where Sybil mentioned again Tom's wish for the baby to be Catholic like himself and how she realized the baby's christening would now have to take place at Downton, instead of Dublin. Mary insisted to Sybil she did not have to accept this, as it was her baby too. But Sybil told her she did not mind, that she did not object to Catholic traditions, and that she loved Tom and wanted this for him. Mary then promised to fight their corner. Like the rest of the family, Mary was delighted at the birth of Sybil's daughter, then utterly heartbroken when her beloved sister died soon after. She gave her a final kiss and said: "Goodbye my darling."
Keeping her promise to Sybil, Mary supported Tom, against her father, to baptize her niece and goddaughter, Sybbie, Catholic. She attended Sybbie's christening with the rest of the family. She also begins to support Matthew's plans for modernizing Downton to make it financially self-supporting, which her father initially opposes. While she and Matthew are intent on having children, it is hinted they may be having reproductive issues. Mary and Matthew meet by coincidence at a reproductive health clinic run by Dr Ryder, where Mary reveals she underwent a small and successful operation in order to strengthen their chances of conceiving. Despite previous tension between them, the series ends with them happily reaffirming their love for each other.
In September 1921, an eight-month pregnant Mary travels to Duneagle Castle in Scotland with the family. Branson stayed behind because he was not invited, something that doesn't concern him. After the ball, Mary regrets dancing and tells Matthew that she's returning to Downton the next day. Matthew volunteers to accompany her, but Mary insists that he stay and enjoy the last few days of their trip.The next day, when Mary steps off the train, she tells Anna to take her to the hospital and to notify her husband that she has begun labour. The Crawley family leaves Scotland at once, and Matthew visits Mary at the hospital as soon as he can make it. Mary has given birth to a son and heir. Matthew then says he "feels like I swallowed fireworks" and tells Mary that he loves her more with each passing day and that she'll be an excellent mother. Matthew then drives back to Downton to tell the family they can now visit his son. As Matthew is driving at what appears to be at a fast pace, he doesn't see another automobile driving around the corner. The car hits him, and and his car are pushed off the road overturning onto the bottom of a small slope. The other driver comes out to help, but finds Matthew dead, pale and bleeding from his injuries. The episode ends with Mary holding her son, smiling, blissfully unaware that her husband and father of her child is dead.
On one occasion, she gets a angry with Mr. Carson when he tells her she is giving up. She feels it was his place to tell her what she should do. It goes from bad to worse at the dinner table that night, when her mother, grandmother and Tom try to encourage Mary to be more involved in the running of Downton to which her father tries to again, to protect Mary. She gets upset and upon breaking into tears, yells at everyone to leave her alone. She storms out of the dining room and returns to her bedroom. It isn't until her grandmother, Violet Crawley, has a talk with her that she starts to come to terms with Matthew's death. She tells her grandmother she feels she has become the cold person she used to be and that perhaps she was only kind in Matthew's imagination. She tells her grandmother she doesn't understand why she has come to talk to her, to which she replies that it because she is her grandmother and she loves her. She is told she must choose between life or death, to which Mary begins to understand that she must choose life. As she begins her attempt to move on, she pays a visit to Mr. Carson to apologise for the way she spoke to him the day before. She breaks down in front of him, telling him she doesn't know how to move on. He comforts her, telling her she is a strong woman and she will find a way.Later on, Mary decides to wear a lilac dress rather than a black dress to attend a luncheon to discuss the running of Downton as she finally begins to move on. Shortly after, a box containing Matthew's things from his office is delivered to Downton. Mr. Carson decided the box should best be sent to Robert first, in case it upsets Mary. Robert begins to look into the box, and as he examines a book a letter drops out of it. The letter was written by shortly before the trip to Scotland. The letter states what he would had wanted Mary to be his sole heiress in the event of his death, which Matthew had thought was the best thing to do now that Mary was pregnant. Robert hesitates to give it Mary at first, but he is persuaded otherwise when Violet says it is wrong to keep it from her. He also states that although it is not properly documented, he intended after this trip for his wishes to be legally written up. However, Robert was still determined that it was not a will and that he will have Murray look at the document. It is later determined that the letter demonstrates testamentary intent therefore it is a will. In addition, when Matthew wrote the letter there were two witnesses who saw him doing so.
It is clear at first that Robert was not too happy at the thought of sharing Downton with Mary. He kept telling Mary that it couldn't have been a proper will. At dinner, she innocently tells everyone she would like her opinions to be heard in the event that the letter is seen as a will. Robert finds himself slightly annoyed at the prospect and bullies Mary by telling her of the many things he would like her opinion about knowing her present knowledge running an farm estate is limited at the moment, which makes Mary remark he must have some sort of point and Cora remark that he trying to say a woman's place is in the home.
In light of this, Violet invites Mary and Tom to her home to have a word with them. She tells them she would like Tom to be Mary's "instructor" and help her to understand how Downton is run, such as the crops and the farms. Tom and Mary happily accept this prospect. Tom later takes Mary out to discuss how Downton is run. They talk about the death duties and how much tax there will be to pay. Tom tells Mary that her father intends to sell part of the land to pay it off in one lump. They both determine that they disagree with Robert's idea. When Robert finally accepts that Matthew's letter is a will, Mary tells Robert of her disagreement with his plan to sell part of the land, to his dismay.
Mary and Tom work together more on the estate, even working on a new venture into pig farming. She meets an old childhood friend, Tony Foyle, now Lord Gillingham, who pursues her. She turns him down as she has not yet moved on from Matthew. But he gets a kiss out of her, and later when she learnt of his engagement she secretly feels regret.She then reunites with her old suitor Evelyn Napier, but does not get along well with his boss Charles Blake. She believes he cares not for the landowners. But after some new pigs arrived in poor condition she and Blake both willingly get dirty in order to help them, after which she and Blake start to respect each other more (he originally believed she was unwilling to work for Downton), and he develops feelings for her himself.
Lord Gillingham returns, having broken off his engagement as he is still determined to win her over. Her family takes note of her numerous suitors.Mary is the first to know Rose has entered a relationship with the black band leader Jack Ross. After Rose reveals her plans to marry him, she goes to London to speak to Ross himself. He impresses her with his honesty and love for Rose, but also in his decision to spare Rose pain from society by calling it off. She later speaks to Rose at the bazaar. She is also the second person to learn from Mrs Hughes about what happened to Anna. Anna then reveals to Mary who the culprit was, and Mary feels she has to do something. So she meets with Lord Gillingham and insists that he fire his valet Green without telling him why. He later informs her of Green's death at the bazaar.
Mary receives a visit from Lord Gillingham, who proposes they become lovers. She agrees to his offer and they arrange for a secret rendezvous in Liverpool. Mary tells her family she will instead be spending time with a friend, Annabelle Portsmouth, on a sketching holiday. She tells Blake she is sorry if she has hurt him, but he insists he is happy for her. He asks only that she be certain she is making the right choice because he feels that she is far smarter than Lord Gillingham.
Anna is very nervous about Mary's decision, especially when Mary asks her go to a pharmacy to purchase items for her to prevent pregnancy. After enjoying themselves, they are spotted by Spratt, Violet's butler. He informs Violet who immediately comes up with an excuse to explain their being in Liverpool. However, Violet has Mary come to her house and confronts her with what she knows. Mary insists she is being modern and that there is nothing wrong with it, but Violet insists that Mary has been seduced.
Mary immediately claims that they want to set a date but nothing has been settled. Violet urges her to make a decision. But Mary begins to regret what she has done and later confides to Tom she feels she has made the wrong choice, because she now thinks she and Gillingham have very little in common. She then breaks up with him much to his dismay and refuses to believe Mary wants to break up. However, to help Mary Charles Blake schemes to get Lord Gillingham back with his former fiancee Mabel Lane Fox.
After Tom begins to voice his political opinions again, Mary remarks that she feels Tom is changing back into who he was, which she admits will be a bad thing for the family, but not for Tom. She later tells Tom though she does not approve of his friendship with Sarah Bunting, who had helped begin to revive his political views, and that she still does not want him to leave Downton.
She later visits a fake French hairdresser in York and gets a bob cut from him which she shows off to her family. Unlike everyone else, Mary did not care about Edith's disappearance and, along with Robert, objected to Edith adopting Marigold without knowing Edith's predicament. Later, she goes with her family to London for their cousin Rose's marriage to Atticus Aldridge. She expresses sadness to Tom's leaving Downton Abbey to start a new life in America as well as Rose's departure to New York, but nonetheless says her farewells to them.At Christmas, she and her family visit Brancaster Castle in Northumberland for a shooting party during the grouse season hosted by the Aldridge family. She notices the butler Stowell being very rude to Tom so she asks Barrow to get a trick out of his sleeve in order to get Stowell into trouble, which he did. She later finds out the sordid past of Lord Sinderby, but along with Rose and her father, keep it secret. She later meets and dances with acquaintance Henry Talbot and is rather taken with his fancy car. At Downton, there is a splendid Christmas party where Mary along with her son George, Sybbie, Edith and Marigold decorate the tree.
Mary is fox hunting with Robert and some people from the village. After the fox hunt is done, she notices Rita Bevan, but Mary does not recognize her while Bevan says that she does. Bevan reveals her knowledge of her night with Lord Gillingham, and issues an ultimatum to Mary. Mary must give Bevan £1000 pounds, or she would go to the newspapers regarding her night with Gillingham.
Mary confides this to Anna, who reaffirms her feelings that she shouldn't give into blackmail. Bevan makes another appearance, and barges into Mary's room, and restates her threats. Mary again refuses. Bevan makes a third appearance, this time going to Robert to tell him about her night with Lord Gillingham. Robert saves Mary, Lord Gillingham, and Lady Gillingham from national embarrassment by giving Bevan £50 pounds for her silence, and says if she refuses the offer, Robert would go to the police and the latter would convict Bevan for blackmail.
Mary insists that the butler Carson should get married at Downton's Great Hall, or whichever room he and Mrs Hughes choose to hold their wedding reception, but Mrs Hughes has different ideas. Later Mary, along with her son George, Marigold and Cora visit the Drewe's farm to view the pigs in order to display them at the Fat Stock Moulton show. They then see Mrs Drewe who has an emotional reunion with Marigold whom she has clearly not gotten over. But Cora insists they all go back to the house for luncheon so as to avoid any problems. Mary wins the 1st place at the Fat Stock show, but later when Marigold goes missing, Mary holds her son George and wonders why Mrs Drewe took Marigold to Yew Tree Farm, but she doesn't get any more suspicious. When Mary hears about Anna's inability to conceive a child, she books an appointment with Dr Ryder, whom she went to years ago, in order to somehow correct Anna's problem, and does some shopping.
Mary continues to insist that Carson and Mrs Hughes hold their reception in the Great Hall, but later concedes to Mrs Hughes when she wants it in the schoolhouse.
Mary's old acquaintance from Brancaster Castle, Henry Talbot, visits Downton with his aunt Lady Shackleton. She, Talbot, and Tom chat, and Talbot gives Mary his card and Mary and Talbot agree to arrange something when Mary is next in London. Gwen Harding, formerly Gwen Dawson, visits Downton along with her husband, John Harding. Mary is sure that she recognizes Gwen, but she cannot seem to remember her name. When Gwen's identity is revealed, the family and Gwen fondly discuss Lady Sybil. When Gwen leaves, Anna prepares Mary for her dinner, however, she almost has a miscarriage. Anna and Mary rush to London, and Dr Ryder performs his operation just in time to save Anna's baby. When Anna is recovering, Mary and Talbot arrange to have dinner at the Royal Automobile Club.
Mary and Tom watches a car race between Henry Talbot and Charlie Rogers. After that, Mary, Talbot, and Tom have a drink in a pub where they become more friendly with each other. When Neville Chamberlain visits Downton for dinner, Mary watches horrified along with everyone in the room as Robert vomits blood. Mary rushes her father to the hospital along with Cora and Edith. Mary's suspicions arise when she overhears Violet and Cora discuss a close connection between Edith and Marigold.
Mary and Tom later have dinner with Henry Talbot at the Criterion where Charlie Rogers, Evelyn Napier, Lady Anne Acland and another lady are in attendance. After the dinner is over, Henry offers to walk Mary home and Mary reveals to him that her distaste of cars comes from Matthew's death, because he was killed in a car crash. Henry insists she give cars a second chance and suddenly it starts raining. Mary and Henry retreat into a nearby tunnel and Henry kisses Mary and admits his feelings for her, however, Mary feels their relationship is going rather faster than she'd expected. She and Tom later open Downton Abbey to village visitors in order to raise money for the hospital.
Mary along with her family, as well as Bertie Pelham and Edith's colleague Laura Edmunds attend a car race at Brooklands to see Henry Talbot race along with his friend Charlie Rogers. But as they are racing, Mary finds it boring and questions the point of racing. However, the race is put to an apparent stop because of Charlie Rogers' unfortunate death from a swerving car. This reminds Mary of her late husband's death. She calls Charlie Rogers' death to be a bloody and wasted business which could have been prevented. She then breaks off her relationship with Talbot, who tries to persuade her otherwise, but Mary tells him they could never be together.
Tom, who is disappointed at the end of Mary and Talbot's relationship, invites him to Downton in hope of them reconciling. Unfortunately, this backfires, with Mary only getting angry with Talbot. During this time, Tom accidentally informs Mary about Marigold's true parentage, and Mary "accidentally" corners Edith into telling Bertie Pelham, the new and 7th Marquess of Hexham and Edith's fiancée. Their relationship appears to have come to an end, when Bertie tells her that he is uncomfortable marrying someone who tried to trick him, and Edith packs her things and leaves for London. Mary tries to talk to Edith before she leaves, but Edith calls her "nasty, jealous, scheming" and "stuck-up" and also calls her a "bitch" twice. After Edith leaves, Tom chastises Mary for ruining Edith's happiness, calls Mary a bully and a coward, and writes to Violet and requests that she convince Mary to reconcile with Edith and to marry Talbot. Mary pours her heart out to Violet, telling her that she doesn't want to have another husband that dies in a car-crash, and that she remembered looking at Charlie Rogers' car burning hoping that Talbot was not dead. Violet comforts her, and successfully persuades her to reconcile with Talbot and Edith. Mary then visits Matthew's grave, and begs his forgiveness and acceptance that she is ready to marry another man. Mary then asks Talbot back to Downton, where she apologizes and they reconcile, and after they become re-engaged, they are married in a small wedding the following Saturday. Edith arrives back from London in time for the wedding, and they reconcile.
As a rare sisterly act of love towards Edith, Mary telephoned Bertie and told him to meet Edith at the Ritz restaurant in London, and had Rosamund play along. This works, as Bertie tells Edith he can't live without her. Henry tells Mary that he wants to find his place at Downton, as he feels he is a poor man being supported by a rich wife. Henry and Tom go into a car-selling business together and Mary is thrilled, as Henry has given up motor-racing due to Charlie Rogers' death and his loss of interest afterwards. Henry announces that he and Tom have opened a car shop in York. She also reveals to Henry that she is pregnant with their child but makes him swear not to tell anyone until Edith has gone off on her honeymoon with Bertie. Subsequently both she and Henry attend Edith and Bertie's wedding.
After multiple times when Carson acts rather strangely, Mary and also Robert go to see him in his pantry, where Carson reveals that he has a genetically inherited disease from his grandfather where his hands start shaking and eventually fail. He then offers his resignation on the grounds that he can no longer do his job properly, but at the wedding reception, Thomas, who is visiting from his new workplace, steps into pour and serve the champagne, and Robert offers him the job. Mary and Lord Grantham are sad to see him go but they are very grateful for what he has done for them and the family. During this time, Anna goes into labor in Lady Mary's bedroom, and Mary helps to deliver her son, with Henry and Bates present.Mary and Henry celebrate New Year and welcome 1926 along with the rest of her family.
Mary is elegant. She is slender and tall with thin wrists and long fingers. She is sought after by many men throughout the series. She has raven black waves and dark eyes, accompanied by perfectly arched brows, black lashes, high cheekbones and clear porcelain skin. She originally had long hair which was pinned up during the initial four and a half season, but then decided to adopt the Shingle Bob of the 1920s era. She bears a noticeable physical resemblance to her mother Cora Crawley.
Mary is shown to be cold, bitter, opaque, and quite mean in the beginning, but her romance with Matthew brings her kindness and vulnerability to light. She is a caring lady and takes Matthew's death to heart, remaining in mourning for more than six months after his death. Mary proves to be an extremely loyal employer to Anna and Mr Bates, and is also extremely loyal to her family and friends.
Despite the constant rivalry between herself and her sister Edith, they shared an embrace and kind words at the death of their younger sister Sybil. Contrary to her relationship with Edith, Mary loved her youngest sister dearly and was very protective of her. Later on, after the tragic death of Matthew, she begins to return, in some ways, to her old self. Her relationship with Edith deteriorates yet again. However, later on, after Mary finds out the truth about Marigold and tells Bertie, Mary eventually regrets her actions, makes peace with Edith, and tries to have a better relationship with her, going as far as to apologise to Edith and reconcile Edith and Bertie.
However, Mary does show herself to be very open-minded and progressive at times, befriending her brother-in-law Tom Branson, the family's former chauffeur. She supports him in his decision to raise his daughter as a Catholic, showing she bears none of the anti-Catholic prejudices that were common in her time. She also is very supportive of her cousin Rose's decision to marry a Jewish man, Atticus Aldridge, at a time when, due to anti-semitism, many people might frown on such a match (however, this might also be due to her own Jewish ancestry, her maternal grandfather having been Jewish).
Upon learning that Matthew named her as his heir shortly before his death, Mary resolves to take an active role in the running of the Downton Estate. In doing so, she works to continue the process of modernization that Matthew had begun, often at odds with her father's more conservative and pragmatic approach. While not overtly feminist, Mary begins to take on traditionally masculine duties such as acting as the estate's agent, meeting with tenant farmers, and concerning herself with business decisions. Understanding the postwar reality that estates such as Downton are in peril, her drive and motivation for much of the later series is ensuring that the Estate remains whole for her son.
- In the 1500s, there was a Mary Talbot (a daughter of George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury) who was married to Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland, who had formerly been engaged to Anne Boleyn, prior to her marriage to Henry VIII. This particular Mary Talbot is a distant relative of Mary Crawley's husband, who's Aunt confirms he is a "Shrewsbury" with about 20 men before him to the title.
- Mary: "I admire you, Bertie, not everyone would accept Edith's past. Well, surely you must have told him. You couldn't have accepted without telling him."
- Bertie: "Tell me what?"
- Mary: "About Marigold. Who she really is."
- — forcing Edith to admit her secret to Bertie, Episode 6.08
- "You know I'm sorry, I don't know why I did it."
- —to Edith apologizing for her actions
- "I stood there, staring at a car in flames, wondering if it were him. I can't be a crash widow again, I can't! I'd live in terror, dreading every race, every practice, every trial, I cannot do it. He'd feel he should give it up, but I don't want that! He'd resent me."
- —to Violet Crawley about Henry Talbot[src]
- Daily Mail UK - 12 years on and the Lady hasn't aged a bit: Downton viewers question whether the characters have become convincingly old enough in the time since first episode was set By Sam Creighton and Christopher Stevens; Published: 18:19 EST, 21 September 2014; Updated: 07:20 EST, 22 September 2014
- Series 2 Episode 5: Middle name mentioned as part of announcement of engagement to Sir Richard Carlisle.
- 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.