Lady Mary Josephine Crawley (Born 1892) is the oldest of Lord and Lady Grantham's three daughters. Sister of Ladies Edith and Sybil, sister-in-law of Tom Branson, future daughter-in-law of Isobel Crawley and fiancee of Matthew Crawley. She is feisty and can appear quite shallow and mean at times, but she cares greatly for her family and friends; even their servants. Mary is used to getting all the attention, especially from men as her parents are trying to marry her off, and she becomes very jealous when the spotlight's not on her.
Since Mary is a female, she does not have the right to inherit Downton Abbey from her parents, even though she is the eldest. The heir instead is Mr Patrick Crawley (Robert Crawley's nephew). In order for Mary to remain at Downton she had been set to marry Patrick since they were young, but in 1912 he died on the Titanic. It is obvious that Mary didn't love him and bemoans the fact she has to wear black in mourning for him. Instead, she sees his death as a relief from a marriage of convenience.
Believing that Mary is to inherit the estate after Patrick 's death, he organises a visit to Downton in order to court her, she is very excited as he convinces her to explore around the servant quarters. They enter one of the footman's, Thomas' room, in which the Duke rummages through the drawers. Mary is uncomfortable about this and is apologetic when they are caught by Bates. The reason for this visit to Thomas' room was that the Duke had had an affair with him once in London and was looking for the love letters he had written so that Thomas could not blackmail him now that he knows Mary is not to inherit Downton.
Evelyn Napier visits Downton accompanied by a Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk. Pamuk immediately feels attracted to Mary, a notion that she shares. Later he blackmails Thomas Barrow into showing him where her room is so that he will know where to go that night. Even though Mary resists his early advances she cannot help but be seduced by him when he enters her bedchambers. He convinces her that he will ensure she is still a virgin for her husband and she submits. Mary wakes up head housemaid Anna Smith that night as Pamuk had suffered from a heart attack and died in her arms. Together with the help of her mother Cora Crawley they carry him to his own room for him to be discovered the next day.
This scandal will haunt Mary for the rest of her life, should it ever seep to the public. However John Bates' first wife, Vera Bates is aware of Lady Mary and Kemal Pamuk's story and has threatened that she will go to the newspapers with the story. Lady Mary informs newspaper editor, and future fiance, Sir Richard Carlisle, of her indiscretion, Vera Bates and Vera's threat to make the story public. Sir Richard buys the legal rights to the story from Vera Bates and keeps the story out of the newspapers.. After Lady Mary's father notices that his daughter is unhappy, Cora tell him everything about Kemal,. Lord Grantham tells his daughter to call off her engagement with Sir Richard, and he will support her if and when the story is made public. After her engagement is called off, Sir Richard tells Lady Mary he will feel no regret when he exposes the scandal which may bring ruin upon Lady Mary and her family.
Mary and Matthew are fourth cousins, Matthew is the love of Mary's life. While she mocked his middle class ways and ridiculed him whenever possible, he appears quite smitten with her, despite her often harsh words. As time passed, the more time they spent together the fonder she grew of him. Mary, despite originally intending to hate him for 'usurping' her inheritance, was soon drawn to his mild manners and sharp wit. Mary’s jealously is stirred when Lady Sybil shows signs of a crush towards Matthew and that evening Mary warns him and they end up kissing. Mary admits that she loved Matthew for longer than she knew and plans on accepting his marriage proposal, until she learns of her mother’s pregnancy and Lady Rosamund convinces her not to give an answer until the baby is born in case it is a boy and Matthew is no longer the heir. She also feels guilty about the Pamuk affair, and that she needs to tell Matthew about this before accepting him. This hesitation leads to Matthew withdrawing his proposal, leaving Mary devastated and they barely speak for two years.
When they meet in 1916 she learns of his recent engagement to Lavinia Swire. Heartbroken she cries and is comforted by Anna showing that she is still in love with Matthew despite pretending to have moved on in front of everyone else. This unrequited love continues throughout the series until Episode 2.06 when it is revealed that Matthew still has feelings for her, but is bound by duty to Lavinia, who is sick with Spanish flu. She sees them kissing but tells Matthew that he should be with Mary, not her. When she dies, Matthew believes she died of a broken heart and that he and Mary are to blame.
During the Christmas and New Year celebrations, Mary and Matthew become closer, but Mary's fiance Sir Richard Carlisle, looms as a threat. Mary is very unhappy with Sir Richard and grows to dislike him. Matthew presses her for an explanation for her continued engagement in light of this distaste. When she breaks off the engagement with the permission and support of her father Lord Grantham, she decides to weather the storm of scandal caused by her one-night stand with Mr Kemal Pamuk and go to America to wait it out. Although Matthew was shocked and stunned, he still loves her and he told Mary that he never would and never could despise her, and her history with Mr Kemal Pamuk will never come between them in their present and future life together. Matthew proposes to her, who happily accepts, after some firm persuasion by his mother.
To prove to her family and to Matthew that she has moved on, Mary encourages the advances of a very wealthly tabloid owner. When Mary is sufficiently convinced that Matthew is no longer in love with her, she makes the decision to marry Sir Richard. Mary tells Sir Richard everything about her brief relationship with Kemal Pamuk in order to protect her and her family, because Mr Bates first wife Vera Bates has threatened that she will go to the newspapers about the story. Sir Richard bought the legal rights to Vera Bates story, and to stop the story to be publish to all newspapers, Mary thinks she will forever be in his debt. However, Lord Grantham notices Lady Mary's unhappiness with Sir Richard and asks his wife, Cora, whether there is something he ought to know and Cora tells him about Mr. Pamuk. Lord Grantham approaches Mary and gives her his full support and permission for breakng off the engagement and weathering the potential scandalous storm. Mary then breaks the news to Carlisle who threatens her with ruin and insults Matthew. Matthew and Sir Richard come to blows and Sir Richard decides to leave the next day. But, Mary is waiting for him and she tells him that she feels partly responsible and apologizes for using him. Sir Richard tells her that he loved her more than she knows, but still won't feel obligated to hold back the scandal from the papers.
- "When you laugh with me or flirt with me, is that a duty? Are you conforming to the fitness of things?" - to Matthew in episode Six
- "Would you have stayed if I accepted you?" - to Matthew in response to his proposal withdrawal, Episode Seven
- "So I've ruined everything." - to Matthew after confirmation that he won't be staying at Downton.
- "I wanted to give you this. It's my lucky charm. I've had it always, so you must promise to bring it back, without a scratch." - to Matthew as he departs for war.
- "'Goodbye then. And such good luck!" - to Matthew as he departs for war.
- "Dear Lord, I don't pretend to have much credit with you. I'm not even sure that you're there. But if you are, and if I've ever done anything good, I beg you to keep him safe." - Mary praying for Matthew at war.
- "The truth is we're very much alike, so naturally I think she's perfect." - to Matthew when asked her opinion on Lavinia
- '"Well there you are then. One day you'll meet someone else and you'll marry. Perhaps it'll be second best, but it doesn't mean you can't have a life." - Mary to Anna while considering marrying Sir Richard.
- "You sound as if you were going to gobble her up." - to Violet about Lavinia.
- "No names, no pack drill." - to Matthew about the private war between Isobel and Cora.
- "Why must she be so savage? It's my broken heart and it was her advice that wrecked it in the first place." - to Violet about Rosamund as they plot to exploit Lavinia.
- "Poor Matthew. What must he do to persuade you that he's in love with Lavinia? Open his chest and carve her name on his heart?" - to Lord Grantham in response to his protests against her marrying Sir Richard.
Behind the scenes
- Lady Mary Crawley is played by actress Michelle Dockery.