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Michael Gregson is an editor and publisher for The Sketch, a society magazine based in London. He was responsible for Edith Crawley's employment as a journalist for his magazine in 1920.

Biography

1920-1921

Michael wrote to Edith at least twice offering to give her her own column sometime after a letter of hers promoting women's rights was published in a newspaper. Many in her family approved and encouraged her to accept, except her father, thinking Gregson just wanted to take advantage of her name and position.

An attraction develops between Michael and Edith. He flirts with her, and encourages her to speak her mind and make her own choices, insisting he is delighted to see a woman doing so. But he is already married. Edith is repulsed when she finds out and confronts him, insisting on handing in her resignation. He explains the situation to her: he loved his wife, Lizzy, very much, and that she was a wonderful person, but she has been in an asylum for years and no longer knows him. He professes that it took him a long time to accept she was "gone" and "wouldn't be coming back." He cannot divorce her because she cannot be held responsible for simply being a lunatic; she is neither guilty or innocent[1]. He tells Edith that she cannot imagine how much it cheers him to read her column, and to meet her when they do. He expresses to her his hope that she will stay on, which she does.

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Before the Crawley family leaves for Scotland in September 1921, Edith learns that Michael is taking a sketching and fishing holiday not far from Duneagle Castle at the same time. Mary immediately becomes suspicous of him. Edith and Michael then meet when he is invited to dinner at Duneagle, after Cora expresses her desire to meet him despite Robert's reservations. When Edith asks him the true reason why he came up to Scotland, he reveals he wants to get to know her family.  He professes his love for her, his wish for her to be in his life and for himself to be in hers. He hoped if her family got to know him, it would be easier for them to be on his side. But she tells him she cannot see a happy ending with him, which visibly hurts him.

Matthew invites Michael to accompany him to deer stalking and later fly fishing. Their conversations convince him of Gregson's deep love and honesty towards Edith. Michael, like Matthew, is a veteran of the Great War. Matthew tells Mary about his impression, but this does no sway her opinion of him. Both predict Gregson will propose. However, while fishing with Matthew, Michael reveals the secret of his insane wife and his inability to divorce her, revealing how upset and angry he is that the law cannot let him divorce. Matthew draws the line, finding the propects of Michael's future liaison with Edith socially unacceptable. He effectively instructs him to put an end to his courtship and say good-bye to his sister-in-law. But when he does, Edith then reveals that it is not their last evening, that she does in fact love him. He seemingly happily consents, and they go dance together.

1922-1923

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Michael reunites with Edith at King's Cross for the first time since the family's holiday in Scotland, as she and the rest of her family had been in mourning for Matthew. They spend a great deal of time together in London. They attend parties (at one of which they meet Virginia Woolf), and later have some time alone with one another in Michael's flat. He almost shares his first kiss with her at a party, but they are intterupted. Later they do kiss when they dine at the Criterion.

Michael, determined to find a way to marry Edith, has been doing research since Scotland, informing her he has learned that in some other countries, including Greece, Portugual, and even Germany, lunacy is grounds for divorce. He decides to change his citzenship to German (which he learns will enable him to divorce Lizzy) inspite of widespread prejudice in Britain against the Germans. When she questions him about how people will respond to his actions, he does not care what they think, only of her love for him. Despite initial reservations that his situation would "frighten" Edith's family, he is also keen to earn her father's approval if he is to have a future with her. She herself is in love with him more than ever and also eager for her family to accept him even more. She cites that her mother likes him, and is certain her father will when he gets to know him. Michael does come to dine at Downton Abbey but Robert makes every attempt to avoid him, feeling his daughter could do better. Eventually, Michael does in fact begin to earn Lord Grantham's respect after saving him from a fix, to the point where he shakes Michael's hand the following morning.

Edith visits Michael again when he prepares to leave for Munich in order to finalize his change of citizenship and thus his marriage as well. He mentions a thought at maybe writing a novel, though he does not say what it would be about. Michael has her sign a legal document giving her more control over his own assets while he is away. He has also sent his help home. He and Edith start kissing passionately. They spend the night together.

Unfortunately, once he leaves he does not contact Edith for a long time, and she begins to worry. Cora suspects he is busy. But it becomes apparent no one has heard from Michael, and no one has any idea where he has gone. The last time he was seen was when he went out for a walk at night after checking into his hotel in Munich. He did not return. His firm hires a private detective, but even they cannot find him. Edith's worries only worsen. Cora is certain they would have heard if something terrible had happened. Robert also expresses certainty that Michael is alright. Edith unfortunately becomes even more worried when she learns she is carrying Michael's child.

Michael still has not been found by 1923, and Edith is in despair.

Appearances

Quotes

  • "Surely the most important thing is whether or not people have something to say." - to Lord Grantham.
  • "I'd become an Eskimo if it meant I could marry you." - to Edith.

Behind the scenes

  • The Sketch was a real high society magazine in Great Britain which ran from 1893 until 1959.

References

  1. Divorce law in England 1857-1937
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