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"You make me sound rude and I hope I'm not that. I mean to learn how to do things properly, and you could help me a lot. But I'm not ashamed of being what they call a self-made man. I'm proud of it."
—Carlisle explaining himself to Mary[src]

Sir Richard Carlisle (b. before 1891[1]) is the son of the late Mr and Mrs Mark Carlisle of Morningside, Edinburgh, and he was the fiancé of Lady Mary Crawley.


While staying with Rosamund, Mary meets Carlisle at Cliveden. Upon learning of Matthew's engagement to Lavinia, Mary decides to pursue Carlisle.

Carlisle made his money as a powerful and ruthless newspaper proprietor. He knows Lavinia as she stole information from her uncle, Jonathan Swire, for him and began the Marconi Scandal (her father was in debt to Carlisle which he let go after she gave him this information); he later threatened to reveal this.

Mary had Carlisle locate John Bates after Anna spotted him one day when in the village. Later when Vera Bates threatened to reveal the scandal of Mary and Kemal Pamuk, Mary takes a chance and reveals her secret to Carlisle. Carlisle tracks down Vera and tricks her into selling him her secret, so that she can never reveal it to anyone. Infuriated, she still threatened to destroy her husband. Carlisle later announced his engagement to Mary in the papers without telling her, upsetting her father.

Later on Carlisle considered purchasing Haxby Park for himself and Mary after the Russell family lost it. He asks Carson to work for him because of his love for Mary, but later when he asks Anna for information on Mary so he can please her, both Mary and Carson are upset. Carson decides not to go to Haxby, as he cannot work for a man he does not respect.

After Matthew has been apparently crippled from the war, Carlisle and Cora brought back Lavinia after Matthew sent her away (because he could never have children) to avoid Mary becoming too attached to Matthew again. After Matthew recovered and renewed his and Lavinia's engagement, Carlisle was eager to set a date for himself and Mary to get married. She said it would be after Matthew and Lavinia got married.

Carlisle later returned when Spanish flu broke out in the house. Immediately Mary got suspicious when he mentioned Lavinia, realizing he was afraid Matthew might turn to her for comfort if Lavinia died. But when she did die, Matthew blamed himself and pushed Mary away. She left Lavinia's funeral accompanied by Carlisle.

But at Christmas in 1919 tensions between Carlisle and Mary begin to escalate. By 1920 it is clear to Carlisle Mary prefers Matthew's company to his and this makes him very jealous. Matthew and Robert both wonder why she is still with him. Eventually Cora tells Robert about the scandal, and Robert tells Mary he doesn't want her married to a man who threatens her with ruin.

Matthew too insisted to Mary she must not wed Carlisle. Eventually she plucked up courage and confronted him, saying they would not make each other happy. He got very angry, citing his buying her scandal and also keeping the news of Bates's conviction out of the papers. When Matthew came in, Carlisle insulted Lavinia which provoked a fight between the two men. The fight ended when Lord Grantham came in and demanded to know what was going on.

The next morning Carlisle left, but not before Mary wanted to say a proper goodbye. He warned her he would feel no guilt in exposing her, since it was his job to sell papers. But he did say he "loved you [Mary] more than you will ever know." She hoped he deserved the next woman he loved more than her. He left remarking "Don't worry about Haxby! I'll sell it at a profit. I usually do."

Mary is left uncertain if Carlisle would expose her, but as he is never heard from again, it is likely he never did.


Appearances and Mentions
Series 2 Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8
Christmas Special

Behind the scenes

  • Sir Richard Carlisle was inspired by the real life bombastic newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook.[2]
  • Iain Glen, the actor for Carlisle, was also born in Edinburgh just like his character.


  1. He is confirmed to be older than Mary, but his actual age is unstated.
  2. DOWNTON ABBEY SPECIAL: The Press baron and the heiress were larger than life and Cora and Richard Carlisle were based on them, Jessica Fellowes, Daily Mail, 17th September, 2011.