- "If we don't respect the past, we'll find it harder to build a future."
- —Robert Crawley[src]
Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham (born 1866) is the patriarch of the Crawley family and the co-owner of Downton Abbey (along with his eldest daughter). He is the son of the 6th Earl of Grantham and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham and the brother of Lady Rosamund Painswick. He fought in the South African Wars with John Bates.
He married American heiress Cora Levinson in 1890 in order to save the estate with her money, but eventually fell very much in love with her. They have three daughters together: Mary, Edith and Sybil Crawley; they also had a son lost in a miscarriage. Due to having no living sons, his heir was successively his cousins James Crawley, Patrick Crawley, and Matthew Crawley. The last became his son-in-law via Mary. All three of these heirs eventually died, making his only grandson and Mary and Matthew's only child, George Crawley, his current heir presumptive.
Robert was born in Downton Abbey in 1866. His father was the previous Earl of Grantham and his mother is Violet, Dowager Countess. Robert has one sister, Rosamund but no brothers. Robert and Rosamund also had at least two aunts and a cousin. Although the parents loved their children very much, his mother Violet tells Isobel Crawley that when young the children spent most of their time with a nanny. She spent about an hour with them, "every" day, after tea.
The Earl had very little money for an aristocrat, and Downton Abbey was a drain on what they had.<tabber>
Robert was raised by his father so that he could take care of the estate after his father's death. Because of their financial situation, his father knew that Robert, as the future Earl, would have to marry a wealthy heiress who would bring a large dowry in order to ensure the survival of the estate. On 16 February 1890, Robert married an American heiress, Cora Levinson. Cora is the daughter of Isidore and Martha Levinson, and came across to England with Martha in 1888 when she was 20 years old. Isidore was an American millionaire, and when Cora married Robert, Robert's father forced her to sign a legal entailment which legally combined the estate with Cora's fortune. When Robert dies, whoever inherited the title would also get all the money that Cora brought into the marriage. In 1912 Robert admitted to his mother that he was ashamed of his motives for pursuing Cora. After about a year of marriage, Robert did fall in love with Cora. They had three daughters: Mary, Edith, and Sybil. As they had no sons, Robert's heir was his cousin James.
The Earl served in the Second Boer War from 1899–1902 where John Bates, later to be his valet, was his batman. He was decorated with the Queen's South Africa Medal (which means he served in South Africa up to the end of the war in May 1902), and the King's South Africa Medal (which means he fought in 1902, and served for 18 months).On 9 August 1902, Robert attended the coronation of King Edward VII and/or participated in the coronation parade, which earned him the King Edward VII Coronation Medal. In 1911, he was similarly decorated with the King George V Coronation Medal.
When James Crawley and his only son Patrick died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic, his heir became his third cousin once removed, Matthew Crawley, a young upper middle-class solicitor from Manchester. Robert is immensely proud of Downton as the place he grew up and takes his responsibility for the estate very seriously. He does regret that the money is entailed, but would not do things differently. As he sees it, the estate needs the money if it is to survive, and it is the duty of all who inherit it to ensure Downton survives. He does wish that a woman could inherit. He decides not to break the entailment, because though Mary might get the money, she could not inherit Downton Abbey, and the estate would wither and die. In 1912, he said to his mother that he considers Downton's nurturing of him, and his nurture of the estate, to be like having a third parent and a fourth child. There are references in the series to Robert sitting as a Conservative member of the House of Lords, although this is not shown.Matthew arrives at Downton with his mother Isobel, and Robert tries to impress on him the importance of their guardianship of the people of the area and the traditions of the past. He is pleased when it appears that Mary will marry Matthew, so that the land and fortune will remain with his bloodline. Suddenly, Cora is found to be pregnant, and the long hoped for male heir may finally be coming. Unfortunately, Cora suffers a miscarriage, and she and Robert are emotionally crushed. Mary had delayed answering Matthew's proposal, because of the baby, and Matthew withdraws his proposal.
During the First World War Robert is given a commission, but it is honorary and he has no duties, while Cora has turned Downton into a convalescence hospital for soldiers. When Downton Abbey's footman William is called up to fight, Robert does his best to keep him out of danger by getting him appointed as Matthew's batman. Left with nothing to do and with Cora emotionally distant and busy running the hospital, he begins to find himself attracted to new maid Jane Moorsum, a war widow with a young son. However, they realize that it is wrong and decide not to have an affair. Jane leaves Downton, and Robert arranges for her son Freddie, a clever child, to go to Ripon Grammar School. He also gives Jane the name and address of his man of business, so that he can remain in Freddie's life, be informed about how he is doing, and further help him later on. John Bates has divorced his estranged wife, but is then charged with her murder. Robert has his lawyer defend Bates and even testifies in his defence. This backfires when Robert has to admit on the stand that Bates wished she was dead.Mary has become engaged to Sir Richard Carlisle who doesn't treat her very well. Cora tells Robert about the hold Sir Richard has on her, due to the scandal of Kemal Pamuk, the Turkish attache who died in her bed. Mary is told by her father that he forgives her indiscretion, and tells her that she is "not the only Crawley to have made a mistake". When his daughter, Sybil, elopes with the chauffeur, Tom Branson, Robert offers him money to go. However, as neither of them will change their mind, he must grudgingly accept the marriage. John Bates can no longer function as his valet and Henry Lang, a shell-shocked veteran, is hired as his valet. Lang proves to be incapable of carrying out his duties and must regretfully be let go.
Robert learns from his lawyer George Murray that the investment he made in the Canadian Railway has become worthless; he had lost his own and most of Cora's money, enough to lose Downton. He cannot believe it, and tries to justify his actions. Fortunately, Matthew had been named heir to the estate of Reggie Swire. Robert tells Matthew that he will let him invest in Downton and they will be co-owners of the house and estate.
When his youngest daughter entered labour, Robert and Sir Phillip Tapsell ignored Dr Clarkson's advice that Sybil was showing signs of having eclampsia, which risked Sybil's life. They disagreed because they believed it would be safer if Sybil and her baby were at Downton and not at a public hospital, which deeply concerned Tom, Cora and rest of the family. Sybil died from eclampsia after giving birth to a daughter. At first Cora blamed Robert for Sybil's death, he himself admitting there was truth in her blame. His son-in-law Tom Branson believed that his daughter, whom he wished to name Sybil, should be baptised Catholic like himself. But Robert disagreed with him, believing that his granddaughter should be baptised a part of the Church of England. He thought the idea of Tom naming his daughter after her mother was "ghoulish" and he said the only way she could move up in life was through her mother's aristocratic blood, indicating he was still upset over his daughter marrying Tom. He was also eager to have Tom leave following Sybil's death, despite Edith's insistence he stay at least until he got back on his feet. Mary and the rest of the family however supported Tom over baby Sybil's christening. Robert still protested even after Mary revealed Sybil told her before she died she would be happy for her child to be Catholic, but later relented when Mary reminded him they all needed to remember Sybil loved Tom and wanted him to be happy. He was still however opposed to the decision, but when Tom asked him to come to the Christening on account that Sybil loved him and would want him there, he did. Violet also was eager to have Tom stay so baby "Sybbie" could grow up in a better environment than with Tom's brother in a garage, and so encouraged his succession to the position of manager of the estate.
Matthew does not wish to interfere with Robert's running of the estate. However, after going through the books, he comes to see that the estate has never been managed as a self sustaining business. When he points this out, Robert is resistant to change the way things are done, and after Cora sides with her sons-in-law, Robert feels devastated, that there is no place for him in this new vision. Tom later tells him that with their individual skills, investment in improvements, and Robert's sense for tradition and caring for the people of the estate, the estate should be able to be made profitable. Robert did seem to respect Tom more after this speech, saying he was "very eloquent" and a good spokesperson for Matthew's vision. He insisted Tom help out with the cricket team, even though Tom had never played before.Thomas Barrow is discovered by Alfred Nugent kissing a sleeping Jimmy Kent. Thomas, formerly Robert's valet, is threatened with dismissal and possible imprisonment for assault. When Robert learns of it, he not only decides that Thomas will stay, but furthermore promotes him, as he thinks the matter not important enough to ruin Thomas' life (he also did not want to lose the house's best cricket player with a large match coming up). When Alfred subsequently reports Thomas to the police, Robert persuades Alfred to tell them that he was mistaken, being drunk at the time.
Robert continues to clash over the running of the estate, especially when Mary comes out of mourning and begins to take on a larger interest and role in that respect. He actually tries to keep her sheltered rather than bring her out of mourning, unlike his mother, son-in-law, and butler. When a letter Matthew wrote intending to write a will naming Mary as his heiress is revealed, Robert tries to fight the possibilty that it could stand as a will on its own, but loses. His sense of tradition nevertheless earns Mary's and Tom's respect when he places his faith in a local tenant farmer, Tim Drewe, who wants to stay on despite his father's huge debts. He begrudgingly faces progress and change such as when having to sit next to Dame Nellie Melba during dinner when she visits. He avoids Edith's love interest Michael Gregson, convinced Edith could do "a great deal better." But after Gregson gets money back for Lord Grantham that he was swindled out of by Terence Sampson (which he keeps a secret) Robert begins to think better of him, calling him a "decent cove" who behaved in a gentlemanly way, even if he still is not sure Gregson is what he wants for his daughter. When Edith is consumed by fear and grief after Michael disappears, Robert maintains confidence that Michael is still out there and will be alright. Like Cora, he has no idea that Edith is in fact pregnant with Gregson's child. When his brother-in-law gets involved in the Teapot Dome Scandal, Robert is upset that both Harold and his mother Martha insist he come over for support. He cannot understand why, but he does go, and takes Thomas Barrow with him instead of John Bates after Mary convinces him Bates needs to stay and be with his wife. Robert returns in time for the bazaar, and informs his mother than both their in-laws will be coming over later for Rose's debunate ball.Grantham House for the season and Rose's debunate. Rose approaches him after her presentation before the king and reveals that her new friend, Freda Dudley Ward, mistress to the Prince of Wales, lost a love letter from the prince she left in her handbag. Rose suspects Robert's acquaintance Terence Sampson. Robert is extremely upset by the prince's scandalous behavior, but because he is a monarchist he wishes to avoid a crisis and contain it, mostly because he feels his own family would be implicated because, as he puts it, "We introduced Sampson to Mrs Dudley Ward and Rose as good as gave him the letter!" To that end, Robert hosts a card game with Tom Branson, Anthony Foyle, Harold Levinson, and Lord Aysgarth while Mary, Rose, and Charles Blake search Sampson's flat courtesy of a forged permission slip (Robert hired his valet Bates to make it). Rosamund meanwhile takes Isobel, Cora, Edith, and Martha to see a play. Unfortunately the letter is not found in the flat, but then Bates reveals it to Lord Grantham, having suspected Sampson might have carried it with him instead and sneaked it out of his coat pocket when helping him put his coat on. Thomas Barrow reveals to Lord Grantham that he saw Tom with Sarah Bunting one night back at Downton while the rest of the family were in London, and implies something improper was going on (mostly out of personal resentment for having to serve a former chauffeur). Robert questioned Tom in the card game and though did not get far remained suspicious.
Robert along with his wife Cora, celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary, then suddenly he becomes suspicious when Lady Anstruther (Jimmy Kent's former employer), visits Downton and gets even more suspicious when Tom has found nothing wrong with her car. When a fire breaks out from Edith's bedroom, Robert goes to Lady Anstruther's bedroom to warn her when suddenly he found her and his footman Jimmy in bed together. The Earl then dismisses Jimmy. Robert and his butler Carson, then discuss about which would be the best place to accommodate a war memorial, Carson says the cricket pitch and Robert says the centre of the village. Carson disagrees with him until they both were moved by a woman's words to her late dead husband veteran and Carson finally accepts. He later added another memorial to Mrs Patmore's nephew as he was to be left off his hometown's because he was shot for cowardice.
Robert is initially against having a wireless at Downton but when he hears the king is going to speak on it, he relents. He also allowed Edith to take an interest in one of the Drewe family's children which is Marigold without knowing that Marigold is in fact Edith's biological daughter (but later realized the truth when he notices Edith's affection for Marigold as well as the girl's resemblance to Michael Gregson; he agreed at Cora's request to remain silent and admitted he believed he would love his new granddaughter). Robert also dislikes Sarah Bunting, Tom Branson's political friend, as she is very rude and that he feels that Sarah is converting Tom back to the man he once was, a political person who was against the English and the aristocrats. He also gets jealous when he finds out Cora has been on a day out with the suave art historian Simon Bricker, as he wanted to surprise her out for dinner at a classy restaurant. When he comes back one night and finds Bricker in her room, he gets into a fight with him and then distances himself from Cora.
However, his relationship with Cora mends when she tells him he can stay away if he has never let a flirtation get out of hand himself, reminding him of his affair with Jane Moorsum during the war. Robert is overcome with grief at the news that his beloved dog Isis is dying from cancer. When Edith "adopts" a child that the Drewe family claims they cannot afford, he is against the idea but consents when Cora insists they should offer the little girl a home. In reality the girl, Marigold, is Edith's illegitimate daughter by her dead lover, Michael Gregson. Edith does not want Robert or Mary to know, but Robert figures out the truth after noting Edith's "obsession" with the child and realizing that a "sense of deja vu" he's been having when he looks at Marigold is because she reminds him of Gregson. But Cora urges him to remain silent when he confirms the truth with her. He is disappointed that Mary has turned down Lord Gillingham, and cannot bear the thought of Tom leaving for Boston, especially because it would mean Sybbie would go too.
Nevertheless he does talk to Edith while they're on holiday at Brancaster Castle in Northumberland, assuring her that everything is alright between them despite Edith having an illegitimate child.. He has been having sharp pains in his chest, so Cora forbids him from shooting more grouse any further. After they return home Robert goes for tests and is determined to have an ulcer, so Cora puts him on a diet including whitefish and chicken, plus no alcohol, the latter which upsets him.On Christmas Eve, he does decide to drink, but nevertheless succeeds in giving a speech commending Tom's contributions to the estate as agent and wishing him and Sybbie well in their new life. He consents to Sybbie's calling him Donk (which he originally disliked as he preferred being called "Grandpapa"), and gives her a kiss. He also consents to having Marigold call him Donk in the future.
Robert holds a fox hunt with people from the village. Due to this, he skips a meeting with representatives from the Downton Cottage Hospital. He later confides in Mr Carson his wishes do downsize the staff at Downton Abbey. When the news of the conclusion of Alex Green's murder investigation, he orders an informal ball in the servant's hall, due to his valet and his daughter's lady's maid having been arrested during this investigation.He continues to suffer from stomach pains. They get gradually worse until, at a dinner party discussing the merger of the hospital, he vomits blood and is rushed to the hospital for a gastrectomy
Robert is immensely proud of Downton as the place he grew up and takes his responsibility for the estate very seriously. Although in some ways his character embodies the traditional values of the aristocracy, Robert does not shun all progress, and he is very protective of and loyal to his family and servants. Despite these virtues, Robert's adherence to tradition lets him down in other ways. He often resists "modern" suggestions for better management of the estate, especially after his daughter Mary joins his son-in-law Tom in running it. His attitudes occasionally clash with that of the more progressive and pragmatic Cora.
Although he loves his daughters very much, Robert has always longed for a son, and he almost had one until Cora's shock fourth pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Robert does not shun progress as he allows telephones and electricity to be installed at Downton and, after initial dismay and anger, gives his blessing to his daughter Sybil's marriage to family chauffeur Tom Branson. In Tom's own words, Robert is a good man and a decent employer. He is compassionate, friendly, intelligent, honourable and reasonable. When the middle class lawyer Matthew and his mother Isobel arrive at Downton, the family are initially wary of them and reluctant to welcome them into the family, simply because they are middle class and not aristocrats. Robert is the only one who does welcome them regardless of their class, and he becomes good friends with Isobel and a surrogate father to Matthew. He is very enthusiastic about the idea of Mary marrying Matthew, and can't understand when they fall out with each other at the end of series one. He dislikes Sir Richard Carlisle because of his rude and selfish behavior and also because of his nature to threaten people if they do not do his bidding,and is pleased when Mary decides to end her engagement with him. Robert also forgives Mary when he learns of her indiscretion with Kemal Pamuk, telling her that she is "not the only Crawley to have made a mistake", just as he later forgives Edith after learning she had a child out of wedlock, assuring her he still loves her and that he needs her forgiveness as much as she needs his.
He is very protective of his family and servants, and in many cases treats the servants almost like family members. He is loyal, going to great lengths to retain the slightly disabled John Bates as his valet. He is respectful to Mr Lang, who serves as his valet during WWI, although he is suffering from shellshock. When William Mason, a footman, is given a white feather for cowardice by some women from the Order of the White Feather during WWI, Robert angrily throws them out of his house. When William is called up to fight, Robert does his best to keep him out of danger by getting him appointed as Matthew's batman. He also pays for Mrs Patmore's eye surgery when she starts to go blind. When Thomas, then his valet, is caught kissing Jimmy, the new footman, and is subsequently pressured to leave Downton, Robert asserts his authority over the staff politics and promotes him to underbutler. In addition, after footman Alfred reports Thomas's "indecent assault" to the police and they come round to investigate, Robert convinces Alfred to recant his story, thus protecting Thomas from an almost certain prison sentence and public disgrace.
Robert does realize that the time he lives in is changing. He tells Martha Levinson rather despondently that sometimes he feels like a wild creature whose habitat is slowly being destroyed. Even so, he clings onto tradition tightly, such as supporting Tim Drewe in maintaining his family farm when his father's rent hasn't been paid, noting how they have been there for many generations. He does however have a stubborn streak, as shown in his reluctance to try to move on following the war, to not trust investments when his own produced devastating results, and his opposition to his elder granddaughter being baptized Catholic (even after Mary reveals Sybil had no objection to Tom's wish). He barely acknowledges Michael Gregson when the latter begins courting Edith, utterly convinced Gregson is not good enough for her despite barely knowing him. This belief stems from his opposition to Edith accepting Gregson's offer of a column in his magazine. Robert's stubbornness also shows in his refusal to accept money from others when he has lost it. This was shown when Matthew decided to accept Reggie Swire's inheritance and give it to Robert to save Downton, and again after Michael Gregson regained money Robert, Lord Gillingham, and John Bullock lost while gambling with Terence Sampson. He insists in both cases he cannot accept their offers, acting out of humility and pride. However he is capable of overcoming his stubbornness and change his opinions: he stops fighting Tom's wish for Sybbie's baptism, and he comes to respect Gregson more, admitting in 1924 he believes he was an honorable man.
He is deeply hurt when the rest of his family support Tom and Matthew's plan to buy farmland and create an income for Downton, rather than invest money. He does however see sense eventually, relenting in all these matters. After learning Hugh MacClare, Marquess of Flintshire was to lose Duneagle Castle due to his own financial troubles, he realized how lucky he was and was glad for Matthew's plans. Nevertheless, Robert does not like sharing power. When a letter written by Matthew reveals his intention for Mary to inherit everything of his, including his share of the estate, he tries to fight it because, as his mother scolds him for it, he would rather the letter not stand as a will. He tries to hide and shelter Mary during her mourning rather than bring her back to the world, and is upset when the letter does stand as a will and Mary immediately begins taking a role in managing Downton and conflicting with his own ideas.
Robert Crawley is deeply in love, and close, with his American wife, Cora Crawley. He is also close with his mother, Violet Crawley, and his sister, Lady Rosamund. Robert loves his three daughters deeply and only wants what is best for them. He develops a surrogate father relationship with Matthew, and though initially uncomfortable with having Tom as his son-in-law, has grown very fond of him by 1924 to the point where Tom has become like a son to him. Robert deeply loves his grandchildren too - he cannot bear the thought of losing Sybbie when Tom decides to go to America, wishes to keep Downton secure for George (who is his heir upon Matthew's death), and when learning of Marigold's existence comes to love her too, willing to overlook her illegitimacy and do what he can for her father's sake as well as Edith's.
Robert treats all of his staff members with dignity, especially Carson, Mrs. Hughes, Bates and Anna.
- "Every mountain is 'unclimbable' until someone climbs it. So every ship is 'unsinkable' until it sinks." - after getting the news that the Titanic sank
- "I have given my life to Downton, I was born here and I hope to die here. I claim no career beyond the future of this house and the estate. It is my third parent and fourth child. Do I care about it? Yes, I do care!" - to Violet
- "My dear fellow, we all have chapters we would rather keep unpublished." - to Carson after learning that Carson appeared on stage in the past
- "There is no such thing as a marriage between two intelligent people that does not sometimes have to negotiate thin ice." - to his valet Mr Bates
- "Family duty comes in many forms."
- "If you're turning American on me, I'll go downstairs." - to Cora in her bedroom
- "I don't want my daughter to be married to a man who threatens her with ruin, I want a good man for you, a brave man."- to his daughter Mary about why he does not want her to be married to Sir Richard.
- "You are my darling daughter and I love you hard as it is for an Englishman to say the words."
- "Alright, let's give it a go and see what the future brings." - to Matthew, accepting his plans for Downton's future
- "They do say there's a wild man inside all of us." - to Violet at the Ghillies ball, when Mr Molesley had too much to drink and starts leaping wildly.
- "If you knew how many times I've imagined this scene." - talking happily to his wife Cora after coming back from America to help her brother
- "Molesley, you look very latin all of a sudden, do you have Italian blood?"- to Molesley when he realises that his hair is different.
- " I suppose they loved each other"- referring to Edith inheriting Gregson's publishing company after his death.
- "I realised what it is about Marigold that keeps catching my eye, She reminds me of Michael Gregson. Just tell me if I'm wrong". to Cora about his guess that Marigold is Edith's daughter.
- "I keep forgetting that she's gone, I used to look at things in the paper which made her laugh or when I tell her her favourite rose is in bloom". to Mary after Sybil's death
- "I wonder how Edith is getting along, she has quite a London life these days"- to Mary about Edith being in London.
- "Oh I think we have to show a little more backbone than that. Mrs. Patmore has been loyal to this house, and now this house must be loyal to her. She had made a large investment in her future, we can't let it fall away to nothing." - Season 6 Episode 8 - referring and talking with Mr. Carson and Mrs. Patmore in reference to her "bru-haha" scandal with the bed and breakfast.
- Despite Violet stating in Episode 6.05 that Robert's "late Papa" was the "Sixth Earl", however Sybil's grave refers to Robert as the Fifth Earl in Episode 6.08 and also when Bertie was talking to Edith about marriage, he says the "7th Marquess of Hexham weds the daughter of the 5th Earl of Grantham, what could be more suitable?" (this might imply that Robert is the 5th earl).
- In The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis, Julian Fellowes relates that Robert Crawley was based on the personality of his late father. He describes his father as "a deeply moral man, possibly cleverer than [Robert], who was always determined to do right, but without ever questioning the structure of his own social universe."
- Robert was known as "Viscount Downton" when he was a child and young man; and only gained the title of Earl of Grantham when his father died. The eldest son of a peer is entitled to use his father's most senior subsidiary title as a courtesy title while his father is alive. It has been estimated that Robert's father died circa 1900, after Robert married Cora; therefore Cora would have initially been known as Viscountess Downton. After Robert's father died, he became Earl of Grantham, Cora became Countess of Grantham, and their daughters became entitled to use the style "Lady"; Violet, who had been the Countess when her husband was alive, became the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
- In Downton Abbey: Series 2 Scripts (Official): Page 7 Robert is described as "someone of fifty" indicating, as the first episode is set in 1916, that he was born in 1866.
- Susan is Robert and Rosamund's cousin and her mother, Violet's sister, is their aunt; Edith mentions in Season 2 that "Papa discovered an aunt in the 1860s who married a Gordon", so they have another aunt too. We know this aunt cannot be Susan's mother, as Robert would not have had to "discover" her, as he would have known of her existence, even if she died in childbirth, by Susan's existence.
- Even though the Downton Abbey Season 1 Press Pack says that Robert and Cora married in 1889, Episode 5.01 shows the couple celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary in 1924.
- Episode 5.08 - see this image