Titles on Downton Abbey explained

      
  Editor-in-Chief
Posted: 21 December 2013 4:45 pm

Edited by: Martin | Spotted An Error?

Downton Abbey is, without doubt, one of the most consistently popular TV shows produced in recent times. The show, which gives a look at the life of the Crawleys, a fictional aristocratic family who run and own the Downton estate. Set in the early 1900s, the show gives a fairly accurate idea of life for the aristocracy at this time and the changes that the first world war brought to the United Kingdom’s formerly rigid class system.

DOWNTON_ABBEY_CHRISTMAS_2013

One thing that’s key to the show yet is not widely understood by many are the titles used by members of the family. And that’s what I aim to explain in this article.

At the head of the family is Lord Grantham, who’s name is Robert Crawley (played by Hugh Bonneville). He is the original title holder and the titles of the rest of the Crawley family exist because he holds this title (we’ll get onto why very shortly). Lord Grantham is in fact the short form of his title, the proper title is The Earl of Grantham, though in Britain Barons, Viscounts, Earls and Marquesses can be referred to as Lord X instead of by their full title – this is why you may have heard him called Lord Grantham and the Earl of Grantham throughout the show.

Robert Crawley is addressed as Lord Grantham by equals and as Your Lordship or Mi’Lord by servants. It would be incorrect to refer to him as Lord Robert, however.

Lord Grantham’s wife, Cora Crawley (played by Elizabeth McGovern) is known as Lady Grantham. Her proper title is The Countess of Grantham and she, like Lord Grantham, can be addressed as Lady Grantham by equals and Mi’Lady by servants. Like with Lord Grantham, her title of Countess of Grantham is often abbreviated to Lady Grantham, the same as for all other Baronesses, Viscountesses, Countesses and Marchionesses. It would, however, be incorrect to refer to Lady Grantham as Lady Cora.

There is also Violet Crawley (played by Maggie Smith) who is Lord Grantham’s mother and the wife of the previous Lord Grantham. Her full title is The Dowager Countess of Grantham and is also referred to as simple Lady Grantham. Addressed by servants as Your Ladyship or Mi’Lady and equals as simply Lady Grantham.

Next we have the two living daughters of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, Mary Crawley and Edith Crawley. As both are the daughters of an Earl, they use the title ‘Lady’ in front of their names. This is the case for all daughters of Earls, Marquesses and Dukes, formally their titles are The Lady Mary Crawley and The Lady Edith Crawley, addressed normally as Lady Mary and Lady Edith and by servants as Your Ladyship or Mi’Lady.

Interestingly, if Lord Grantham had a son, he would go by the title of Lord Downton (fully as Viscount Downton) because Lord Grantham also holds this as what’s called a ‘subsidiary title’ which is like a secondary, lesser title. The eldest son of a titled person (peer) usually uses his father’s second highest title as his own.

Any other sons would be styled as ‘The Honourable’ before their first name.

Downton Abbey is on our screens on Christmas Day in the UK for the Christmas special.

If you have any questions relating to the titles used on Downton Abbey, leave them in the comments box below.

Photo Credit: ITV Pictures


  • Hans

    The two living daughters have to be addressed normally as Lady Mary and Lady Edith and by servants as Mi’Lady and not as you said: Your Ladyship, because that is only for the countess and dowager countess.

  • Elizabeth

    This was wonderful and very enjoyable. Thanks also to Hans for the helpful comment.

    I have a question: under what circumstances is it correct to address someone with the title Lord/Lady and his/her first name? (Thinking here of Lady Diana Spencer and others.) Was that a correct form of address?

    • Royal Central

      Younger sons of Dukes and Marquesses are the only people that should be addressed as Lord [First Name] and daughters of Earls, Marquesses and Dukes should be addressed as Lady [First Name].

      Diana, Princess of Wales was the daughter of an Earl so, prior to her marriage, was addressed as ‘Lady Diana Spencer’.

      • Elizabeth

        Thank you so much! I’ll consider this tidbit an early Christmas gift.

        Thank you and all at Royal Central for the entertainment and education. Best wishes to you in the coming year.

  • Natasha

    Oops! I have asked for all seasons of Downton Abbey for Christmas, but I have seen the second season, where there were THREE daughters of Lord and Lady Grantham. Did we lose one along the way?

  • Natasha

    Oops! I have asked for all seasons of Downton Abbey for Christmas, but I have seen the second season, where there were THREE daughters of Lord and Lady Grantham. Did we lose one along the way?

    • Royal Central

      It’s in series 3, I won’t ruin it for you.

      • Kevin

        Have we ever heard Lady Grantham refer to the Dowager by any name? Does Cora call her mother in law “Violet?” And what is Thomas calling all is in-laws these days?

    • Royal Central

      It’s in series 3, I won’t ruin it for you.

  • Jenny

    I would like an explanation of the names used for the servants both at Downton and in Scotland.

    • James Dean

      Ms. Jenny,
      Hope you are doing well.

      When the servants are at the home of their Lord/Lady, the servants are addressed by their own surname, (e.g. Mr. Bates). When they travel to another household with their Lord/Lady, the servants are addressed using the title of their Lord/Lady, (e.g., Mr. Bates would be addressed as Mr. Grantham).

      Hope this helps. Take care.

      Respectfully,
      James

  • James Dean

    Dear Sir or Ma’am,
    Hope you are doing well.

    Anyone who does not know that Dowager refers to a widow might like a more complete explanation.

    Thank you in advance. Take care.

    Respectfully,
    James

    • Royal Central

      Good point, I’ve highlighted your comment so everyone can see :)

  • Jennifer

    Hello,
    Excuse me, I know this isn’t relevant to Downtown Abbey, but hypothetically, if one was to buy the title ‘Lord and Lady of the Manor of…’ and this person had four daughters, what would their daughters be called? Or would only one daughter inherit the title?

    • Royal Central

      The family of a Lord of the Manor have no courtesy titles, so their daughters would remain ‘as is’ – a Lordship of the Manor can be left to anyone and is transferred just like any other type of property and can be left in a will.

      Hope this helps.

  • Angie

    Why is the family’s last name Crawley if that is Lord Grantham’s mother’s last name? Was it tradition back then to use the women’s last name? I understand that they are called Lord and Lady Grantham, I just don’t understand why they go by Violet’s last name.

    Also, you only mention two daughters. What about Sybil?

    • Royal Central

      Crawley is the family’s surname, Grantham is their title. Peers typically use their title as a surname when they need one though legally their surname would remain as their family name.