Downton Abbey is, without doubt, one of the most popular TV shows produced in recent decades. The show gives us 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.
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 we aim to explain in this article.
At the head of the family is Lord Grantham, whose 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 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 available to watch on Britbox and Netflix.