Downton Abbey: 5 Worst Things Mary Did To Edith (& 5 Worst Things Edith Did To Mary)

Upperclass life in Downton Abbey is nowhere near as idyllic as it seems, and here are 10 of the worst things Mary and Edith did to each other.

Some sisters are the best of friends who always have each other’s backs. Other sisters are less fond of each other, don’t like each other at all, or at least have major issues to work through before they can exist together harmoniously.

Mary and Edith Crawley of Downton Abbey definitely fall into the latter category, with their fair share of spats throughout six seasons of the critically acclaimed historical drama. In fact, the two sisters were downright vicious to each other at some points. Below are the five worst things Mary did to Edith, as well as the five worst things Edith did to Mary.

10Mary Insulted Edith’s Fashion Choices

When Matthew snubbed Mary at the Downton flower show (for paying more attention to another suitor in an act of sisterly rivalry), Edith was all too eager to take a jab at her sister. She noted that when Matthew wanted Mary, she didn’t want him, and, now that she was trying to catch his attention, he didn’t want anything to do with her.

At this provocation, Mary responded, “I’ll admit that if I ever wanted to attract a man I’d steer clear of those clothes and that hat.” May we remind Mary that beauty fades, bodies decay, and love is not something you can put down and pick back up like a toy.

9Mary Got A Cool New Haircut While Edith Was In Mourning

After Matthew’s tragic death, all the Crawleys rallied around Mary to offer their support, including Edith. The sudden and devastating loss of Downton’s heir, Mary’s husband, and a beloved member of the family deserved the respect and honor of full mourning.

Unfortunately, the family couldn’t do the same for Edith when she received news that her lover, Michael Gregson, had been killed in Germany. In fact, Mary went out and got her hair cut into a sleek bob while Edith was still reeling from the news. Mary’s response when Edith called her out for being disrespectful? That Edith always ruins everything.

8Mary Thwarted Edith’s Plans For Marriage (Part 1)

Sir Anthony Strallan was originally invited to dinner at Downton as a potential match for Mary, who was completely uninterested in the old and stuffy landowner. Strallan instead captured Edith’s attention, and the two bonded over their shared intellect and love of driving.

Sir Anthony was on the verge of proposing to Edith when Mary whispered that Edith found him boring, leading Sir Anthony to reconsider. Poor Edith was left alone and confused at the garden party right before her father announced the outbreak of World War I. The worst part is that this is only the first of two times Mary ruined Edith’s shot at marital bliss!

7Mary Thwarted Edith’s Plans For Marriage (Part 2)

Shortly before Michael Gregson disappeared, he consummated his relationship with Edith. Marigold was the result of that union, their only daughter and illegitimate child, as the two were not married.

Edith kept Marigold’s true identity under wraps for good reason. Even Cora agreed that Mary would use Marigold’s illegitimacy as a weapon against her sister. Sure enough, Mary eventually figured out Edith’s secret and deployed it at the worst possible moment: when Bertie Pelham proposed to Edith, making her the future Marchioness of Hexham and outranking her entire family. Not one to be shown up, Mary let Bertie know about Marigold and destroyed Edith’s chances of happiness for the second time.

6Mary “Stole” Patrick Crawley

When Downton Abbey began, Robert and Cora had arranged for Mary to wed Patrick Crawley. Because of the fee entail that made it impossible for women to inherit, it made sense to set up their eldest daughter with the son of the future heir to keep the estate in the family.

When the Titanic sunk and took Patrick with it, the whole family was devastated—but especially Edith, who had been in love with her sister’s fiance. Mary, on the other hand, could hardly muster a tear and was relieved with Robert left the decision to dress in full mourning up to her. When Edith started crying at Patrick’s funeral, Mary snapped and accused her of making a show. Thankfully, Sybil was there to stick up for her middle sister.

5Edith Called Henry Talbot A “Used Car Salesman”

There’s no doubt that Mary and Edith were always in competition over men. Edith was in love with Patrick, Mary’s fiance. She was also interested in Matthew, who declined her advances in favor of Mary’s, as well as Sir Anthony, who was invited to Downton as a potential match for Mary. No matter how hard she tried, Edith always seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to romance.

All that started to change towards the end of the series. While Edith was seeing Bertie Pelham, the 7th Marquis of Hexham, Mary’s new suitor was an untitled racecar driver with no fortune to his name. Edith couldn’t help but gloat over her improved prospects, dismissing Henry Talbot as a used car salesman and seemingly forgetting that her brother-in-law, Tom Branson, also came from humble roots. (It’s no wonder she didn’t have any downstairs friends.)

4Edith Basically Abused Her Status On Mary’s Estate

Eventually, Edith inherits Gregson’s publishing business and begins to spend more time in London working on her new career. This gave her independence and confidence she didn’t have when she was living at Downton and made her much harder for Mary to push around. Downton’s financial problems also gave Edith some ammunition of her own, as Mary was essentially in charge of estate business at this point. Who cares if Downton goes bankrupt? It’s Mary’s problem now.

May we remind Edith that she would never have met Michael Gregson or been offered a column in his magazine if it wasn’t for her status as the daughter of an Earl. She was very lucky Mary never found out about the whole business of leaving and then taking Marigold from a poor tenant farmer.

3Edith Called Mary A Bitch

In the sisters’ biggest blowout fight, Edith berates Mary for telling Bertie about Marigold’s true identity (as Edith’s daughter and not her ward) and calls her a bitch to her face. Granted, this was after Mary had put an end to her wedding plans for the second time, so we can’t fault her too much for being angry.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that despite all the petty insults and put-downs Mary lobbed Edith’s way, she never resorted to using gendered slurs. As the inimitable Violet Crawley would say, “vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” Looks like it was Mary who inherited their grandmother’s wit!

2Edith Called Mary A Slut

The Pamuk affair was the biggest scandal to hit Downton before 1920. Kemal Pamuk dies in Mary’s bed, and Cora and Anna help move his body back to the guest room to throw off any suspicion. Soon enough, however, damaging rumors about Mary’s virtue were circulating in London.

Mary later finds out that it was Edith who informed the Turkish ambassador of what really happened that night. When confronted, Edith showed no remorse. “He had a right to know how his countryman died, in the arms of a slut,” she said to a horrified Mary. Yet another instance of Edith resorting to vulgarity.

1Edith Wrote A Letter To The Turkish Embassy

As mentioned above, it was Edith who wrote the Turkish embassy about what happened to Kemal Pamuk at Downton. Edith’s behavior nearly ruined Mary, forcing her into an ill-advised engagement with Richard Carlisle and costing her years with Matthew due to her reluctance to tell him her secret.

While Mary was held accountable both on the show and among fans for how she treated Edith, less is said about Edith’s behavior towards Mary (and the other women she stepped on to get her way, like the tenant farmer Mrs. Drewe). Writing the Turkish embassy was a huge betrayal, and it’s no wonder Mary insisted on keeping Edith at arm’s length.

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