Downton Abbey: The First And Last Lines Of Every Character

Downton Abbey left its main characters in very different places from where audiences found them, evident in their first and last lines on the show.

Sir Julian Fellowes’ critically acclaimed British period drama, Downton Abbey, had a barrage of well-developed characters that fans came to love over the years. For most of them, their first and last lines on the show were relevant to their characters’ nature and journey in some way or other.

The series opened with the devastating news of the sinking of the Titanic which affected the Crawleys deeply. For several characters, their opening lines revolve around that. On the other hand, the show ends on a happy, hopeful note as the family along with their staff ushers in the new year.


“Just for once in my life, I’d like to sleep until I woke up natural.” / “Happy New Year.”

The level headed Anna was one of the first amongst the Downton household to appear in the series premiere. Her first line just as she is woken at dawn for the day’s work reflects her inherent craving for freedom from drudgery.

Anna says her last line to both her husband and her tiny son whom she cradles in her arms. This is typical Anna, she has got past all the trials of the past and is ready to begin a new chapter in her life.

11John Bates

“Hello! I’ve been waiting at the back door. I knocked but no one came.” / “We’ll be gone as soon as she’s able.”

Anna’s husband John is literally the first permanent cast member to appear as he travels to Downton on the milk train. John’s initiative is already apparent here as he has come in earlier than expected hoping to get a better hang of things.

John Bates’ closing dialogue is also a reflection of the man he is, always dignified and respectful. He addresses this to Mary indicating that he and Anna wouldn’t loiter in Mary’s room with their newborn for a moment longer than seemed fair.

10Mrs. Hughes

“Is the library ready?” / “But we can make a go of it and I definitely mean to try….Oh yes, Mr. Barrow. Happy New Year!”

The good-hearted head housekeeper at Downton Abbey didn’t share Carson’s attachment to the family, but she was efficient and knew exactly how to run a household as lavish as this. Her opening line comes as the day’s chores begin for the servants.

In the finale, despite Carson just being asked to retire by Lord Grantham himself, Mrs. Hughes looks forward to what the new year might bring for them. Then, finally, when Barrow offers her a drink she wishes him well for the new year.

9Mr. Carson

“Ah, William. Any papers yet?” / “It’ll be a different life….happy new year, Elsie!”

For all his stern, taciturn ways, the butler at Downton was a good sort. However, he put his duty towards the house on top of everything else. And his first line shows just that.

When Robert retires Carson and lets Thomas take over from him, the former butler talks to his wife implying that a new life wouldn’t be without challenges. However, Elsie gives him some confidence, and his closing line is a more jovial wish for the coming year.

8Thomas Barrow

“Any sign of William?” / “And a happy new year to you, Mrs. Hughes.”

The polarising Thomas Barrow first appeared picking up glasses as part of his duty as the first footman. At the same time, the wheels in his head are churning, true to his scheming nature, trying to locate his younger colleague.

Thomas was one of the characters who transformed considerably by the series finale. As he is appointed by Robert to be the butler at Downton Abbey, he is finally at peace, having achieved what he had long aspired for. He is now more hopeful as he pours out wine and finishes off with a warm wish for Mrs. Hughes.

7Tom Branson

“That’s right, Your Lordship.” / “Quickly, take these. we’re nearly there.”

The Irish rebel and eventual son-in-law of the Crawleys, Tom Branson, made a short and sweet entrance with a sprightly response to Robert’s wholehearted welcome of the new chauffeur.

Tom might never have recovered from his wife’s untimely death but he did become much more at home at Downton over the years and even considered the Crawleys his family. In the final episode, his last line comes as he nudges drinks into the hands of some family members, excited for the clock to ring in the new year.

6Cora Crawley

“Hello?…Isn’t this terrible?” / “It’s so good of you to stay, Mama”

The Countess of Grantham, Cora Crawley is first seen in bed reading the news about the Titanic. When Robert knocks on her door, she greets him in, which is followed by her reaction to the immense tragedy surrounding the death of the thousands of passengers on board what was apparently an unsinkable liner.

Cora’s last line is to Violet Crawley. Her even temperament and deep-rooted respect for her mother-in-law seeps through as she and Violet make up months after having fought over the local hospital changing hands.

5Robert Crawley

“Good morning, Carson. Is it true what they are saying?” / “And why not. We never know what’s coming of course, who does? But I’d say we have a good chance.”

As the Earl of Grantham descends the staircase and makes his way into the breakfast room in his first scene, he addresses his butler, Carson. The fact that Robert asks Carson about the news of the Titanic implies that he holds him in high regard.

Robert’s final dialogues beautifully sum up the situation for his daughters, himself, and his wife as the finale leaves it. When Cora tells him she would like to see the kids grow, he responds hopefully, looking forward to the future.

4Matthew Crawley

“Hmm. Thank you, Mother.” / “You certainly, certainly have.”

The handsome Matthew Crawley’s opening line on the show refers to a man of breeding, as he thanks his mother for a letter she had handed over.

Matthew’s closing line comes just a few minutes before his heart-wrenching death in a car crash in the season 3 finale. He is elated with the birth of his son and agrees when Mary states that she has earned the right to a decent kiss. Of course, that’s when the audience should have clued on that the waterworks would come on soon.

3Edith Crawley

“When Anna told me, I thought she must have dreamt it.” / “It’s so strange, I feel so completely, completely happy. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before….are you ready?”

The middle Crawley sister’s first dialogue is her reaction to the news of the Titanic sinking, “When Anna told me, I thought she must have dreamt it” revealing her characteristic hesitation and indecisiveness.

One of Edith’s last lines is before she leaves for her honeymoon. This is indicative of the struggles she has seen. Shortly afterward she delivers her final dialogue, asking the guests whether they were ready for her to throw her bouquet. She is happy and self-assured, showing how much the character had evolved.

2Mary Crawley

“Do we know anyone on board?” / “Oh, don’t worry about that. We ought to go down. Happy New Year!”

Mary Crawley had a relatively unglamorous entrance as she walked in with her sister for breakfast the day after the Titanic sank. Never a woman to waste words, she simply asked her father whether they knew anyone on board.

From her cringeworthy condescension, Mary gradually became someone who could blur the boundaries between the classes. In the finale, Anna Bates gave birth in Mary’s bedroom, breaking a number of social barriers. When John says that he and Anna would leave soon with their baby, Mary delivers her last line.

1Violet Crawley

“Of course I’ve heard. Why else would I be here?”/ “If only we had the choice!”

The sassy Dowager Countess’s opening line brims with unapologetic confidence, setting the tone for her character in her very first frame. This was after Cora presumably asked if she had heard about their relatives, Patrick and James, going down with the Titanic.

Violet’s last line in the series is her witty repartee to Cousin Isobel who says that the new year doesn’t take them into the past. The Dowager Countess marks her exit with her typical quick, dry British humor. She is unabashedly old guard and probably feels some nostalgia although she would never admit it.

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