| Cora Crawley (née Levinson) |
Countess of Grantham
|Born||July 18th, 1868|
|Residence|| Downton Abbey, Yorkshire, England|
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (formerly)
|Title(s)|| Countess of Grantham |
|Family|| Isidore Levinson (father) † |
Martha Levinson (mother)
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by||Elizabeth McGovern|
- Violet: "I've written to your mother. She's very anxious, naturally. She suggested coming over."
- Cora: "Oh, God."
- Violet: "Well, that's what I thought. So I put her off. Told her to come and admire the baby."
- — Violet and Cora discussing her pregnancy.[src]
Born Cora Levinson in Cincinnati on July 18, 1868, she was the only daughter of the dry goods multi-millionaire, Isidore Levinson and his wife Martha Levinson, and had an Aunt. Cora has a strained relationship with her mother.
As a young woman, she was brought to London in 1888 for her first season by her socially ambitious mother, in order to marry a member of the British nobility. During the season she met Robert Crawley, Viscount Downton, the future Earl of Grantham. Much to Robert's mother's chagrin, Cora became engaged to him and the two of them married in 1889. As part of their marriage contract, Cora's fortune was tied to the family estate to prevent it from going bankrupt.
Life at DowntonEdit
While their marriage was initially one-sided in love, after a year Robert fell in love with her and their marriage was perfectly happy . After her father-in-law died, Cora became the Countess of Grantham, her husband Robert became the Earl of Grantham, and, over their long marriage, which had spanned twenty four years by the time of 1912, the Countess would give birth to three daughters, Mary in 1891, Edith in 1892, and Sybil in 1895, however none of her daughters could inherit the title or her wealth. The solution was to have the eldest daughter, Mary, marry the heir Patrick Crawley.
During World War IEdit
When we first see Cora in the second series, she is hosting a concert benifiting the war effort. She was initially unwilling to approve Sybil's desire to be a nurse, thinking it would be unsuitable and there would be gruesome sights for her youngest child. Violet and Isobel, for once, sided together and disagreed with Cora. Isobel thought that Sybil should do something and Violet argued it was hardly unsuitable,
Death of James and Patrick CrawleyEdit
We first see Cora in bed, the morning after the Titanic has sunk. She is reading a lady's magazine about the tragedy. "Isn't this horrible?" she says to her husband Robert when he walks in. He tells her that it is pretty clear that the heirs, James Crawley (Robert's first cousin) and his son Patrick, have died on the Titanic. Cora doesn't believe it, as she thought they were going to America in May. Robert says that they must have changed their plans because they are definitely on the passenger list. She is disappointed at their deaths and believes that her eldest daughter, Mary, was in love with Patrick as she was unofficially engaged to him. This is not so. Mary did not have particular romantic inclinations toward her second cousin and is not too sad at his death. Edith, however, loved Patrick and was jealous at Mary for being engaged to him. She is heartbroken and cries at his funeral. This goes overlooked by Cora and the rest of the family.
But this changed more than Mary's romantic life. James and Patrick were the heirs to Downton Abbey, and now it is unclear who the heir is. When Cora's mother-in-law, Violet, comes to see Cora about it all, she announces that
Evelyn Napier and Kemal Pamuk's stay at Downton AbbeyEditCora was curious about Evelyn Napier, especially since the man seems to be of importance for Mary. Cora asks Mary whether she likes him and Mary replies by saying "I don't dislike him". This then builds up more questions from Cora to Mary about Napier such as "What is he writing about?", "Where is he staying?", "Who's friends?" and later insisting that he must simply come to Downton Abbey. Cora also reveals that she had a connection of friendship to Napier's late mother. There is a possibility that because Cora was close with Napier's late mother, Cora feels quite comfortable that Mary is writing to him. Cora then starts a discussion with Violet and Robert about Mary's perspective and actions about Napier. Violet agrees that Mary should pursue Napier since Mary is not interested in Matthew anyway. Cora reports that the Napiers have plenty of money. Cora feels concern because Violet does not seem pleased. Violet says that she is pleased, but she does not think the whole scheme of Mary pursuing Napier is brilliant. Violet says that she does not want Robert to use marriage as a fight over Mary's inheritance, Cora reassures her of no such thing, saying that it won't make any difference. She says that the price of saving Downton is to accept that Matthew is the heir of the fortune and the estate. She, in fact, points out that she rather admires Matthew but she does not believe that it is sufficient reason to hand over the money. Cora visits Mary's room to announce that there was a letter from Evelyn Napier which says that he will bring a friend from the Turkish Embassy, a man named Kemal Pamuk. She continues reading to say that Kemal Pamuk is son to one of the sultans and is here to attend the Albanian Talk, to create an independent Albania. Cora invites this Mr.Pamuk to stay in Downton as well. She finishes by saying that Mary will ride out with him.
The very next evening Cora meets Mr.Pamuk and Napier, greeting both of them whilst getting a little kiss on the hand from Mr.Pamuk. During dinner on their discussion of Gwen's dream of becoming a secretary, Cora expresses that it matters because she wants the people who work for the family to be content.
Cora watches Mr.Pamuk's and the rest of the people's opinion about jobs and social class and their impact on the world. Cora smiles at Mr.Pamuk's joke and resumes discussion in the background with Napier while eating. Cora then asks if Mr.Pamuk enjoyed the hunt with Pamuk's reply being " I can hardly remember a better one".Cora is revealed about Pamuk's death in Mary's bed to Cora's great despair and disappointment. She proposes to both Anna and Mary that the three of them decide what to do for the best. Anna suggests to them to carry the body to where Pamuk is staying. Cora is evidently shocked about the suggestion but then is more convinced in realizing of what a giant scandal this would be and how Mary's reputation would be destroyed. She suggests covering him up ? - and hurry because the servants will be up soon. They, including Cora run up to where Pamuk is staying, carrying his dead body. Cora takes out the sheets underneath Pamuk and sees to it that Anna puts on the blanket upon him. Mary cries over Pamuk's body but then is interrupted by Cora who stands in front of the door, holding the sheets. Cora says that she can never forgive Mary for what she has put her through. Mary ? hopes that in time Cora will be more merciful. Her eyes filled with anger and sheer disappointment. Cora promises to keep the secret from Robert because she knows that it can damage him but she adds that she keeps the secret not for Mary but for Robert's sake. She also tells Anna to conceal Mary's secret, and with that they leave the room. The next morning, Evelyn Napier says goodbye in the grounds to Cora, Cora asks whether they will see Napier again but he says that he is quite busy. He makes himself quite clear that he does not consider himself an interesting person and he believes that a woman who marries him but thinks that he is boring can never love him because he believes that marriage should be based on love. Cora compliments Napier that his instincts do him credit. Cora suggests that Mary get to know New York to Violet but she says " Oh I don't think things are quite that desperate". Cora told Violet that Mary was upset upon the death of Pamuk, to Violet's confusion not knowing what secret Cora was carrying. Cora points out again that the Entail is unbreakable, confident that Mary cannot inherit. Cora orders Branson to take Sybil to Ripon the next day for a new frock. She says " So women's rights begin at home? Well I'm all for that" in Sybil's discussion on women. She also discusses schooling in America, saying how its very different in Britain because they are taught only French and how to curtsy. Cora follows Mary to her room to find her crying, she learns how sad and angry and jealous Mary is about Matthew. Cora keeps reassuring her that her family loves her but Mary breaks down and blames everything. Mary ends by saying " Things will look better earlier in the morning, isn't that what you always say" and she replies by saying " that's because its usually true." Cora then finishes by saying that she must not quarrel with Matthew because Mary might need him someday. Cora seems quite surprised in seeing her daughter Sybil wear a more boyish frock.
Pregnancy and miscarriageEdit
Upon returning to Downton Abbey from the London season in July 1914, Cora feels ill and Dr. Clarkson pays a house call on her. After examining her, she learns that she is pregnant again after 18 years, much to Robert's shock. Both she and Robert were thrilled at the news, as they hoped they would finally have a son and heir. Dr. Clarkson tells Robert that Cora is probably about four months pregnant meaning she conceived presumably sometime from early to mid March 1914.
The pregnancy complicates Matthew's still unanswered marriage proposal to Mary. Mary is staying with her aunt Rosamund in London and promised that she will answer Mattthew when she returns to Downton. Rosamund tells Mary that she shouldn't accept Matthew now and she should wait to see whether the baby is a boy. Violet says she would accept Matthew now and not wait for the baby to be born. Mary still hesitates. Matthew assumes it is only because of her worry that Cora will have a son and supersede Matthew as the heir. Mary is actually hesitant because she feels that she must reveal the secret of her and Kemal Pamuk to Matthew.
At the same time, Violet is trying to find a replacement for her lady's maid Simmons and requests Cora's assistance. Sarah O'Brien misinterprets that Cora is looking to replace her and grows bitter and resentful. While Cora is bathing, Sarah slides a wet bar of soap next to the bath. Sarah, realizing that this is too evil and has second thoughts, but as she is about to stop Cora, Cora slips on the floor. The fall caused a miscarriage. Robert, in tears, tellsBates that he learned from Dr. Clarkson that the baby would have been a son. Cora is still recuperating when news arrives at that Britain has declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914. Sarah's guilt causes her to be completely loyal and protective of Cora.
Matthew and Lavinia's engagementEdit
Cora is all into the war effort at the beginning of Series Two, as she is hosting a concert benifiting the men at the front. When Isobel comes forth with the news that Matthew has moved on from Mary and gotten engaged to a Miss Lavinia Swire, she is not happy
Mary comes back to Downton and is getting ready for the concert with Cora, Edith, and Sybil, when Mary says "Why didn't you tell me about this wretched concert? I'd have come back tomorrow," and Edith replies haughtily, "But you would've missed Matthew ." Cora then tells Mary that Matthew is on leave and is coming to Downton with Isobel. Then Edith adds slyly, "And his fiancée ." Cora is exasperated at Edith and says, "Edith ...I don't know how helpful you're being." Mary puts on an act to cover her sadness at losing the man she loved forever and says she is happy for him. Sybil asks Mary, "So you don't mind?" to which she replies, "Of course not. Why should I? Good luck to him!" Only Edith, as told by an obvious smirk on her face, doesn't believe Mary. Mary tries to change the subject. Then the following exchange goes on between Cora's two oldest daughters:
Edith: The one with all those horrid newspapers? How old is he?
Mary: Old enough not to ask stupid questions. Anyway, I can't wait for you to know him.
They all go down to the concert where Robert warmly welcomes Isobel, Matthew, and Lavinia. Cora sympathises with Lavinia and defends her against her mother-in-law:
Violet: So that's Mary's replacement? Well, I suppose looks aren't everything.
Cora: I think she seems rather sweet. I'm afraid it must be rather intimidating meeting us all here together.
Violet: I do hope so.
Sybil's nurse trainingEdit
When Cora's maid, O'Brien, overhears Isobel encouraging Lady Sybil to volunteer as a nurse (Sybil felt she was useless after hearing one of her beaus, Tom Ballesis, had been killed in the war) and reports it to Cora. O'Brien tells her that there are gruesome sights--men come back with limbs blown off, and "Lady Sybil has been nurtured so very carefully". This makes Cora decide Sybil should not be a nurse. Violet and Isobel surprisingly unite in their disapproval of Cora's decision.
Violet: I mean, you can't pretend it's not respectable! When everyday we're treated to pictures of princesses ladling soup down the throat of some unfortunate.
Cora: Yes, but if Dr. Clarkson wants help, I'd prefer him not to find it in my nursery!
Isobel: But Sybil isn't in the nursery!
Violet: And in case you hadn't noticed, she hasn't been there for quite some time.
Cora: Oh, you know what I mean.
Sybil, since she has no knowledge of cooking or household skills, goes downstairs and asks Mrs. Patmore for help. Daisy is eager to help her, and they agree to give her private lessons on the basics. Mr. Carson disapproves and tells Cora, who is delighted to see Sybil doing something herself and says she does not mind.
She consents to Sybil's being a nurse, even though she goes away for training for two months. Cora is very proud of her youngest daughter.
Downton Abbey as a convalescent homeEdit
When Sybil hears of Edward Courtenay's suicide because he did not want to leave his friends at the Downton hopital to go to a convalescent home at Farley Hall, she knows that there needs to be a convalescent home nearer to the hospital. Isobel thinks of Downton Abbey, and Sybil thinks it's a good idea. They present the idea to the family, and Violet forbids it. Cora reminds Violet snappishly that she is Countess of Grantham now and she will make the decision as to what to do with her house.
Violet: I think it's a ridiculous idea.
Violet: Because this is a house, not a hospital.
Mary: Granny, a convalescent home is where people rest and recuperate.
Violet: But if there are relapses? What then? Amputation in the dining room? Resuscitation in the pantry?
Cora: It would certainly be the most tremendous disturbance. If you knew how chaotic things are as it is.
Isobel: But when there's so much good that can be done
Violet: I forbid it! To have strange men prodding and prying around the house. To say nothing of pocketing the spoons! It's out of the question.
Cora: I hesitate to remind you, but this is my house now. Robert's and mine, and we will make the decision.
Violet: Oh, I see. So now I'm an outsider, who need not be consulted!
Cora: Since you put it like that, yes.
Cora and Robert eventually agree to have Downton become a convalescent home, and nurses, supplies, and food start rolling in. Isobel is very interested and wants to be manager. She starts changing so many things around the house (i.e. the servants' meal times) that Cora becomes angry and believes Isobel is overstepping her boundaries. They have an argument where Cora presents her feelings and Isobel immediately, abandoning her manners, defends herself, stating she has medical experience and she feels she would be better suited to run Downton. Cora is outraged and tells Isobel immediately that Downton is her house and she can run it as she pleases. Isobel goes to Northern France to help the Red Cross, and no one can contact her for many months.
Matthew Crawley paralysedEdit
Matthew Crawley is injured, along with his war valet William Mason, in a battle in France. The telegram arrives at Crawley House and Mr. Molesley brings it to Downton as neither Isobel nor Matthew are home. Robert opens it and is horrified to learn that Matthew has been added to the long list of casualties of World War I --- he has spine injuries. Cora's daughter Mary is very shaken, as she is still in love with Matthew, though she tries to deny it.
When Matthew arrives at the Downton Village Hospital, Mary wants to go see him as she had read somewhere that it was important not to leave men alone when they first came back from the front. Robert tells her that he called Lavinia Swire, Matthew's fiancee, and asked her to come see Matthew. Mary pauses, then says, "Good. I'm glad someone thought of that" , which impresses Robert greatly as he sees Mary has given up Matthew and resigned to the fact that he is going to marry someone else.
Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, comes to visit Downton, as news reaches them that Robert has lost most of their fortune (including most of the money Cora brought to the marriage) on a bad investment. Cora fully supports and comforts Robert. She says that she will be fine as she is an American, "have gun will travel". He thanks God for her. Cora plans a picnic to a smaller property that Robert owns, Downton Place, and tries to encourage Robert to think positively about moving there. Cora tells Robert that her mother will bring her own drama. Lady Cora learns that Mary is planning to ask her grandmother for the money, but Cora is against this, as it is undignified, and enough of her father's money has been put into Downton. She tells Mary that they have made their own problems, but her mother and Harold should not have to pay for them. Thomas has spread a rumour that O'Brien is leaving, and Cora has come to depend on her so much that she feels let down, even when O'Brien insists that it is not true, and she had no part in starting it. Cora learns from Carson that Mrs. Hughes may be suffering from a serious illness. Cora tells her that she may stay at Downton as long as she wishes. She need never worry about where to go or who would take care of her. They will even hire a nurse for her. Mrs. Hughes is touched and moved to tears. When the stove breaks and there is no food for a dinner party, Cora contemplates sending the guests home. As Martha's laughs and says that it will be interesting, Cora says, "Thank you, mother."
Cora is one of the first to welcome Tom Branson into the family, and the first to start calling him consistently by his first name. She is upset at Tom's actions that force him and Sybil into exile from Ireland, but asks him rather than accuses him.
In Episode 3.04 Cora's youngest daughter Sybil must come home to Downton, as her husband Tom is wanted in Ireland for his participation in a revolutionary group. Therefore she is at Downton when she has her baby in Episode 3.05. Lord Grantham has arranged for specialist obstetrician Sir Philip Tapsell to be there, but Cora insisted that the doctor who knew Sybil best Richard Clarkson be consulted and involved. When Dr. Clarkson believes that Sybil is suffering from pre-eclampsia he wants to take her to a hospital for a Caesarian section, Robert, listening to Sir Philip, disagrees. The baby is born and all seems well. Sybil speaks to Cora about Tom getting a job as a mechanic, Sybil thinks that it would be a step back for him and wants her mother to prevent Robert from leaping to this opportunity to get Tom out of Downton, her mother says that they can speak of this later. When Sybil goes into convulsions and died after giving birth to her child, Cora sits up talking to her daughter. She tells Mary that it is the last time they will be together. She promises Sybil to care for Tom and her baby. Cora at first blamed Robert for her death as he sided with Tapsell because he is "knighted, fashionable, and has a practice in Harley Street," but they later reconciled after Violet convinced Dr Clarkson to say that even if Sybil had gone to hospital, she likely still would have died.
Cora, though she never voices her religious views (other than to say not everyone chooses their religion to satisfy Devrett's), does support Tom in his decision to baptise his daughter Catholic, and attends the christening, remarking that she knows Sybil is watching. She is eager to not have Tom leave right away, always remembering Sybil wanted more for him. She supports Violet in suggesting Tom become the new agent for Downton when Jarvis resigns (she still calls him Tom even after Violet is relieved they could call him Branson again if he's the agent), and in 1921 is sorry he won't be joining them on their holiday in Scotland. She is still mourning Sybil; Violet assures her they all miss her very much.
Cora's goal in life is to "have fun" after the intense grieving she went through after having lost her youngest daughter, Sybil.
When Thomas tells Cora that the nanny is neglecting the children, Cora goes to investigate and overhears her insulting Sybbie about her parentage, and Cora immediately makes her presence known. She fires the nanny on the spot and will not let her near the children again. She tells the nanny that her "values" (referring to her insulting Sybbie on account of her parentage) have no place in a civilized home.
Cora also employs a new lady's maid, Edna Braithwaite who used to work at Downton before as a housemaid. She does not tell Cora the truth about why she had to leave in the first place, saying she had wished to train as a lady's maid instead of being a housemaid, but since Mrs Hughes had given her a good reference, Cora had no reason to be concerned.
On Edna's first day, Cora discovers one of her dresses has been ruined. Edna refuses to tell her who is to blame. Cora later passes Thomas Barrow who tells Cora that Edna was protecting someone. When Cora asks who, he tells her that Anna Bates was to blame when truthfully Edna damaged the dress herself. It seems as though she and Thomas have set out to cause trouble. Cora seems surprised that Anna could make such a mistake and tells Robert what has happened.
When a letter from Matthew is found in which he states that in event of his death his last wish is for Mary to be the sole heiress of his shares in the estate, Cora supports her daughter's decision to be more involved in how Downton is run. She defends Mary at dinner when Robert shows that he not happy about Mary's decision, being determined to make sure that the letter is not seen as a will and Mary has not inherited Matthew's shares. During his hasty conservation with Mary, he tells her about the many things she will have to understand and when Mary asks if he has a point, Cora tells him them that Robert is trying to say that a woman's place is in the home. She tries to get Robert to accept their daughter's new outlook in life and is delighted when he finally does accept the letter as a will.
Cora was excited to hear the singer Nellie Melba would be coming to Downton to sing for her and her guests. She is delighted when she hears that Nellie Melba had arrived and she was shocked when Mr Carson tells her he and Robert had thought it best Nellie eat in her room rather than with them because of an old custom. Cora thought this was ridiculous believing times had changed and Nellie, as a guest of the house should be allowed to sit with them. She angrily tells Robert, who hadn't actually said such a thing since Mr Carson, who prefers the old customs had actually made the decision, to allow Nellie to eat with them. Robert ends up agreeing with Cora. She later happily watches Nellie perform next to her husband.
She is later delighted when her husband admits that Michael Gregson is a "decent cove". However when Gregson disappears she tries to comfort her daughter, insisting that if anything terrible had happened they would have found out. Unfortunately she does not learn why Gregson really went to Germany, or that Edith is in fact pregnant with his child.
In 1923 Cora accompanies Rose when she is presented to King George V, Queen Mary, and the Prince of Wales.
- The true extent of Cora's fortune is unknown.
- Many British and European nobles have married wealthy American heiress, some of whom are listed here: list of American heiresses.
Behind the scenesEdit
- The inspiration for the character of Cora was in part the American Mary Leiter, who through her marriage to George Curzon would become Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and Vicereine of India. Mary Leiter was the daughter of a rich Chicago merchant (he would be one of the founders of what became the Marshall Field department store chain) and property speculator. Unlike Cora's father, however, Levi Leiter was not Jewish, but was instead a Lutheran of Pennsylvania Dutch background. In addition, unlike Cora's mother, Mary Leiter's mother Mary Theresa Carver Leiter was not a brash or vulgar figure in New York society, but lived in a mansion on Dupont Circle in Washington, DC..
|Appearances and Mentions|
|Series 1||Episode 1|
|Series 2||Episode 1|
|Series 3||Episode 1|
- ↑ It is unknown as to wether the aunt was from her mother's side or her father's side, or whether the aunt was by blood or by marriage, but Cora mentions in Episode 1.06, that she has an Aunt
- ↑ Cora says "Oh, god!" in Episode 1.07 at the thought of her mother coming to visit her.
- ↑ Cora was an heiress at the time, so it must have been on or after her twentieth birthday that she came to London, as her father died sometime before she turned 20
- ↑ The press pack confirms that Robert and Cora married in 1889:
- ↑ In episode 1, when Robert states that Mary would never be happy with a fortune hunter, Cora says "I was." thus showing that her marriage, despite Robert only marrying her for her money, was a happy one.
- ↑ "24 years ago, you married Cora, against my wishes, for her money. Give it away now, what was the point of your peculiar marriage in the first place?"; Violet says this in 1912 and this, thus, places Robert and Cora's marriage in 1889; the press pack also confirms that Robert and Cora married in 1889:
- ↑ McGovern talks spoilers for Series 4
- ↑ DOWNTON ABBEY SPECIAL: The Press baron and the heiress were larger than life and Cora and Richard Carlisle were based on them, Jessica Fellowes, Daily Mail, 17th September, 2011.