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| Ethel Parks |
|Residence|| Downton Abbey, Yorkshire (formerly)|
A small hut (formerly)
Crawley House (formerly)
Mrs Watson's residence
|Height||5'5" (1,65 m)|
|Family||Charlie Parks (illegitimate son)|
|Occupation|| Housemaid at Downton Abbey (formerly)|
Housekeeper/ Cook at Crawley House (formerly)
Housekeeper/Cook for Mrs Watson (currently)
|Loyalty|| Charles Parks|
Horace Bryant (reluctantly)
Charles Bryant (formerly)
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by||Amy Nuttall|
Ethel was formerly head maid - though out of only two maids - in a much smaller household and resents her lower position at Downton. She did not like being told what to do, especially by Anna, and frequently had to be prodded to do her work. She thought that the others looked down on her, and that she needed to gain power over them. She was a modern woman who was independent and was reluctant to be instructed on how to perform certain tasks. She did not want to be in service, and would rather have spent her time reading Hollywood magazines and gossiping, and did not make light of her perceived sufferings. As such, she is the butt of several pranks from lady's maid Sarah O'Brien.
Wanting more than she had in her position at Downton, she began an affair with Major Charles Bryant while he was being treated at Downton. She was dismissed by Mrs Hughes when they are discovered together naked in a storage room. However, she returned later when she discovered she was pregnant by the Major, because she had nowhere else to go. Luckily, Mrs Hughes assists her and secretly watches over her. She found out later that Major Bryant died in one of the last battles of World War I. Ethel does not express great sadness at this, because she had written to him multiple times asking him to help her and he had ignored it. After Ethel had her son, Charles Parks, she discovered that the Major's parents were coming, and thought they may be able to help her. Mrs Hughes and Ethel plan to tell the Major's mother and ask her for help. Ethel burst into the luncheon they were having and told the Major's parents that Charlie was their grandson. The Major's father immediately rejected the idea, believing that if his son had had a baby he would have told them. Later the Major's parents returned, having had time to digest and believe the story Ethel told them. They wanted to raise Charlie as their grandson and send him to the best schools. However, their offer was that Ethel could only have him back when he was old enough to know what happened. Ethel asked if she could be his nursemaid but the Major's father vetoed the idea, saying that Ethel would tell Charlie about his parentage. They gave Ethel some time to think it over, and she decided to keep Charlie because he was what mattered most to her.
Isobel Crawley took up the cause of helping prostitutes break away from their old lives. She discovered Ethel had taken up prostitution after seeing her in York. Later, Ethel came to seek help from Isobel, but kept barely beginning to ask for her help before repeatedly changing her mind and running away. Isobel got Ethel's address from Mrs Hughes and when Isobel found Ethel's apartment, she came face to face with one of her customers at the door. Ethel insisted that she was never looking for help for herself, insisting (despite Isobel's beliefs) that she is past help. A child's cry coming from inside reveals exactly who she was seeking help for. Nevertheless, Ethel closed her door on Isobel once again. Eventually, Ethel made the heart-wrenching decision to let her son's grandparents take him back with them. Isobel had contacted the Bryants on her behalf. Mr Bryant had been having Ethel watched and he knew how she had been living. He offered her money so that she would not need to earn money this way, and Charlie would not be exposed to it. Mr Bryant insulted Ethel by questioning if she enjoyed her work and didn't want to give it up. Ethel did not think that Mr Bryant was a kind man, but she believed that he loves Charlie. She told him that she didn't want his money. She had realized that, when she decided to refuse their offer to adopt him and to keep him herself, it was for selfish reasons, and that they could give him the best life with the best upbringing and the best schools. Ethel is told by Mrs Bryant that she will write and send news about Charlie, but as they drive away Ethel watched him go and cried as if her heart was breaking. Isobel disagreed with her giving up her child, but supported her.
Ethel gave up prostitution as she had only been doing it to provide for Charlie, but he is now gone and she didn't care if she survived. Isobel then decided to hire Ethel at Crawley House as a maid. Mrs Bird, Mrs Crawley's cook and housemaid of long standing, resigned in protest against the decision to hire Ethel. Ethel was still treated as a fallen woman by many people in Downton village who knew her history. She was left crying in the street one day when the grocer's wife refused to serve her. Because of Ethel's past, Mr Carson forbade all downstairs personnel employed at Downton from visiting Crawley House. Defying this ban, Mrs Patmore agreed to give help to Ethel in the form of recipes when Ethel had to cook for Isobel, Violet Crawley, and Cora Crawley. She revealed herself to have learned well. Carson told Robert Crawley about the situation and he was angered enough that she was cooking for the ladies, that he burst in on their lunch demanding that they leave at once. They stay put and continue eating, whereupon Robert left.
In spite of her part in defending Ethel at the lunch, Violet insisted Ethel's past had touched the entire Crawley family in scandal, and without telling Ethel or Isobel, had Edith Crawley place an advertisement for Ethel in the paper. Even Mrs Hughes agreed this was an opportunity for Ethel to start her life over, without her past clouding her. Ethel looked over many responses, but none appealed to her, except one with a Mrs Watson, who lived in Cheadle, near where the Bryants live. She did not accept this position because she and Isobel agreed it would defeat the purpose of leaving her past behind her. Isobel told Violet about this and how she suspected the close proximity to Charlie was probably why Ethel was interested, but that the Bryants would find out sooner or later. Violet wrote to Isobel inviting her and Ethel to lunch and to Ethel's surprise, she found Mrs Bryant there. Violet had written to Mrs Bryant explaining the situation to her. Mrs Bryant told Ethel to accept the job with Mrs Watson. She said that she had always thought it wrong to keep a mother from her son, as long as he does not get confused at least until he is older. She also assured Ethel she would deal with Mr Bryant. Ethel, now a very changed woman, was happy to get to see her son. She put forward the idea that they will tell him that she used to work for them and was his former nanny. She said that as long as she could see and talk to him sometimes she would be happy.
|Appearances and Mentions|
|Series 2||Episode 1|
|Series 3||Episode 1||Episode 2|
- When she first began working at Downton it is possible that Ethel was taking the same position that Gwen Dawson formerly held. It is unlikely, given that Gwen left Downton in 1914 and Ethel joined in 1916, that she is the only person to have replaced Gwen.
- It is not known what became of her and her young son as the series progressed.