| Ethel Parks |
|Residence|| Downton Abbey, Yorkshire (formerly)|
A small hut (formerly)
Mrs. Watson's residence
|Family||Charlie Parks (son)|
|Occupation|| Housemaid at Downton abbey (formerly)|
Housekeeper and Cook at Crawley House (formerly)
Housekeeper and Cook for Mrs. Watson
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by||Amy Nuttall|
She 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 highly modern woman, independent and her own girl. She had her ways. She was reluctant and fiery, and would not tolerate being instructed on how to preform 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.
Wanting more than she has at present she began an affair with Major Charles Bryant while he was being treated at Downton and is dismissed by Mrs. Hughes when they are discovered together. However, she returns later when she discovers she is pregnant, because she has nowhere else to go. Luckily, Mrs. Hughes assists her and secretly watches over her. She found out later that the major who is her baby's father 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 telling him to help her and he had ignored it.
When Ethel bears her baby son, Charlie, she discovers that the major's parents are coming, she thinks they may be able to help her. Mrs. Hughes and her plan to tell the major's mother and ask her for help. Ethel bursts into the luncheon they were having and tells the major's parents that Charlie is their grandson. The major's father immediately rejects the idea, believing that if his son had had a baby he would have told them. Later the major's parents return, having had time to digest and believe the story Ethel told them. They want to raise Charlie as their wealthy grandson and send him to the best schools. However, their policy is that Ethel can only have him back when he is old enough to know what happened. Ethel asks if she could be his nursemaid but the major's father vetoes the idea, saying that Ethel would tell Charlie about his parentage. They give Ethel some time to think it over, and she decides to keep Charlie because he is what matters most to her.
Series 3EditIn 1920, Isobel Crawley has taken up the cause of helping prostitutes break away from their old lives. She discovers Ethel has taken up prostitution after seeing her in York. Later, Ethel comes to seek help from Isobel, but keeps barely beginning to ask for her help before repeatedly changing her mind and running away. Isobel gets Ethel's address from Mrs. Hughes. When Isobel finds Ethel's apartment, she comes face to face with one of her customers at the door. Ethel insists 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, she closes her door once again. Eventually, Ethel makes the heart-wrenching decision to let her son's grandparents take him back with them. Isobel has contacted the Bryants on her behalf. Mr. Bryant has been having Ethel watched and he knows how she has been living. He offers her money so that she will not need to earn money this way, and Charlie will not be exposed to it. Mr. Bryant insults Ethel by questioning if she enjoys her work and doesn't want to give it up. Ethel does not think that Mr. Bryant is a kind man, but she believes that he loves Charlie. She tells him that she doesn't want his money. She has 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 her news about Charlie, but as they drive away Ethel watches him and cries as if her heart is breaking. Isobel's disagrees with her giving up her child, but supports her.
Ethel gives up prostitution as she had only been doing it to provide for Charlie, but he is now gone and she doesn't care if she survives. Isobel then decides to hire Ethel at Crawley House as a maid. Mrs. Bird, Mrs. Crawley's cook and housemaid of long standing, resigns in protest against the decision to hire Ethel. Ethel is still treated as a fallen woman by many people in Downton village who know her history. She is left crying in the street one day when the grocer's wife refuses to serve her. Because of Ethel's past, Carson forbids all downstairs personnel employed at Downton to visit Crawley House. Defying this ban, Mrs. Patmore agrees to give help to Ethel in the form of recipes when Ethel has to cook for Isobel, Violet, and Cora. She reveals herself to have learned well. Carson tells Lord Grantham about the situation and he is angered enough that she is cooking for the ladies, that he bursts in on their lunch demanding that they leave at once. They stay put and continue eating, whereupon Robert leaves.
In spite of her part in defending Ethel at the lunch, Violet insists Ethel's past has touched the entire Crawley family in scandal, and without telling Ethel or Isobel, has Edith place an advertisement for Ethel in the paper. Even Mrs. Hughes agrees this is an opportunity for Ethel to start her life over, without her past clouding her. Ethel looks over many responses, but none appeal to her, except one with a Mrs. Watson, who lives in Cheadle, near where the Bryants live, which she does not accept because she and Isobel agree it would defeat the purpose of leaving her past behind her. Isobel tells Violet about this and how she suspects the close proximity to Charlie is probably why Ethel was interested, but that the Bryants would find out sooner or later. Violet writes to Isobel inviting her and Ethel to lunch and to Ethel's surprise, she finds Mrs. Bryant there. Violet has written to Mrs. Bryant explaining the situation to her. Mrs. Bryant tells Ethel to accept the job with Mrs. Watson. She says that she has 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 assures Ethel she will deal with Mr. Bryant. Ethel, now a very changed woman, is happy to get to see her son. She puts forward the idea that they will tell him that she used to work for them and was his former nanny. She says that as long as she can see and talk to him sometimes she will be happy.
- ↑ 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 likely that Ethel replaced the person who replaced Gwen, like Jane later did with her.