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Sarah O'Brien
Tn-500 siobhanfinneran
Biographical information
Marital status Single
Residence Downton Abbey, Yorkshire, England (formerly)
Bombay, India
Physical information
Gender Female
Hair colour Dark brown
Eye colour Blue
Family information
Immediate N.N. O'Brien (brother) †
Mrs. Nugent (sister)
Extended
Mr. Nugent (brother-in-law) †
Alfred Nugent (nephew)
Alfred's sister (niece)
Affiliation
Occupation Lady's Maid to Cora Crawley (formerly)
Lady's Maid to Susan MacClare (formerly)
Loyalty Thomas Barrow (formerly)
Cora Crawley (formerly)
Alfred Nugent (formerly)
Susan MacClare
Behind the scenes
Portrayed by Siobhan Finneran
O'Brien: "Friends! Who does she think she's fooling. We're not friends."
Anna: "No?"
O'Brien: "No. And you're not friends with the girls, neither. We're servants, you and me, and they pay us to do as we're told. That's all."
— O'Brien to Anna after being reprimanded by Cora for insulting Matthew[src]

Sarah O'Brien, also known as Miss O'Brien or simply O'Brien, was lady's maid to Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham. She is never particularly happy, and although she sometimes flatters the ladies of the house, she rarely means it. O'Brien formerly was allies with Thomas Barrow but when her nephew came in for a high position their friendship terminated.

BackgroundEdit

Sarah O'Brien was born into a farming family and would have followed tradition to go into service and send money back home to her family. She had a brother who was her favourite brother and who thought of her as his favourite. He suffered from shell-shock and was later killed in action. Her sister writes to her to find a position for her son, Alfred Nugent.[1]. Perhaps due to being her brother's favourite sibling, she seems to get along with the younger male servants more so than the female ones - becoming very friendly with Thomas Barrow, identifying with Henry Lang, whom she seems to particularly admire, and showing sympathy for William Mason in his frustration prior to his enlistment. Her nephew, Alfred, who is the child of her currently unseen sister, comes to work at Downton Abbey as first footman in 1920. O'Brien has never had children of her own, and that may have something to do with how protective she becomes of Alfred.

In February 1922, she sneaked away in the night to travel to India to be a lady's maid to Susan MacClare, Marchioness of Flintshire.

According to Mrs Hughes, by 1924, Miss O'Brien had been employed by the new Governor's wife in India.

CharacterEdit

A master-manipulator, O'Brien is not known for her sympathetic and cuddly nature. She is a prickly woman with a sharp tongue and a harsh word for practically everyone, particularly those who are subordinate to her in the pecking order below stairs, which luckily for her, is almost everyone. O'Brien rarely shows any sympathy, instead either being the cause of misery or being unconcerned by the troubles of others. As such, she doesn't have any friends, above or below stairs, not that this troubles her. O'Brien has no great investment in anyone except Thomas, but after a tragic event caused by her in the summer of 1914 (where she caused Lady Grantham to have a miscarriage) she's sworn to protect Cora. Her desperation to hold onto her job proved to be her weak spot.

Whilst not the most pleasant woman in the world she is mostly loyal to those she cares for. On numerous occasions, and with no real reason, she helps Thomas and later, declares that she will never again let anyone hurt Cora.

RelationshipsEdit

AppearancesEdit

Appearances and Mentions
Series 1 Episode 1
Appears
Episode 2
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
Appears
   
Series 2 Episode 1
Appears
Episode 2
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
Appears
   
Series 3 Episode 1
Appears
Episode 2
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Christmas Special
Appears
   
Series 4 Episode 1
Appears
Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5
Mentioned
Episode 6 Episode 7 Episode 8 Christmas Special
   
Series 5 Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7 Episode 8
Mentioned
Christmas Special

Quotes about O'Brien Edit

"Sneaking off like a thief in the night? That's O'Brien to a 'T'."
Robert to Cora.
"She may be my aunt but she's a dark horse."
Alfred Nugent.

Notes Edit

  • In The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis, Julian Fellowes relates that the character of Sarah O'Brien was based on the lady's maid of a cousin of his grandfather's. The lady's maid became a companion as the "old world disintegrated". Julian said that, "On the surface, she was as polite as a courtier, but she had a black heart, cold and manipulative, and gradually forced all her mistress's family and friends away, until she ruled their Knightsbridge home alone. Yet my aunt never saw it. As far as she was concerned, she had a faithful retainer who wanted nothing but her good, and she never made the connection of the absence of her family in the later years". He says that records of ladies' maids show that, "As a breed, they were notorious for their complex and prickly nature, fraught with terrors about any possible challenge to their status. Siobhan Finneran gives us a wonderful example of this type; hard, calculating, and yet vulnerable when it comes to her own feelings". He says that O'Brien is his favourite character and he loves her.

ReferencesEdit

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