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A timeline of events in Downton Abbey from 1912 to 1923

If listing any specific dates, please use a reference and make note of the episode or other canon source that the information comes from, including a short quote if possible.

Early events Edit

This section is for listing events that take place prior to the beginning of the series.

  • 1772George III creates the title of Earl of Grantham.[1]
  • 1842 – Violet Crawley is born to a Baronet.[2]
  • 1849Grantham House is renovated to its current appearance.[3]
  • 1852 to 1862 – Isobel Crawley is born.[4]
  • 1860, circa September – Violet and her husband marry.[5]
  • 1866 – Robert is born[6].
  • 1860s or 1870s – Rosamund is born[7].
  • 1868, July 18 – Cora Levinson, later Crawley, is born.
  • 1869 to 1870s – Harold Levinson is born.[8]
  • Late 1870s or late 1880s – Rosamund and Marmaduke Painswick marry[9] and purchase a house, 35 Eaton Square, after their marriage[10].
  • 1885, January to September – Matthew Crawley is born.
  • 1888 – Cora is brought to England by her mother, Martha Levinson, for the London season and to find her a husband.[11]
  • 1889 – Cora and Robert marry and Cora signs her fortune over to the estate.[12]. The money is "tied up tight" with the Crawley Family having, in Isidore's eyes, "quite enough" and the rest is left for Martha to live on and Harold to inherit[13]. The wedding takes place in England[14].
  • 1890 to 1912 – both Cora's father, Isidore, and Robert's father die.
  • 1891 – Mary Crawley is born.
  • 1892 – Edith Crawley is born.
  • 1895 – Sybil Crawley, later Branson is born.
    • At some point in the same year, Lavinia Swire was born to Reginald and Anne Swire.
  • Before 1902 - John Bates and Joseph Molesley serve together as footmen in a house near Stafford.
  • 1899 to 1902 – Robert and John Bates at some point in this period serve together in the Boer War, to be specific, the 'Second Anglo-Boer War'.[15]
    • At some point during the same years, Isobel trains to be a Nurse[16]
  • Between 1902 and 1913 - Cora meets Rose MacClare for the first time[17].
  • Some time before 1912 - Reginald trains to be a doctor under Sir John Turnbull, father of his wife, Isobel, and her brother, Sir Edward Turnbull, who also trains to be a doctor.[18]
  • 1908, April 5 - Herbert Henry (H.H.) Asquith succeeds Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • 1909-1912 - Reginald Crawley studies dropsy and publishes works on it[19] before dying.
  • 1910, May 6 - George V[20] succeeds Edward VII[21] as King of the United Kingdom, the British Dominions and Emperor of India. Rose is presented to the King in the 2013 Christmas Special.
  • Before 1913 – Susan Flintshire visits Downton Abbey[22].
  • 1912, April 15 - Titanic sinks, taking not only Patrick and James Crawley, but also Charles Hays, which will have consequences in series 3.

Series 1 (1912–1914)Edit

Episode 1.01Edit

Set in April 1912, when news arrives of the sinking of the Titanic and the death of Downton's heir James and his son Patrick.[23] The most likely date for the opening of the first episode is April 16, 1912. A full analysis can be found here. The memorial service for James and Patrick takes place three months after the sinking of the Titanic, meaning the episode ends sometime after July 1912[24].

  • 1912, August - Matthew and Robert meet[26].

Episode 1.02Edit

Set in September 1912[27] and ending in, at least, October[28].

Episode 1.03Edit

Mary is instantly attracted to handsome Turkish attaché Kemal Pamuk. Their romance is cut brutally short, sending ripples of unease through the house.[29]

  • 1913, March 4 - Woodrow Wilson succeeds William Howard Taft as President of the United States.

Probably set in April to May of 1913 given the clues that it is set during fox hunting season which traditionally runs from November through April[30], and that the sun is up prior to 6:00 AM[31]. In Yorkshire the sun does not rise before 6:00 AM until after the vernal equinox[32]. It is known from episode one that Daisy knocks up the other maids at 6:00 AM, so it is clearly before 6:00 AM when she observes Mary, Cora and Anna carrying the body of Mr. Pemuk at a time when the sun has clearly risen.

Episode 1.04Edit

Carnival sign states Thursday May 29th, which would have been in 1913. Violet and Isobel are in conflict over a medical ailment affecting Molesley. Elsewhere, Carson fears there is a thief at Downton.[33]

  • 1913, June 4 - Emily Davison steps in front of King George V's horse Anmer, sustaining injuries that would result in her death four days later [34]. This event is mentioned at the beginning of episode six.

Episode 1.05Edit

Mary is introduced to a potential suitor, but she thinks he is too old and stuffy. Mrs Patmore fears she may be going blind.[35]

During the walk to the flower show, Bates accepts a ride on a wagon full of hay - if it was haymaking season it is likely the flower show took place in late summer.

Episode 1.06Edit

Opens with the title card "May 1914."

Episode 1.07Edit

Opens with the title card "July 1914." Ends on August 4th or 5th, as Britain declared war on Germany at 11:00 PM August 4, 1914.[37]

Series 1-2 Gap (1914-1916)Edit

  • 1914 - 1916 Crawley dog Pharaoh dies and the Crawleys get a new dog named Isis.
  • 1915, April 25 - 1916, January 9 Gallipoli Campaign[38], Robert remarks that if Churchill could go back to the front after the gilly business, why shouldn't he.
  • 1916, March 2 The Military Service Act[39] goes into effect. It was the first time that legislation had been passed in British military history introducing conscription. The Act specified that men from 18 to 41 years old were liable to be called up for service in the army. Due to political considerations the Act did not extend to Ireland. In Series 2, William Mason, Joseph Molesley[40] and Tom Branson would all be called up, however the latter two would receive medical exemptions.

Series 2 (1916–1919)Edit

Episode 2.01Edit

Opens with the title card "The Somme, 1916." Though the episode gives no specific date, the Battle of the Somme raged from July 1st to November 18th, 1916.

  • 1916, December 7 David Lloyd George succeeds H.H. Asquith as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Episode 2.02Edit

Opens with the title card "April 1917". Carson is finding it tough maintaining standards in the house, and the suicide of a young officer prompts Isobel to suggest converting Downton Abbey into a convalescent hospital.[43]

  • 1917, April 6 - American President Wilson asks Congress for "a war to end all wars" that would "make the world safe for democracy". Congress responds by declaring war on the German Empire.[44][45]

Episode 2.03Edit

After Downton is turned into a convalescent home for wounded officers, Matthew brings a general to visit, but Branson has a surprise in store. And is Lavinia hiding something?[46]

Tom Branson mentions that Kerensky has been made prime minister. This occurred on July 2, 1917 and he was deposed in the October Revolution on November 7 of the same year.[47] Tom goes on to say that the Tsar was "imprisoned in the Alexander Palace with all his family". The Romanovs were moved to Tobolsk in the Urals in August, thus dating this episode between July and early September of 1917, allowing time for the news to get out.[48]

Episode 2.04Edit

Tensions flare between Isobel and Cora. Ethel's flirtation with Major Bryant lands her in hot water. There is worrying news about Matthew. Branson declares his feelings for Sybil.[49]

  • 1918, February 6 - Representation of the People Act[50] goes into effect granting some women the vote[51]. Edith mentions this in episode 3.04 saying that she still does not have the vote because she is not yet 30 years old nor a landowner.

Episode 2.05Edit

Opens with the title card "Amiens, 1918"a. Major battle occurred between the dates of August 8 and 12, 1918.

Tom Branson mentions that "They shot the Tsar and all of his family". The killing of the Romanov family occurred on July 17, 1918[52], however it is reasonable to assume Tom was referring to an event that occurred sometime earlier.

Episode 2.06Edit

Carlisle threatens to ruin Mary if she jilts him. A major comes to stay - but is he really who he claims to be? Bates learns that Vera has succeeded in scuppering the divorce.[53]

  • 1918, November 11 - The episode ends on the day of the armstice (First Armistice at Compiègne)[55] later commemorated in Commonwealth countries as Remembrance Day and Poppy Day, and in the U.S. as Veterans Day[56].

Episode 2.07Edit

The time stamp says 1919.

How long can Sybil and Branson keep their secret? Carlisle puts Anna in a difficult position, Bates is left reeling from the news about Vera, and Thomas embarks on a new scheme.[57]

  • 1919, March 7 - The Canadian Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad (GTPR) is nationalised after defaulting on loan payments. The GTPR was owned by the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), headquartered in England, and in which Robert had invested a significant portion of Cora's fortune.[58] The financial impact would hit in the spring of 1920.

Episode 2.08Edit

Set in April 1919.[59]

With the wedding approaching there is excitement in the air, but will Branson's plans rattle everyone? A decisive Anna forces Bates to think about their future.[60]

  • 1919, June 28 - The Treaty of Versailles[61] is signed, officially ending the state of war between Germany and the allied powers excepting the U.S. The U.S. negotiated separate treaties principally under the Knox–Porter Resolution[62].

2011 Christmas SpecialEdit

Christmas 1919. Downton Abbey is hosting a lavish party, yet despite it being the season of goodwill, tensions are rife and Bates's arrest has cast a shadow over the festivities.[63] b

Ends early January, 1920 with the servants ball and Matthew's proposal to Mary.

  • 1920, January 16 Prohibition begins in the U.S. Mentioned by Robert in Episode 4.08, where he says "down with prohibition" and that "Harold has his uses".

Series 3 (1920–1921)Edit

Episode 3.01Edit

Spring 1920;[64] Cora's mother arrives for Matthew and Mary's wedding, but with the couple's relationship under strain will they even make it to the altar? Robert has some shocking news.[65]..

Episode 3.02Edit

In the hope of financial rescue from her American grandmother, Mary conspires with Violet to make sure Downton puts on a bigger show than ever before.[66]

Episode 3.03Edit

Edith's big day finally arrives, but will the family be convinced that Strallan's age does not matter? Mary takes matters into her own hands - but the price could be high.[67]

Episode 3.04Edit

Branson's political views land him in hot water and Sybil's loyalty is tested to the limit. Ethel is torn between head and heart as she makes a decision about her son's future.[68]

Set before 18th August, 1920.c

Episode 3.05Edit

An exciting offer for Edith divides opinion. Isobel throws Ethel a lifeline. New maid Ivy is attracting attention below stairs, and Alfred's interest is resented by Daisy.[69]

Also notable, the death of Lady Sybil in this episode.

Episode 3.06Edit

Tempers fray as Isobel's kind gesture backfires. Branson's decisions are put under scrutiny. As Bates's chance of freedom slips away, he goes to extreme lengths.[70]

Episode 3.07Edit

Anna's patience is finally rewarded. Edith has an unexpected admirer. Matthew refuses to back down over his concerns. Branson's plans for the christening cause consternation.[71]

Episode 3.08Edit

Opens prior to August 11, 1920 as Robert mentions Charles Ponzi. The scheme that now bears his name came crashing down on August 11 and he was arrested the following day.[72]

The annual cricket match brings out Robert's competitive side.d As Violet's great niece Rose arrives, a trip to London reveals there is more to her than meets the eye.[73]

  • Downton Abbey's annual cricket match with the village takes place and the house team win.
  • Rose MacClare visits Downton.
  • Edith, Rose and Matthew visit London, and stay at Rosamund Painswick's house.
  • Rose meets with Terence Margadale at the Blue Dragon club.
  • Mary and Matthew separately visit Dr. Ryder in London about their reproductive health.
  • Edith visits Michael Gregson and finds out that he has a wife, who he tells her is in an insane asylum.
  • John and Anna move into a cottage on the Downton estate.
  • Robert Crawley promotes Thomas Barrow to under butler and Jimmy Kent to first footman.
  • Ethel Parks leaves Isobel Crawley's employment to go work for a Mrs. Watson, who lives near the Bryants and her son, Charlie Parks.
  • Tom and baby Sybil are to live in Downton Abbey with the family until Sybil is older.


  • 1920, August 18 - The US ratifies the 19th amendment to the Constitution granting universal suffrage to women[74], mentioned by Robert in episode 3.04.

2012 Christmas SpecialEdit

Opens with the title card: one year later.

Set in September,[75] 1921.[76]

  • 1921, March 4 - Warren G. Harding[77] succeeds Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States. While never mentioned by name, it is his administration that is scandalised by Teapot Dome, and involving Cora's brother Harold.

The family receive a warm welcome at Duneagle Castle, visiting Rose and her parents in the Highlands. But there is no disguising the tensions between their hosts.[78]

Series 3-4 Gap (1921-1922)Edit

Series 4 (1922—1923)Edit

This series picks up six months after the end of the 2012 Christmas Special, and covers February 1922 into the summer of 1923.[79][80]

Episode 4.01Edit

Set in February 1922, six months after the death of Matthew Crawley.

Episode 4.02Edit

Opens in or after April 1922, as Jimmy says Phyllis Dare will be appearing in York after appearing in "The Lady of the Rose" in London. She appeared in this musical between February 21 and April of 1922.

  • 1922, April 15 U.S Senator John B. Kendrick introduced a resolution calling for an investigation of the Teapot Dome (Wyoming) land deal, opening the scandal involving Cora's brother Harold Levinson and the need for Robert to go to America in episode 4.07.[81]

Episode 4.03Edit

Episode 4.04Edit

Episode 4.05Edit

Episode 4.06Edit

Episode 4.07Edit

Episode 4.08Edit

  • 1922, November 4 Howard Carter[82] opens the tomb of Tutankhamun[83] in the Valley of the Kings[84], Egypt. While never mentioned in the series, this expedition was financed by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon[85], owner of Highclere Castle used as the filming location for Downton Abbey. The Crawley dogs Isis and Pharaoh allude to this connection. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon would die on April 5, 1923 of erysipelas[86] and blood poisoning contracted from an infected mosquito bite. The same condition Isobel Crawley misdiagnoses for Mr. Molesley in season one.
  • 1922, December 6 - Ireland's independence is officially recognized.[87]
  • 1923, January 1 - The North Eastern Railway (NER)[88] merges with the newly formed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)[89], the line which serves Downton Railway Station.

Christmas Special 2013Edit

Set between April and August 1923[90]; most likely May.

NotesEdit

  • a In Episode 2.05, there is a continuity error. The date of death given on William's marker at his grave reads "26/07/18"; that is, 26 July 1918. The Battle of Ameins was fought from 8–12 August 1918. Since both of these pieces of information cannot be right, it may be that William's death date should really be 26 August 1918.
  • b Jessica Brown Findlay and Allen Leech did not appear as Lady Sybil Branson and Tom Branson respectively, though it is revealed that they are now married and Sybil is pregnant.
  • c In this episode Robert says that "Tennessee is going to ratify the 19th Amendment". The ratification of the amendment happened on 18th August, 1920.[91]
  • dCricket is a sport played outdoors in the warmer months of the year generally from mid-April to September, and given that the weather in this episode looks sunny with people wearing summer clothes we can probably place this episode in the summer of 1920.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Series 1 Press Pack: "Downton is the home of the Crawleys, who have been the Earls of Grantham since 1772"
  2. In Downton Abbey: Series 2 Scripts (Official): Page 495 Julian Fellowes' notes read as "At the start of the show, set in 1912, we needed Violet to be about 70. This means she was born in 1842 and she would have come out in 1860, to enjoy a few flirtations before marriage claimed her". Thus, by these notes, we can place Violet's date of birth as 1842.
  3. The main façade of Grantham House bears the inscription "RESTITVTA ANNO DOMINI MDCCCXLIX". (2013 Christmas Special). "Restituta" means "restored"; Bridgewater House (whose exterior serves as "Grantham House" in the show, was originally built c. 1626, but was renovated by Charles Barry in the 1849s. Barry was also the architect who built Highclere Castle (which serves as "Downton Abbey") at around the same time.
  4. The Downton Abbey: Series 1 Scripts (Official) : page 71 states that Isobel is an "attractive woman in her fifties" meaning that she was born between 1853 and 1862; being born in 1853 would make her 59 and being born in 1862 would make her 50.
  5. Violet says that she was "recently married" in 1860 to Rose in an attempt to cheer her up in the 2012 Christmas Special. As well as this, she specifies that she attended her first Gillies Ball after being married in 1860. The Gillies Ball takes place in September.
  6. In Downton Abbey: Series 2 Scripts (Official): Page 7 Robert is described as "someone of fifty" indicating, as the first episode is set in 1916, that he was born in 1866.
  7. Rosamund's age is unspecified in the show, but she is either older or younger than Robert, putting her birthdate in the 1860s or 1870s.
  8. Harold's age is unspecified, but he is either older than Cora, making him born before 1868, or younger, making him born in 1869 or later.
  9. A woman has her season, typically, at 17 and, depending on whether she was born in the 1860s or 1870s, Rosamund would have been presented sometime in the late 1870s or late 1880s and married Marmaduke at some point after her season. These dates also take into account the fact that Rosamund could, like Rose, have had a late season and been in her 20s.
  10. Rosamund informs Lavinia in Series 2 that she and Marmaduke "bought the house when we were married."
  11. Downton Abbey Season 1 Press Pack: Page 7
  12. Downton Abbey Season 1 Press Pack: Page 7
  13. Episode 3.01 and 2013 Christmas Special
  14. 2013 Christmas Special: Martha confirms that Harold has not been to England since "[Cora's] wedding".
  15. Boer War
  16. Isobel, in Episode 1.02, says that she "trained to be a nurse" during the Boer War. Though she doesn't mention the war by name, it is very likely to be this war she is referring to.
  17. Bates confirms, in the 2012 Christmas Special, that the family travelled to Duneagle "every year" except for 1914 - 1918 because of the war and 1920 due to Sybil's death.
  18. This event, though happening in an undisclosed year, has to have happened at some point in the years before 1912 as Doctor Clarkson knows of Reginald's works.
  19. Doctor Clarkson says he is "familiar" with Reginald's work on Dropsy and that it is a "new procedure" in 1912, meaning the notes were published comparatively recently.
  20. George V
  21. Edward VII
  22. In Series 1 Episode 6 Violet says that Susan must have "forgotten the layout of the house" implying that it has been - at least - several years since Susan came to Downton.
  23. Downton Abbey: Episode 1 , itv Player, itv.com.
  24. Downton Abbey Series 1 Official Script: Page 29. A discussion between Murray and Robert occurs.
    • Murray: "It was right to bury Mr Crawley in Canada. In fact I hear the Canadians are making quite a thing of the Titanic cemetery."
    • Robert: "It seems strange to have buried James without Patrick."
    • Murray: "They may still find some trace of him."
    • Robert: "After three months? I doubt it. No, I'm afraid Patrick was food for the fishes long ago."
  25. Marconi scandal
  26. Isobel mentions, when they arrive at Crawley House, that Matthew liked Robert when he "met him a month ago." As the episode begins in September, the meeting took place in August.
  27. In Episode 1 Sybil says they can be "out of full mourning by September"; as they're in half mourning in Episode 2 it places the episode firmly in Spetember 1912
  28. Mary says, in Episode 1.02: "I’m afraid Papa wants to teach Granny a lesson. Poor Granny, a month ago these people were strangers - now she must share power with the mother and I must marry the son." meaning that it has been at least a month between Matthew and Isobel's arrival and the scene of Sybil and Mary discussing mourning.
  29. Downton Abbey: Episode 3 , itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  30. Fox Hunting Season
  31. Rising and setting times for the Sun in York
  32. Vernal Equinix
  33. Downton Abbey: Episode 4, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  34. Emily Davison
  35. Downton Abbey: Episode 5 , itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  36. Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  37. World War I, July Crisis
  38. Gallipoli Campaign
  39. Military Service Act
  40. This would imply that Molesley was 41 or younger in 1916. The age was extended to 51 in 1918.
  41. Ireland - Steps to independence
  42. Battle of Jutland
  43. Downton Abbey: Episode 2, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  44. United States declaration of war on Germany
  45. American entry into World War I
  46. Downton Abbey: Episode 3, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  47. Russian Revolution
  48. Nicholas II - Final months and execution
  49. Downton Abbey: Episode 4, itv Player, exact quote.
  50. Representation of the People Act
  51. Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom
  52. Killing of the Romanov family
  53. Downton Abbey: Episode 6, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  54. 1918 flu pandemic
  55. First Armistice at Compiègne
  56. Armistice Day
  57. Downton Abbey: Episode 7, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  58. Grand Trunk Railway - Bankruptcy and nationalisation
  59. In Episode 2.07 Lavinia says that She and Matthew are marrying in "April"; so Episode 2.08, when their wedding was supposed to take place, is set in April. As it is after the armistice of November 1918, this means it is 1919; as well as this, Mary says that there are "Three full days" left until the wedding, thus backing up Lavinia's words.
  60. Downton Abbey: Episode 8, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  61. Treaty of Versailles
  62. Knox–Porter Resolution
  63. Downton Abbey: Episode 1: Downton Abbey Christmas Special 2011, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  64. The title of "Spring 1920" appears on the screen, setting this in 1920
  65. Downton Abbey: Episode 1, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  66. Downton Abbey: Episode 2, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  67. Downton Abbey: Episode 3, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  68. Downton Abbey: Episode 4, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  69. Downton Abbey: Episode 5, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  70. Downton Abbey: Episode 6, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  71. Downton Abbey: Episode 7, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  72. Ponzi scheme collapses
  73. Downton Abbey: Episode 8, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  74. Universal suffrage
  75. A racy new maid, another shock for Lady Edith and simmering tension between Matthew and Lady Mary. Hold on to your hats as Downton decamps to Scotland, Nicole Lampert, dailymail.co.uk, 22:31, 21st December, 2012.
  76. The title screen for Episode 3.01 says that that episode is set in Spring 1920; the 2012 Christmas Special is, by the previous reference, confirmed to be set in September, and as this is a year after 1920, it must be 1921.
  77. Warren G. Harding
  78. Downton Abbey, itv Player, itv.com, exact quote.
  79. 'Downton Abbey' Season 4: Does Thomas tell Lady Cora about the soap incident?, Andrea Reiher, Zap 2 it, 6th August, 2013.
  80. Downton Abbey Season 4 preview gets rave reviews, ITV.com/news, 14th August, 2013. Quote: "The show will return to ITV 1 in the Autumn with the first episode set in 1922, six months after the death of Matthew Crawley in a car accident, which was revealed in last year's Christmas episode."
  81. Teapot Dome investigation
  82. Howard Carter
  83. Tutankhamun
  84. Valley of the Kings
  85. George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon
  86. Erysipelas
  87. Ireland independence
  88. North Eastern Railway
  89. London and North Eastern Railway
  90. Official Debrett's season dates
  91. 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote, National Archives, retrieved 31st August, 2013.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Timeline

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