| William Mason |
|Died||26th July 1918|
|Residence||Downton Abbey, Downton (formerly)|
|Military career|| Private |
|Family|| Mr Mason (father) |
Mrs. Mason (mother) †
Daisy Mason nee Robinson (wife; widow)
|Occupation|| Second Footman (formerly)|
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by||Thomas Howes|
William's parents had three other sons and one daughter that all died in their early infancy. He was their only surviving child. Despite his own wish to be a groom due to his natural affinity with horses, his mother was determined that he would one day be a butler and so he became a footman to please her.
William's general disposition was kind, easy-going and generally acquiescent, which usually allowed Thomas, the first footman, to push him around and do most of the work for footmen in the household. He was known to play the piano in the servants' hall during their downtime in the evenings.
When William's mother was taken ill with a heart condition, even though she was told that her condition would prove fatal within a short period of time, she refused to allow anyone to tell William, believing that his continuing with his duties at Downton was more important. Isobel Crawley, conflicted about honoring her wishes in the face of knowing how much her death being a surprise would hurt William, confided in Cora and Mary Crawley about the issue. Cora agreed with Isobel that a patient's wishes are paramount, but Mary was determined to find a way for William to be told. During a chance conversation with William when her horse came up lame after a ride, she told him that she's overheard "someone" in the village mentioning that his mother hadn't been well and arranged that he should visit her immediately, rather than waiting until the family had gone to London for the season. She did not tell him how serious his mother's illness was; only made him think that she was arranging the matter out of gratitude and that "it would cheer her to see [him]". William was able to say his final farewell to his mother before her death, but still remained very upset over it.
After the family returns from the Season, William tries to bear up as best he can under the weight of grief from his mother's death. Thomas, however, needles him about it, thinking that wearing one's emotions so openly makes them soft and vulnerable. After Cora's miscarriage, Thomas actually provokes William to physical violence by making nasty remarks about William's reaction to the event: Thomas states in front of most of the servants that if William is so broken up by the loss of a child that hadn't even been born yet, it was no wonder his mother's death had crushed him. While most of the servants look on in shock in the wake of Thomas' grossly insensitive statement, William punches Thomas and the two have to be wrestled apart.
Unbeknownst to William, Violet Crawley had used her position as Dowager Countess of Grantham to write to the Army Medical Examiners, advising that William had a skin condition which would prevent him from going to war, and so they should not bother with calling him up for recruitment. Her intention was to prevent William's father from potentially losing his last child in the war.
William meanwhile had wanted to enlist voluntarily, but did not because his father was against the idea. This made William angry, though he did not rebel against his father's wishes, even after being given a white feather of cowardice by a pair of local activist women at a concert Downton Abbey was hosting to raise money for the war effort.
Violet's action to protect him was undone, however, by a conversation had between Dr. Clarkson and Isobel Crawley: Violet had included a report about Matthew Crawley's valet, Joseph Molesley, having a lung condition in the same letter that had reported William's alleged skin condition. Isobel knew Violet's statements to be false and told Dr. Clarke, who sent notice to the Army at once. Only William's information was corrected, since Molesely later spoke privately with Clarkson and lied to him that Violet's statements about his condition were, in fact, true. William was later called up for military service.
William had been sweet on one of Downton's kitchen maids, Daisy Robinson, ever since he came to Downton. On the night that he was given the white feather, she found him in the servants' hall after everyone had gone up, and tried to cheer him up with a kiss. According to Daisy, the kiss was only intended to be playful, but William immediately seized the opportunity and asked her to be his sweetheart. Daisy didn't know how to refuse him outright, but never openly said no to the idea either.On his last night before shipping out to France, William came to stay at Downton and say his farewells to the staff. He also intended to propose marriage to Daisy and had asked her to have a picture of herself taken for him. Unbeknownst to him, Daisy felt that she didn't feel for him as he did for her, and wanted to break off what she felt to be a sham relationship. Mrs Patmore, however, was fearful that William would be killed in the war if Daisy did so and transferring some of the emotional backlash of her own nephew's death during the war onto William (who was probably around the same age). She made Daisy feel guilty and browbeat her into continuing the relationship whenever Daisy tried to bring up her reasons for calling it off, and when William did finally corner Daisy to propose, Mrs Patmore trapped her further by saying that Daisy had told her she'd wanted William to propose (which was exactly the opposite of Daisy's stated feelings on the matter). Unable to fight both William's hope and Mrs Patmore's interference, Daisy accepted his proposal. William announced their engagement to the servants that evening, and wanted to marry her as soon as possible; Daisy insisted they marry after the war. William carried Daisy's picture with him to the war, happily believing that she loved him.
Robert Crawley, responding to his own concerns as well as those of his family and servants, prevailed upon Matthew Crawley to take William on as his soldier servant whilst out on the front, since Matthew's position in the military allowed him one. At one point, shortly before they were to return to Downton on leave, William and Matthew were trapped behind enemy lines during a routine patrol. Daisy had been expecting William to come straight to Downton, and so raised her concerns about them to Mrs Hughes. The family and servants' concerns about them were alleviated, however, when William and Matthew appeared at a concert being held at Downton for the morale of the men convalescing there.
The reprieve and relief were short-lived, however. During a battle, William threw himself in front of Matthew to save him from an enemy shell. Matthew's spine was bruised and he was temporarily paralysed from the waist down, but William was fatally injured due to unspecified damage to his lungs caused by the blast. Because he was an enlisted man, he was taken to the hospital in Leeds, where the doctors determined that he did not have long to live.
Once again, Violet Crawley used her position as Dowager Countess to intervene, both for William's sake and his father's. When her attempts to convince Dr. Clarkson to have William transferred to Downton failed, she called upon her niece Susan's husband, Hugh MacClare, the Marquess of Flintshire, to use his position in the Foreign Office to arrange the transfer. Everyone in the family and staff knew that William was dying, but his father was not made immediately aware and only came to understand it as his son's time drew near.
Knowing that he was dying, William wanted to marry Daisy so that she could have whatever benefits would be awarded to widows of those killed by the fighting; he stated he wanted her to always be taken care of. His secondary reason, deduced by his father and revealed to Daisy after his death by his father, was that by marrying him, Daisy would essentially become another child for his father, so he wouldn't be alone in the world. Daisy was against taking this step, feeling it would be terribly deceitful, but could not convince William not to marry her. The rest of the staff at Downton practically carried Daisy through the necessary preparations, and Violet Crawley browbeat the local priest into performing the ceremony. William and Daisy were married shortly before he died of his injuries, passing peacefully away on the 26th July 1918.
After William's death his father, Mr Mason and his widow Daisy develop a close relationship, being like father and daughter to one another. He gives her advice when she needs it and tells her that one day he wants her to inherit his farm and come to live with him so he can teach her how to run it.
Anna Bates and Mrs Hughes fondly mention him later; Anna says that it is "nice to have another piano player in the house" and wonders if it is "too soon" after Lady Sybil's death, but Mrs Hughes thinks it is not.
Behind the scenes Edit
- Actor Thomas Howes who is a trained pianist, suggested to the Downton Abbey writer and creator Julian Fellowes, that his character William to play the piano in some of Downton Abbey's scenes.
- 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, July 26th, 1918. The Battle of Ameins was fought from August 8th - 12th, 1918. Since both of these pieces of information cannot be right, it may be that William's death date should really be August 26th, 1918