Best and Worst Women of Downton Abbey

With only three episodes left in Downton Abbey series 4, American audiences are in full period drama mode. Having already listed the best and worst men of the series, it felt only right to also do the same for the ladies of Downton Abbey. Who is the finest and foulest of them all? Warning: spoilers through series 4, episode 6.

So let’s begin with the best of the Abbey

5. Sybil Crawley

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

We all know that she was the best sister. Sybil was unfailingly compassionate to all, confident and beautiful. She stood up for her beliefs and her man, even when her own family was (wrongly) opposed to both. We cheered for her and loved her like she was our own sister and her loss is still deeply felt.

4. Anna Bates

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

Whether it’s her adorable smile or her persistent yet sweet (and successful) pursuit of Bates, everyone has always had a soft spot for Anna. She makes us all feel as though she is our friend, which made her being attacked this season especially heartbreaking. There is no kinder, gentler and more loving soul in all of Downton, and I sincerely hope she gets her much-deserved happy ending.

3. Mary Crawley

Photo: Daily Mail
Photo: Daily Mail

The eldest Crawley daughter has the kind of sarcastic demeanour that we all secretly admire. Plus, her determination, confidence and passion make her relatable to us 21st century women. While she’s had her momentary lapses, especially when it came to men, Mary has never failed to garner our respect, sympathy and highest regard.

2. Mrs. Hughes

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

Definitely the mother figure to the downstairs folk, she’s the go-to secret keeper and problem solver. She fiercely defends both the staff and the family from outside and inside ne’er-do-wells. Though the line between right and wrong is often blurred, Mrs. Hughes always seems to find the happy medium to do what’s best.

1. The Dowager Countess

Photo: The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

If everyone’s favorite grandmother were not at the top of this list it would be an abomination. Violet holds her family together through disasters big and small with an indefatigable strength. She’s also an enduring force of reason, surprisingly full of compassion and acceptance, and never fails to have the best lines in every episode.

Honorable Mention: Cora Crawley

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

She’s a supportive mother, is always helping to put Robert in the right and is eternally forgiving. However, she also has truly appalling taste in lady’s maids.

And now on to the Worst Women of Downton:

5. Daisy

Photo: Downton Abbey Wikia
Photo: Downton Abbey Wikia

When will this girl grow up? Yes, she’s had her better moments, like agreeing to marry the dying William and helping Alfred with his cooking. However, she’s also always hung up on the wrong guy (like Thomas), is perpetually naive and incessantly whiney. Give it a rest already, Daisy, and let Mrs. Patmore pick out a man for you.

4. Nanny West

Photo: Downton Abbey Wikia
Photo: Downton Abbey Wikia

Though her time at Downton was brief, her mistreatment of little Sybbie is enough to earn her a spot on this list. She showed her true terrible nature when she was caught calling the adorable toddler a “wicked little cross-breed.” Thankfully she was quickly fired but there’s no knowing how else she may have further neglected Sybbie in favor of doting on baby George.

3. Vera Bates

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

This woman took vindictiveness to a whole new level. She framed her husband for her own suicide, which she committed by intentionally eating rat poison. Prior to that she swooped back into Mr. Bates’ life just to wreak havoc in his own and his relationship with Anna and to blackmail him. Vera’s only hobby was making everyone else miserable it seems.

2. Edna Braithwaite

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

She weaseled her way back into the Abbey after she’d been dismissed before. She resumed being a perpetual voice of doubt in Tom’s ear, then got him drunk and then seduced him all in an attempt to force him to marry her. Her departure was cause for much cheering amongst everyone, which Mrs Hughes helped to happen in order to protect Branson.

1. Ms. O’Brien

Photo: PBS
Photo: PBS

Spiteful and horrid to the very end, this lady’s maid was loathed by all except her ladyship. Cora might’ve changed her mind had she known that O’Brien was a strong contributor to the lady’s miscarriage. O’Brien was despicable enough to make us feel pity for Thomas after she thoroughly manipulated him and nearly cost him his job. Now that’s wickedness at its most powerful.

Honorable Mention: Edith Crawley

Photo: Downton Abbey Wikia
Photo: Downton Abbey Wikia

Oh Edith, you poor middle child. You’ve tried so hard to be good, like when you learned to drive and started writing for a newspaper. But you also kissed that random married farmer and now you’ve gotten pregnant from your affair with another married man. I just don’t know what to do with you.

Do you agree with my list? Did I leave anyone off who really deserved recognition for their loveliness or their awfulness?

Stephanie Coats
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