Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, has been on quite a journey since we met her in September 2010.
We first met her in the context of Downton Abbey’s changing fortunes. With the sudden death of her cousins James and Patrick on the ill-fated Titanic, the future of the estate is uncertain as no immediate family member is alive to inherit. A distant cousin, Matthew Crawley, is identified as the new rightful heir, but his introduction to Downton Abbey is met with a frosty reception from Lady Mary who feels threatened by his sudden inclusion into the family and his, in her eyes, unjustified inheritance of the Crawley fortune. However, the couple gradually warm to each other, and Mary’s gentler side begins to emerge and, with time, grows into genuine affection and ultimately, deep love for Matthew.
But the path of love is not smooth and following Mary’s initial spurning of Matthew’s advances, he becomes engaged to Lavinia Swire. In an unkind twist following the scandal with Kemal Pamuk, Mary too becomes betrothed to newspaper magnate Sir Richard Carlisle. These setbacks serve only to remind the couple of their intense love for each other, and finally, following the death of Lavinia Swire from the Spanish Flu epidemic and the dramatic break up of Mary’s engagement, the pair wed at the beginning of series three. Not only is Mary relieved that the future of Downton Abbey is secure, but she finds a happiness she could never have imagined.
Light, romantic and intimate moments abound throughout series three, as the couple fall ever deeper in love, plan their future and start a family. Mary’s maternal side is shown in the final moments of series three as she and Matthew gaze upon their new baby and heir to the Downton Abbey estate, George. But this blissful happiness is most cruelly cut short with the shocking death of Matthew in a horrific car accident on this way home from the hospital. So now, at the beginning of series 4, Mary’s emotional state could not be farther removed from those blissful, newlywed days.
From wedding dress to mourning dress, we meet Lady Mary six months after her husband Matthew’s untimely death. Left to raise their baby alone, she must not only face the fact that Downton Abbey no longer has a secure future, but endeavor to rebuild her live without her beloved husband and attempt to establish her new role within the running of the estate. As we meet Mary at the start of series 4, this is a task that she finds overwhelming, undesirable and unachievable.
“Normally three months after someone’s passed away the women would start to change into lilacs and greys and purples but Mary is refusing, even after six months, to change out of anything but black,” says Michelle Dockery of Mary.
During the series, the family and staff, concerned about her welfare, endeavour to lift her out of her grief through various meetings and parties with new people. But she cannot think of anything, or anyone, but Matthew.
However, although her character has changed dramatically, from the settled and happy Mary Crawley of series three, Dockery says that Matthew’s death has opened up new opportunities for her character:
“Initially, when we read the storyline with Matthew’s death we all thought, ‘What will happen now?’ But it has taken things down a completely different avenue. Series four is a complete contrast to series three. And I’m still discovering so many sides to her character.”
Mary’s relationship with Lord Grantham has also changed. Prior to his death it was up to Matthew to challenge Lord Grantham’s antiquated views about the management of the estate, but now, the baton passes to Mary.
“She puts up a fight when she thinks that he’s making the wrong decision,” says Dockery. “So that’s another lovely aspect of the story for me.”
Another new side to Dockery’s character is shown this series, as Mary is now a mother. While at the end of series three, we leave her with her newborn baby, the beginning of series four sees her grapple with her new responsibility as a parent.
With such a wealth of new developments for Lady Mary, series four looks set to be her most dramatic series to date.