Sep. 26, 2010
90 min.
ITV TV Network

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Downton Abbey (UK) tv show photo

Downton Abbey (UK)

Downton Abbey is a historical drama written by Julian Fellowes. The series follows the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them in an Edwardian country house just after the turn of the 20th century.

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Cora, Countess of Grantham  Downton Abbey (UK)
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Cora, Countess of Grantham

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  Played by:
Elizabeth McGovernElizabeth McGovern
Daughter of a law professor at Northwestern, she moved with her family to Los Angeles when he transferred ...

Character Bio

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Cora Crawley (née Levinson), called The Countess of Grantham or Lady Grantham, was born in 1868 to Isidore Levinson, a Jewish millionaire dry goods merchant, and his wife Martha Levinson. Cora married Robert in 1888 at the age of 20 and is mother of Mary, Edith and Sybil. She was pressured into the marriage by her father, who wanted nothing more for his daughter than for her to marry a member of the English aristocracy (as did many Americans at the time). The marriage settlement (contract) folded her dowry into the Grantham estates, to be controlled by the head of the family, the Earl of Grantham. When she did not have a son, this meant that the bulk of her money would not pass to her daughters, but to the cousin who was the heir. The heir, Robert's cousin James, had a son, Patrick. Patrick and Lady Mary were persuaded by their parents to become engaged, so that their son would be the eventual heir, keeping the money and the title in the immediate family.

When both James and Patrick drown on the Titanic, Matthew Crawley becomes heir to the title, the estate and Cora's dowry. At first, Cora and Violet try to persuade Robert to break the entail but they learn that this will require a private Bill in Parliament which can only be passed if the estate is in danger and with Matthew's acquiescence. After that, she and Violet try to get Mary to marry Matthew. In the summer of 1914, Cora is surprised to find that she has become pregnant. However, when her maid O'Brien is mistakenly led to believe that Cora intends to replace her, she wreaks vengeance by deliberately leaving a bar of soap beside the bathtub. O'Brien soon has an attack of conscience, but before she can act Cora slips on the soap and suffers a miscarriage.

During the First World War, Cora is reluctantly convinced by Isobel Crawley to open up Downton as a convalescent home for soldiers returning from the field. Although she comes to enjoy the work, maintaining the household takes up so much of her time that she begins to neglect Robert, who briefly considers an affair with one of the housemaids. It also puts her in conflict with Isobel, whose intentions for the convalescent home were more self-serving than she would admit. However, they reconcile and combine forces to give aid to refugees after the war ends. Shortly after the war, Cora is bedridden with Spanish influenza and nearly dies before making a full recovery.

In the first series, Cora is often shown as in conflict with her mother-in-law Violet, which is attributed to the underlying difference in their cultural origins and social class: Cora is an American and daughter of nouveau riche parents, while the dowager countess is descended from English nobility. While Cora has adopted her husband's lifestyle, her character is portrayed as more forward-thinking and open-minded than that of her mother-in-law, a trait her husband and daughters attribute to her "American-ness". While historically, members of the aristocracy rarely had occupations during the time period portrayed in the series, Cora defends Matthew's decision to continue working after being named heir and later supports Sybil's choice to take up nursing.

When Sybil dies in childbirth in the third series, Cora becomes estranged from Robert due to his favouring a renowned obstetrician over Dr. Clarkson; their conflicting views on how to handle the birth presumably causes a misdiagnosis of Sybil's condition. After Violet pressures Clarkson to admit that Sybil would probably have died regardless of their efforts, Cora forgives Robert.

'Gillian Anderson' was offered this role, but she turned it down.

Episode Screenshots

01x01 - Episode 1
Season 1, Episode 01
06x07 - Episode 7
Season 6, Episode 07
03x07 - Series 3, Episode 7
Season 3, Episode 07
05x03 - Series 5, Episode 3
Season 5, Episode 03
[More Episodes]

Cora, Countess of Grantham Photos

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Previous: Robert, Earl of Grantham Next: Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
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