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In Memoriam: Remembering everyone who died on 'Downton Abbey'

With "Downton Abbey" coming to an end on Sunday after six extremely entertaining, occasionally absurd and frequently very moving seasons, we decided to take a look back at the many, many characters, both human and otherwise, who've gone gently into that good night since the series began with the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1912. Cue the Sarah McLachlan, bust out the Kleenex and take a trip down memory lane with us.


Titanic departs Southampton, England, on April 2, 1912.
Titanic departs Southampton, England, on April 2, 1912. (Associated Press)

James Crawley

Who: Lord Grantham's paternal cousin, closest male relative and heir to Downton Abbey

When: April 15, 1912

How: The sinking of the Titanic

Tragedy factor: Low. So what if he drowned in the icy waters of the North Atlantic? It's not like we knew the guy.


Lifeboats carry survivors of the real-life sinking of the the Titanic.
Lifeboats carry survivors of the real-life sinking of the the Titanic. (N.Y. Herald Syndicate)

Patrick Crawley

Who: James' son, Mary's fiance and the next in line to inherit the estate.

When: April 15, 1912

How: The sinking of the Titanic

Tragedy factor: Also low. If he'd lived, Matthew Crawley never would have inherited Downton, or fallen in love with Mary! Sorry Patrick! (And, unlike Lady Edith, we're going to assume that guy who showed up in Season 2 with the scarred face claiming to be Patrick was an impostor because, come on.)


The death of Kemal Pamuk (Theo James) mid-coitue became a major problem for Lady Mary
The death of Kemal Pamuk (Theo James) mid-coitue became a major problem for Lady Mary (PBS)

Kemal Pamuk

Who: A dashing Turkish diplomat and friend of Evelyn Napier

When: Spring 1913

How: A heart attack…while in bed with Lady Mary

Tragedy factor: Moderate. He and Mary shared some serious chemistry, and the fallout from his death would have a ripple effect on the plot for several seasons to come


Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) with his trusty yellow lab, Pharaoh.
Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) with his trusty yellow lab, Pharaoh. (PBS)

Pharaoh

Who: Lord Grantham's first beloved Labrador retriever

When: Sometime between 1914 and 1916

How: Unknown

Tragedy factor: Negligible. No one even noticed.


The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria had a major effect on "Downton Abbey" -- and the world.
The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria had a major effect on "Downton Abbey" -- and the world. (Associated Press)

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

Who: Okay, so he wasn't a character on the show, exactly, but he was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his death triggered World War I, and certainly affected everyone on Downton Abbey

When: June 28, 1914

How: Shot by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb

Tragedy factor: Vast. A whole lot of people died during the war. (See below.)


Archibald "Archie" Philpotts

Who: Mrs. Patmore's nephew

When: Circa 1917

How: Shot for cowardice after deserting his post in the war

Tragedy factor: Minor. We never meet Archie and only learn about his fate many years after it's happened. But Mrs. Patmore sure was upset about it.


Footman William Mason died a hero's death.
Footman William Mason died a hero's death. (PBS)

William Mason

Who: Sweet-natured second footman at Downton Abbey

When: July 26, 1918

How: Lung injuries sustained in France after throwing himself in front of Matthew

Tragedy factor: High. Knowing that he faced certain death, William proposed to Daisy, Downton's scullery maid and the object of his long-unrequited affection, so that she could receive his pension. Daisy accepted even though she wasn't in love, and the two exchanged vows a few hours before he passed away peacefully in his sleep. Sorry, gotta go, these onions I'm chopping are making me tear up!


Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley and Zoe Boyle as Lavinia Swire. Rest in peace, you crazy kids.
Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley and Zoe Boyle as Lavinia Swire. Rest in peace, you crazy kids. (Nick Briggs / PBS)

Lavinia Swire

Who: Matthew's impossibly selfless but super-boring fiancé

When: April 1919

How: Spanish flu

Tragedy factor: Lower than it should be, given the dramatic circumstances: Days before her wedding, Lavinia walks in on Mary and Matthew mid-makeout. Awkward! She then comes down with the flu and quickly succumbs, but not before telling Matthew that he and Mary truly belong together. Would have been much sadder if the saintly Lavinia had been a fully-realized human rather than a plot device invented to keep Mary and Matthew apart.


Vera, the first Mrs. Bates (Maria Doyle Kennedy), was a real piece of work.
Vera, the first Mrs. Bates (Maria Doyle Kennedy), was a real piece of work. (Nick Briggs / PBS)

Vera Bates

Who: Evil first wife of Downton's valet, John Bates

When: November 1918

How: In an elaborate plot to frame her estranged husband for murder, Vera committed suicide by consuming a homemade pie baked with rat poison (as you do).

Tragedy factor: Moderate. Vera was a genuinely terrible person and all, but her death triggered years of legal woes for the chronically unlucky Bates and his second wife, Anna -- and frustration for viewers.


Daniel Pirrie as Major Charles Bryant.
Daniel Pirrie as Major Charles Bryant. (Nick Briggs / PBS)

Maj. Charles Bryant

Who: Posh soldier who convalesced at Downton Abbey and impregnated housemaid Ethel

When: Late 1918

How: Killed in battle shortly before the armistice

Tragedy factor: Moderate. Maj. Bryant was a cad, but after he died, Ethel turned to prostitution to support her son.


Reggie Swire

Who: A wealthy London solicitor and father of Lavinia, Matthew's doomed fiancé

When: Late December 1919

How: Unspecified illness

Tragedy factor: So low as to be almost negative. In one of "Downton Abbey's" most ludicrous subplots, Swire bequeathed his fortune to Matthew, the guy who broke his daughter's heart while she was dying of the flu. But hey, his money saved the family from ruin! Win-win!


Sybil and Tom Branson with their newborn baby daughter, just before things took a turn for the worse.
Sybil and Tom Branson with their newborn baby daughter, just before things took a turn for the worse. (Carnival Films)

Sybil Branson, née Crawley

Who: Kind-hearted, politically active youngest daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham and wife of Thomas Branson, former chauffeur at Downton Abbey

When: Spring 1920

How: Complications from childbirth

Tragedy factor: Extreme. We're talking "Steel Magnolias" levels of sad, so heartbreaking that it made the usually cold and cunning Thomas weep like a baby. The tragedy was compounded by the sense it might have been avoidable: Dr. Clarkson correctly diagnosed her preeclampsia but was ignored by Lord Grantham and the fancy London doctor he'd hired (though it's later revealed nothing could have saved her).


Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley
Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley (Matthew Lloyd / For The Times)

Matthew Crawley

Who: Lady Mary's husband and the heir to Downton Abbey (duh!)

When: September 1921

How: Car accident

Tragedy factor: So off-the-charts heartbreaking, bordering on sadistic, that some of us still haven't recovered. Matthew managed to survive the war and miraculously recover from a spinal cord injury only to be killed in a car accident on his way home from the hospital just hours after meeting his newborn son, George, for the first time. Did we mention that the episode aired on Christmas Day in the U.K.?

 


Nigel Harman as Lord Gillingham's evil valet, Alex Green
Nigel Harman as Lord Gillingham's evil valet, Alex Green (Nick Briggs / Carnival Films for Masterpiece)

Alex Green

Who: Lord Gillingham's valet

When: August 1922

How: Pushed into traffic in Piccadilly Circus -- but not by Anna

Tragedy factor: Low. The guy who brutally raped Anna got what was coming to him, even if -- sigh -- his death created yet another round of legal worries for the Bateses.


Charles Edwards as Lady Edith's doomed lover, Michael Gregson.
Charles Edwards as Lady Edith's doomed lover, Michael Gregson. (Nick Briggs / PBS)

Michael Gregson

Who: Editor of the society magazine The Sketch and Lady Edith's boyfriend/baby-daddy

When: November 1923

How: Killed by a gang of Nazi thugs during the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, where he'd gone to establish German citizenship so that he could divorce his insane wife and marry Edith (long story, OK?)

Tragedy factor: High. Gregson died before Edith could tell him she was pregnant. She gave birth in secret and gave her daughter, Marigold, up for adoption -- only to change her mind and bring her to Downton.

Isis
Isis (PBS)

Isis

Who: Lord Grantham's second beloved Labrador retriever

When: Mid-1924

How: Cancer

Tragedy factor: Medium-High. Grantham seriously loved that dog, despite the unfortunate modern connotations of her name.


Charlie Rogers

Who: Henry Talbot's racing buddy

When: July 1925

How: Car crash during race at Brooklands

Tragedy factor: Minimal. The only reason the character existed was to die and make Mary freak out about Henry. Mission accomplished.


Peter Pelham, the Sixth Marquess of Hexham

Who: Bertie's "delicate," "lyrical" cousin and the owner of Brancaster Castle

When: August 1925

How: Malaria, contracted while in Tangiers

Tragedy factor: Minimal. Bertie was sad, but with one mosquito bite, he's gone from a modest estate agent to a super rich aristocrat! To quote Lord Grantham, "Golly gumdrops, what a turn-up!"

Follow @MeredithBlake on Twitter.

MORE:

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