Downton Abbey Reminiscence: The 10 Most Loathsome Characters Ever

By Wednesday, April 06, 2016 ,

Photo Credit: Fanpop
It’s been about a month since the curtain closed on Downton Abbey, and now that I’ve shared some fun finds and my favorite quotes from the final season, as well as an initial review of season 6, I’ll now just be dipping back into Downton every so often to reminisce. Obviously, there will never be a shortage of things to discuss! I expect more thoughts on season 6 to arise before too long. 

Today’s post is inspired by a similar list on Vulture. I found it quite amusing, so decided to try my own. Downton Abbey is known for its classiness, glamorous costumes, historical depth, romantic drama, and family dynamics, but it’s certainly never been all smiles and roses. There have been some pretty despicable characters through the seasons, so it was honestly difficult to narrow it down to these ten and rank them appropriately! Let me know what you think or who you might have listed! 

10. Susan MacClare, Marchioness of Flintshare (Lady Rose’s mother) 
The first time we met Lady Flintshare was in the season 3 Christmas special when the Crawleys visited Rose’s family in their sprawling Scotland kingdom. Rose and her mother knock heads, largely due to Susan’s parental fear that results in micromanagement of Rose’s every move. But her nastiness crosses a line in season 5 when Rose prepares to marry Atticus Aldridge. Because Atticus is Jewish, Susan is convinced that this marriage would be the nail in the MacClares’ society coffin since they’ve already lost their fortune and position. So she goes so far as to make it look like Atticus has taken up with a prostitute only days before the wedding and then to announce her and her husband’s imminent divorce mere minutes before the ceremony. Fortunately, everyone escapes the ordeals unscathed, but tension thrums and we applaud Rose and her father for the biting set-downs they deliver. 

9. Craig (Mr. Bates’s cell mate)
Little history is given on Mr. Craig, but we do know that he was in cahoots with a dishonest police officer at the jail who was against Mr. Bates. And we know that they ganged up on him, first trying to frame Bates for drug possession, and then tried a few other tricks to make sure he would stay in prison. Worst of all was when they scared a witness out of giving the testimony that would free him. We have Mr. Bates’s slightly violent streak to thank for setting Craig straight. 

8. Amelia Cruikshank
As Granny says, what a “cool little miss.” First, let’s just talk about the fact that she married Larry Grey. By choice. More on him later because yes, he’s on this list too. But it was quickly apparent that Amelia married him because she’s just like him, which is rather scary. At first, she wants Mrs. Isobel Crawley to marry Lord Merton because she’d be a convenient help to get him off her and Larry’s hands, but then when they think he’s dying, Amelia cuts off all communication between them. Major points for Violet where this little snit is concerned. No one messes with the Dowager, Miss Cruikshank. You are a rank amateur and we wish you a long and miserable life in your massive, drafty house with your snake of a husband. 

7. Sir Richard Carlisle
Newspaper spy, narcissistic business executive, and a manipulative, scheming blackmailer. In season 2, Lady Mary forces herself into a courtship with Sir Richard in an attempt to put Matthew behind her, and sincerity is immediately lacking in him even though he’s a good money match. But we began wishing him death when he forcefully grabbed and pushed Mary against a wall, threatening to publicly shame her about her ill-fated affair with Kemal Pamuk if she dared cross him in the future. It’s a chilling moment that makes you realize he’d probably be more than emotionally abusive if she married him, and we can’t thank Matthew enough for socking him in the face by the end of the season. 

6. Edna Braithwaite
Speaking of manipulators, how about this evil woman? Even Thomas Barrow called her a witch, and that’s quite a feat, I must say. Her shaming of Tom Branson and then seduction and blackmailing of him are easily among the top crimes committed within the walls of Downton Abbey. Thank heavens for Mrs. Hughes. That is all. 

Photo Credit: Crazy HD Source
 5. Larry Grey
Yes, Amelia’s husband cracks the top five for me. Larry is smug, self-absorbed, and has a highly inflated view of class. Perhaps most memorably, he viciously spikes Tom Branson’s drink during Mary and Matthew’s engagement dinner, rendering Tom a drunken fool before half the county. And that was after several rude comments about Tom’s marriage to Sybil, spiting him for marrying across classes. Yada yada yada. But his obsession with distinction of rank continues unabated, for he ruins yet another dinner in season 5 when he grossly insults Isobel for her engagement to his father, Lord Merton. He also manages to insult Atticus, Rose’s husband-to-be, in this same speech for being Jewish. It’s here that Tom Branson “slips into a foreign tongue” (thank you, Granny) as he leaps to his feet and thunders at him to get out, and we’re only too glad of it. 

4. Vera Bates
We hear some about Mr. Bates’s estranged first wife in early episodes, but when we meet her in season 2, it’s not long before we want to push her off a cliff. Malicious, calculating, and controlling, (and maybe legitimately psycho) she’s determined to make sure Mr. Bates is unhappy because she simply takes joy in persecuting him. No, he and Anna may not be happy together because she’s not happy, and how dare he be happy when she’s not?! Even after she’s cheated on him, she does everything she can to prevent the divorce, even threatening to use Lady Mary’s illicit affair with Pamuk as blackmail. But her crowning misdeed is framing Bates for murdering her as she commits suicide. She wants to ensure he will pay, even after she’s dead. I know we’ve all said it, but it’s worth repeating: thank goodness for patient, longsuffering Anna! 

3. Thomas Barrow
It might seem mean to have Thomas on here since our most recent impression of him was a rather redeemed Thomas and since he was depressed for much of the last season, but none of that excuses his conduct in every other season. From the very first episode, he was one of the most consistently cold-blooded, manipulative, duplicitous, cowardly, venomous characters in all of Downton Abbey. His crimes include, but are not limited to (get ready): bullying younger footman William Mason, pretending to like Daisy to toy with her and to spite William, stealing Lord Grantham’s snuff box and a bottle of wine and then framing Mr. Bates for them, mocking and badmouthing Mr. Bates for his limp, making fun of William for grieving his mother’s death, imperiously bossing around anyone he possibly can, blatant disrespect of the Crawleys behind their backs, scheming to get Mr. Bates fired, a contemptibly uncaring attitude about Lady Grantham’s sudden miscarriage, getting shot in the hand on purpose during the war so he could be “invalided” out of duty, buying and trading on the black market, hiding and then “finding” Lord Grantham’s dog, ridiculing Mr. Bates’s unjust prison sentence, deceiving Alfred into embarrassing errors in his work, unwelcome advances on Jimmy, scheming with Edna Braithwaite to make Anna and Bates lose favor with Lady Grantham, hinting to Lord Grantham that Tom Branson had been inappropriately carrying on with Sarah Bunting, bullying and blackmailing Miss Baxter with her past criminal record, and generally wheedling and sneaking of information so as to constantly have dirt to dish on different people whenever it strikes his fancy or feels it could benefit him. And he wonders in season 6 why he has no friends. Really? 

2. Sarah O’Brien
Similar to Thomas, O’Brien hates most people for no apparent reason, scheming and manipulating and wheedling information to use against anyone she can simply because it’s fun and might benefit her. She’s constantly out to get Anna and Bates and even writes to the vindictive Vera to give information on them. She also pries heavily into the Pamuk scandal, pressuring Daisy to share what she saw, involving Edith in finding out details, and all for what? Just because she wants to know and would enjoy seeing Mary publicly humiliated. But her worst deed is easily the wickedest thing any steady character in Downton Abbey has ever done – the soap. Only Thomas ever knows the full truth of how she moved a bar of soap on the floor so that Lady Cora would slip and fall when stepping out of the bath, resulting in a miscarriage. O’Brien feels remorseful forever after, but it’s still never quite forgivable. 

1. Alex Green 
Do we really need to say much about this guy? He raped Anna, which is more than enough to make us wish him a slow, painful death. But then we find out he actually raped many women before Anna, and his crimes caused many painful aftereffects on them, even after he died. Many were subjected to police interrogation, and of course, Anna was suspected and wound up in prison for a few months. 

Whew! And these are only the very worst. How do you take this list? Would you rearrange it or replace anyone with someone else? I’d love to hear! 

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  1. Great job! I think you got those about right. And I agree about Thomas; he really was awful for the whole series. Maybe not completely evil, but I did not like that woman who tried to get involved with Lord Grantham. What was she thinking? What was he thinking?

    1. Haha, thanks, Lynn! I thought hard about how to rank them! :P And yes, even though I was more okay with Thomas in the very last episode, I couldn't completely feel sorry for him after he'd been so horrible throughout the whole show. And I agree about that lady in season 2! The maid named Jane, right?! She wasn't a *bad* person, but certainly not wise or very likable either! I was glad to see the back of her!

  2. Another on my list would be schoolteacher Sarah Bunting. Just couldn't keep her mouth shut. Sooo
    rude to her host. It's OK if you don't agree, but don't sit at their table, eat their food,
    drink their alcohol and start spouting your personal beliefs that are opposite from you host. Just shut up. Save your political speeches for rallys.
    And, Jane was nothing compared to Edna.
    But Lynn, you really nailed it!!
    Now, I realize I'm 5 years behind you guys, but I love this show so much, I ordered a complete
    series and am even now in the process of watching it completely, for the 7th time. I just CAN'T
    get enough!!!