Downton Abbey Reminiscence: The 10 Most Angelic Characters Ever

By Thursday, April 14, 2016 ,

Photo Credit: Fanpop
Well, now that we’ve discussed Downton Abbey’s worst characters, I thought we should even the scales and talk about the nicest ones as well. And to be honest, this list was a bit more difficult to compile, at least in regards to ranking them past the top three to five. Let me know how far you agree or disagree with this list! 

10. Phyllis Baxter
Baxter arrived in season 4 as Lady Cora’s new lady’s maid. Her gentle spirit and soft-spoken compassion were a breath of fresh air after the scheming spite of both of her predecessors, Sarah O’Brien and Edna Braithwaite. The only mystery about her was why she allowed Thomas Barrow to bully her into spying on the family for him, but we later find out that he was blackmailing her with his knowledge of her past prison sentence. And her kind, forgiving spirit shows its full extent in her treatment of Thomas after this plotline. Even though he cruelly used her, she remains far kinder to him than he deserves. He spurns and sneers at her attempts to encourage him, but she never gives up on him and defends him to others, even though he has unquestionably earned everyone’s dislike. I deeply admired Baxter by the end. Thomas truly did not deserve her friendship, but in the end, he became better largely because of her. 

9. Isobel Crawley
It’s true that Isobel can be rather bossy, but at her heart, she is genuinely compassionate, sees the good in everyone, and constantly looks for ways to help the less fortunate. We see her work tirelessly at the hospital, advocating for the best possible care of the patients. During the war, she volunteers with the Red Cross in France and then takes up refugee work in the war’s aftermath. She helps young Ethel Parks and many other women out of prostitution and to find their way back into decent society. Isobel’s world is considerably shaken after Matthew’s death, but she bravely forges ahead, finding purpose again as she cares for Carson’s sickly friend, Charles Grigg. She also becomes a wonderful grandmother to young George and selflessly encourages Mary to marry again. Her steady friendship with Violet and eventual marriage to Lord Merton also show her loyalty and sweet spirit, and by the end of the series, Isobel has become a firm backbone of the Crawley family right alongside Violet. 

8. Timothy Drewe
Bottom line: Lady Edith does not deserve this man’s self-sacrifice. He repeatedly fell on his own sword for her and got absolutely nothing in return, but took it with true courage. He loyally kept the secret of Marigold’s parentage, going so far as to deceive his family about her origins and raising her in his home. When Edith changed her mind and wanted Marigold back, Mr. Drewe nobly stepped aside as Edith took her and left him to manage his heartbroken family. He helped Edith make it appear that she’d simply adopted Marigold from them, and in season 6, he left the farm his family had owned for generations because everyone realized that the Drewes could not remain near Marigold without difficulty. When Mr. Drewe dejectedly agrees to leave, a torn Lord Grantham says that the Crawleys have given him and his family a very poor return for all they owe to them, and I couldn’t agree more. He was one of their best tenants and loyal to a fault. 

7. Joseph Molesley 
From comic relief to a man of real depth and courage, Mr. Molesley had quite a journey through the six seasons of Downton! He began as Matthew’s steady, reliable valet and the occasional awkward philosopher among the servants. But Matthew’s death completely upended his world, and as he struggled to find his place, Molesley’s softness and vulnerability really began to show. His interest in Daisy’s education revealed talents he was never able to pursue, and fans really began to root for him when it became clear that he’d missed so many chances in life. Though often unlucky and sometimes silly, Mr. Molesley was always kind, open, and friendly. Daisy benefited from his tutoring (more than she deserved!), and his friendship with Miss Baxter became one of the best relationships among the staff to watch. He stood up to Thomas for her, encouraged her to stop punishing herself for past mistakes, and pushed her to stand up for what’s right. I nearly cried when he got the teaching job in season 6. That happy change of luck was one of the most deserved, without question! Now let’s just hope that one of these days he gets up the nerve to ask Baxter to marry him. 

6. Lavinia Swire
Don’t freak out here. I did NOT want Lavinia to marry Matthew any more than you did, but you can’t deny that Lavinia was an incredibly kind and genuine person. She loved Matthew deeply and developed a sweet friendship with Mary, confiding in her at crucial moments. She demonstrated amazing selflessness when Matthew was injured, determined to care for him even though he wasn’t expected to recover. And when she saw that Matthew and Mary loved each other, she willingly stepped aside, telling Matthew that he ought to marry for love rather than stay with her out of duty. It was painful for her, but she never stooped to self-pity or begrudged either of them.

Photo Credit: Entertainment Wallpaper
5. Elsie Hughes
Mrs. Hughes fixes everything. No, really though. Her no-nonsense strictness is perhaps the first thing we notice about her, and that’s certainly needed in her role as housekeeper. She keeps people in line and we are grateful for it! But it’s also quickly evident that she’s deeply compassionate, especially when she goes out of her way to help Ethel Parks, the flighty housemaid who becomes pregnant in season 2, which unfortunately reduces her to a life of poverty and shame. But Mrs. Hughes is instrumental in providing for her, advising her, and eventually in pushing her to find decent work again. Season 4 also strongly emphasizes Mrs. Hughes’s dependability. Anna turns to her first after the traumatic attack from Mr. Green, and Tom Branson seeks advice from her when Edna Braithwaite tries to blackmail him. The Crawleys and their servants would have undoubtedly gone to pieces a long time ago without Mrs. Hughes. 

4. William Mason
This cheerful lad met an untimely end during World War I in season 2, but we can honestly say that he was selfless and genuine till the end. He loved Daisy unreservedly, even when she foolishly spurned him, and in the final days of his life, he persuaded her to marry him because he wanted to be sure she would be provided for. And we later hear his father tell Daisy that William also likely married her so that he wouldn’t be completely alone in the world. The very cause of William’s death was also noble – defending Matthew during a gruesome battle and taking the brunt of the injuries on himself. William’s sacrifice is consistently remembered through later seasons, as is the fact that he was the first to punch Thomas in the face, which is more than praiseworthy in itself. 

3. Matthew Crawley 
I’m kind of getting emotional even as I think about Matthew and how good he was. His loss at the end of season 3 was devastating for fans, as he had become a crucial mark of the show. He was thrust into life at Downton unexpectedly, so no one knew what to do with him at first, but he challenged the Crawleys’ prejudices and had won their hearts and ours before long. His kindness, intelligence, humor, and respect lit up the story and made him a peaceful mediator between other members of the family, especially as he’s the first to welcome Tom Branson into the family as an equal. Matthew’s commitment to the Grantham legacy as well as to adapting to the modern world assured the audience that the estate was safe with him, and his relationship with Mary remains the most special and memorable love story in the whole show. He saw the good in her when no one else did, wasn’t afraid to challenge and reprimand her when needed, and drew out softness in her that she didn’t know she had. He tapped into her vulnerable side like few could, and his influence changed her for good. Though his death was shocking and distressing, his memory remained strong in Mary and she never forgot what he did for her. Her visit to his grave at the end of season 6 demonstrates this beautifully, and not surprisingly, I was crying rivulets by the end of it. 

2. Sybil Crawley
People quibble over the goodness and badness of Mary and Edith, but no one has ever questioned the sweetness, integrity, and charm of the youngest Crawley daughter, Lady Sybil. A free spirit, quick to sympathize, and determined to leave the world a better place, Sybil captured our hearts from the first episode and had a wonderful disregard for convention that the modern audience loved. She tirelessly helped the restless housemaid, Gwen Dawson, to find a secretary job, fought for women’s rights, trained as a nurse during the war, and constantly played peacemaker between her older sisters, encouraging them to find a purpose in life. Her marriage to Tom Branson broke every societal rule of the time, but she remained openly loyal to the man she loved, helping both Tom and her family to see past their prejudices. Sybil’s death remains possibly the most harrowing, heartbreaking scene in Downton Abbey, and her memory keenly and fondly lived on as the seasons progressed. 

1. Anna Bates 
Oh, Anna. From the very first episode, we knew we could depend on her. Sweet, loyal, determined, smart, and won’t put up with nonsense. She is just so good, through and through. She’s good to Mr. Bates, standing by him through innumerable difficulties and working tirelessly to prove him innocent while he’s in prison. In her work, she’s helpful, understanding, open, pleasant, and kind to the other servants. She’s unfailingly loyal to the Crawley family and goes far beyond minimal duty, especially for Lady Mary. There is little these two wouldn’t do for one another, and Anna’s determination to love Mary and draw out the best in her during the early years is a primary reason for it. Mary knows she’s completely safe with Anna, so has no qualms about bursting into tears with her, whereas she wouldn’t dream of such a thing in front of her family. Anna knows all the secrets and where all the bodies are hidden (quite literally), and there isn’t a kinder or more trustworthy soul Mary could have picked in whom to confide it all! Anna has consistently been the sweetest character in Downton Abbey, and the long-awaited happy ending for her and Mr. Bates couldn’t have been more deserved.

Photo Credit: Fanpop

So, how did I do?! Fair? Would you change it up? Let me know! I’d love to discuss!

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  1. Honorable mention:
    Mr. Mason. He was so kind to Daisy and always seemed to give such caring advice.
    Lady Rose. One of my favorite characters. She was so loving to others. She planned the birthday party for her uncle and worked to help the Russian refugees. She even covered for her nasty father-in-law.
    Mrs. Patmore. She was very sweet to Daisy and hard-working while rarely complaining.She took a risk and helped feed the soldiers in the village. She tried to have her nephew honored for his service.

    1. Mr. Mason was certainly a patient and benevolent soul! I felt that Daisy's whiny attitude in the last season really didn't deserve him! :P His advice to her was always really timely.
      And I agree that Rose and Mrs. Patmore had great qualities too! But I was also trying to think about the ones who were consistently good and admirable as I made the list, and both of them did things that were less than impressive when we first met them, haha! Rose was very flighty and rather naughty when we first met her, and Mrs. Patmore could be pretty cruel to Daisy in the first season before they were close. But they, like almost all the characters, grew and changed in fascinating ways!