Mother of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham and Lady Rosamund Painswick
Played by Academy Award winner Dame Maggie Smith
Qualities: imperious, witty, acerbic, protective, devoted
She is a force to be reckoned with who has both feet planted firmly in the time honoured traditions of British noble life, while her head and heart both have their wary but ultimately adaptable eyes on social change. Widowed by the 4th Earl of Grantham, Violet was born into nobility but married without the benefit and comforts of her own wealth. While she certainly is comfortable living a life of aristocracy and adding her own extra-stiffness to the upper crust, at the core, Violet is a down to earth, practical, loyal and loving grandmother.
Weathering fast-moving change, challenges to family unity, the horrors of war, sudden tragedies and sweet triumphs, Violet is at her most slyly resourceful in the midst of crisis. When convictions change or a deserved comeuppance is dealt, you can bet she’s at the bottom of its orchestration.
A master of withering glances, double takes and sharp-tongued put downs wrapped in sparkling bon mots, the Dowager Countess is the gravitational centre of the Crawley family. Dinner conversation would never have the same crackle without her.
Violet (to Cora): “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her, I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”
Matthew: “But isn’t she American?”