Mrs. Elsie Hughes
Housekeeper to the Crawley family
Played by Phyllis Logan
Qualities: firm, authoritative, intuitive, responsible, kind hearted
The female counterpart to Mr. Carson, Mrs. Elsie Hughes is no less a demanding boss with high standards to meet than her colleague is. Supervising all the female staff members at Downton is a rewarding responsibility in her view, and she can be as much a kind and giving counsellor as she is a tough taskmaster with the workers under her wing.
Mrs. Hughes had a life before Downton, even though it’s fading further and further away. She’s content to be needed by the Crawleys now and would never go back to her former life, even when offered a romantic chance to do so. Maybe the special bond she shares with Carson is partially to blame if she’s secretly entertaining the idea that love may bloom in her current backyard.
Ever the calm and resourceful presence, Mrs. Hughes’ personal strength was vigorously tested in Season 3. She discovered who she can rely on at a rare time when she needed more support than what her own shoulders could bear, and the knowledge could come in handy in yet another year that promises to offer more than a few unexpected crises and tricky situations.
MRS. HUGHES (on refusing to accept Joe Burns’ marriage proposal): “In many ways, I wanted to accept. But I’m not that farm girl any more. I was flattered, of course, but… I’ve changed, Mr Carson.”
MR. CARSON: “Life’s altered you, as it’s altered me. And what would be the point of living if we didn’t let life change us?”