Downton Abbey: A New Era recently came to cinemas, bringing a further plot to the intriguing period drama that audiences have grown to love. Many of the best characters returned, including Robert Crawley. Lord Grantham is kind, decent, open-minded in his own cloistered way, and a gentleman through and through. Robert loves his wife and three daughters, but when the series opens, he is revealed to be anxious for the future of his palatial estate home as it would be entailed away from his daughters.
Robert might be an aristocrat, but post-World War II society isn’t particularly kind to or understanding of an old guard like himself. Robert struggles to keep his place in society and his family estate in this fast-changing world, but he also has other disappointments in his life.
He Lost A Son
Cora Crawley got pregnant unexpectedly before she entered menopause, but suffered a miscarriage when she slipped on a piece of soap intentionally left under the bath by her obnoxious lady’s maid, Sarah O’Brien.
Robert thus lost a son after years of pining for one, and even needing one to inherit his luxurious estate. Both Robert and Cora were justifiably torn over the loss of their baby, a pregnancy whisked away as unexpectedly as it came.
He Lost His Youngest Daughter
As one of the most shocking deaths in Downton Abbey, Robert very tragically lost his youngest daughter, Sybil Crawley-Branson, who died soon after childbirth, leaving Tom with her little daughter and her parents with their first grandchild, Sybbie.
Sybil’s death left the Crawley family devastated, and even the downstairs staff was deeply affected, for Sybil was one of the most beloved members of the family. Robert was naturally heartbroken over the death of his youngest, whom he loved profoundly in spite of the many disagreements they had.
He Felt Guilty Over Sybil’s Death
Not only did Sybil die, her death also caused Robert to feel extremely guilty. It was he who had trusted a Harley street gynecologist over the local doctor, Dr. Clarkson, and refused to take Sybil’s condition seriously, shortly after which she passed away.
Robert and Cora go through a difficult phase after their daughter’s death as Cora, perhaps somewhat understandably, blames Robert for Sybil’s death. It’s not until the Dowager Countess intervenes that the two reconcile, but it’s safe to assume that Sybil’s death weighs upon Robert’s conscience.
He Made Some Bad Investments
Lord Grantham had made some very unsound investments that almost caused him to go bankrupt. Having been brought up in privilege, and not having received very good financial advice, Robert was prone to trusting investments that brought him a lot of heartache.
He was, unfortunately, not willing to trust newer, more modern forms of investment that came from his traditional ideals. A spate of bad investments when tasked with maintaining and looking after such a large estate was a constant source of anxiety to Lord Grantham, and he must have felt rather disappointed with himself.
He Was On The Verge Of Losing His Estate
In one of the best storylines in Downton Abbey, Robert’s failed investments pushed him to the verge of losing the estate and the lands in their entirety. However, since at the time, property could only be inherited by the men in the family, Matthew Crawley came to take charge, and his involvement saved the day for Downton Abbey.
Losing the house meant taking away the land that had been leased away generationally to tenant farmers who hadn’t paid their dues or yielded enough to maintain their farms. This, Robert absolutely refused to do, being vastly disconcerted at the prospect of driving out the tenants who had lived and farmed on his land for generations. Moreover, had the Crawleys lost the estate, the family would have had to leave the house and move to a smaller one, which Robert found difficult to accept.
He Considers Himself An Anachronism
Being unable to adapt to the times made Robert Crawley an anachronism. He felt as though he didn’t belong in the new world, which was fast-moving, and which ideas and modern principles he found hard to adjust to.
This was a perpetual cause of frustration to Robert who was a good, decent man, beyond his classist tendencies. Yet, the post-World War II era made Robert’s old, familiar world of aristocracy crumble all around him, causing many of the old houses to be sold, and the aristocratic culture that Robert was used to, to being destroyed.
He Was No Longer Wanted In The British Army
One of the things during the Great War that caused Robert major disappointment was being held at arm’s length by the British army, which was gearing up to dispatch fresh, young blood over to the front lines, instead of older men like Crawley.
Robert had fought in the Boer War and considered it an honor to be able to serve his country a second time. However, he was only invited to the regimental dinner as a courtesy, and this made him feel useless and sad.
He Lost His Favourite Pet
Robert’s pet dog Isis passed away from cancer. Isis was his favorite and a faithful companion that stayed by his side no matter what, probably giving him company when he felt lost otherwise.
Robert got the whole house in a whirl when Isis went missing once. It was, of course, Thomas Barrow who had snuck her away, but the fact that Robert got so wound up when he couldn’t find his favorite pet showed how much he cared for her. So naturally, he would have felt it deeply when she died.
He Has Been Very Sick
There was a great health scare in season 6 when Robert Crawley’s ulcer burst and he threw up blood all over the dinner table in his most iconic Downton Abbey scene, with his entire family, including his elderly mother, in attendance.
Robert had been warned about his stomach ulcer by the doctors and even been put on a diet by Cora. However, the ulcer finally did make itself known and Robert was hospitalized. He had to spend a long time in bed at home until the crisis was finally over.
He Possibly Feels Guilty About His Indiscretions
Robert was in involved in one of the biggest scandals on Downton Abbey, by getting involved with another woman, a housemaid who was employed at Downton Abbey briefly before she left her post following her short-lived dalliance with Lord Grantham.
For someone genuinely in love with his wife, Robert’s sudden indiscretion seemed uncharacteristic, although perhaps not entirely unrealistic. It was revealed later that he regretted his actions, when upon learning about Mary Crawley’s recklessness with the handsome Kemal Pamuk, he told her that she wasn’t the only Crawley to have made mistakes, proving there was guilt felt between Jane and Lord Grantham.
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