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Lady Edith: Sex and the Single Girl

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And, of course, it is incredibly unusual to get pregnant from a single one-off sexual encounter.

As it is to have your first sexual partner die during climax and your sister and brother-in-law die on the same day they become parents.

 

The rich are truly different.

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As I remember it that scene where Lord and Lady Grantham predict Edith being an old maid, begins with the two of them talking about Mary and Sybil and then Cora says, "Why don't we ever discuss Edith?" (Very telling, I think.) Then they go on to the speculation that she'll be an old maid and end up taking care of them in their old age. Lord Grantham groans at the thought and says something along the lines of "Lord help me," and then they both chuckle. That, plus a scene where Edith talks of her father coming to the nursery and his eyes always seeking out Mary first, added to Carson freely admitting always liking Mary best, gives me a picture of a very sad little girl.Edith must have always been aware that the people around her weren't often thinking of her and when they did it wasn't in a particularly loving way. The fact that Mary seemed to always delight in rubbing in the fact that she was the favorite wouldn't have helped. We saw that Mary went so far as to look for opportunities to demonstrate how easily she could capture the interest of any man Edith was talking to. It may not add up to abuse, but I expect many a poor child who was occasionally spanked and sent to bed hungry had a happier life if she felt cherished by her family

That isn't exactly what happened.

First of all it's Robert who asks about Edith. I already think this is an important distinction because people regularly claim that Robert ignores Edith, doesn't think about her, doesn't care and yet here is an example of him thinking that maybe they need spend more time on her. I feel like it's obvious that the care and concern is there.

Cora says that she's afraid that Edith will be the daughter who looks after them in old age. People who have a low opinion of the character of Robert assume that his comment about that being a "ghastly prospect" is about it being a ghastly prospect for Robert and Cora as opposed to it being a ghastly prospect for Edith. Considering that Robert and Cora would be the ones being cared for in this hypothetical scenario it makes sense to me that Edith being the caregiver/spinster would be the one in the ghastly situation.

Neither character laughs at the idea of Edith having the future of a spinster. That never happened.

As far as their respective happiness as girls--it's Carson who tells the story of a little Mary maybe five years old who wanted to sell the silver so that she could runaway. Where is the proof that Mary was happy and had all of the attention while Edith was the sad, lonely, and ignored little girl?

When did Mary rub Edith's face in the idea that she, Mary, is the favorite?

As for Mary supposedly looking for opportunities to capture the interest of men Edith is interested in--Edith brought that contest with Mary over Strallan on herself. Edith was feeling pleased and satisfied with herself after being complimented by Cora over her efforts at making conversation with Strallan and keeping him entertained. It's Edith who wants to rub it in Mary's face that Strallan is more interested in Edith and that Mary can't have "every prize". Edith is the one who is pushing to turn it into a contest.

As far as Edith's unfortunate choices and behavior--that's going to have to be a separate post!

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I think the issue might not be whether Edith is the least loved, but that being least-loved is how she perceives herself. There are some great, perceptive comments above about how Edith could have done things differently in the past - e.g. clearing up the confusion with Sir Anthony. What seems more obvious is that Edith just doesn't create as much of a stir in the eyes of her parents. She's not Mary, who will get attention simply by being the firstborn, or Sybil, who was so outspoken about her political views. By comparison, Edith is easy to pass over most of the time, except for being jilted at the altar or writing a newspaper column. I don't know if her parents really love her less, but she certainly thinks so even if they insist otherwise. If you go with Edith's point of view, it sure informs her less than sympathetic choices - continuing the relationship with Michael Gregson, apparently the first man who really loved Edith for Edith. Or her determination to see her daughter no matter who she hurts by doing it - in her eyes, after all, this is her one chance for unconditional love and the child of the only man who truly loved her. 

It's not an excuse or anything; just that Edith has these self-perceptions that assist in her entitlement, as she sees it, to be in contact with her daughter. 

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Well said, moonb. One of the most prominent facets of Edith's personality, which continously informs her interpretations of her relationships with the other characters as well as her choices, seems to be this idea of herself as victimised/undervalued. Sybil and Mary are both confident characters, who rarely seem to doubt that they are loved and valued; Edith, in contrast, clearly does.

 

Obviously it's possible to interprete this as evidence that her parents neglect her in some manner; to argue that after all, her sisters feel valued and she doesn't, so clearly Cora and Robert must have treated Edith worse.

 

On the other hand, there's (to my mind, at least) no evidence of this in the show. IMO Cora and Robert are pretty sucky parents to Edith, but then they're pretty sucky parents to Mary and Sybil as well.

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IMO Cora and Robert are pretty sucky parents to Edith, but then they're pretty sucky parents to Mary and Sybil as well.

As Sybil would have said "Bravo!"

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Well said, moonb. One of the most prominent facets of Edith's personality, which continously informs her interpretations of her relationships with the other characters as well as her choices, seems to be this idea of herself as victimised/undervalued. Sybil and Mary are both confident characters, who rarely seem to doubt that they are loved and valued; Edith, in contrast, clearly does.

Obviously it's possible to interprete this as evidence that her parents neglect her in some manner; to argue that after all, her sisters feel valued and she doesn't, so clearly Cora and Robert must have treated Edith worse.

On the other hand, there's (to my mind, at least) no evidence of this in the show. IMO Cora and Robert are pretty sucky parents to Edith, but then they're pretty sucky parents to Mary and Sybil as well.

I agree with most of your post Tapplum, the bit in bold is the only part I disagree with. I think if we're judging Robert and Cora on modern standards then I would agree that both parents are lacking in certain areas. That being said, given the upper class parenting standards of the time Robert and Cora seem like they're fairly typical products of their time and class. I would even argue that Cora seems more enlightened than the average upper class mother when I compare her with mothers like Susan or Violet.

Even Sybil seems to think that she had wonderful and lovely parents and Sybil is seen as a character who could do no wrong. She doesn't think her parents have done anything to be poorly treated and it's this fact that keeps her from eloping in the dead of night with Tom.

Both Mary and Edith are convinced that their father will have this horrible reaction to their sexual indiscretions and both times Robert has been comforting and understanding.

Cora too has been incredibly supportive when she knows her daughters need it. She's trustworthy as we've seen, she'll fight for them, defend them, scold them, be affectionate with them.

Honestly, even by modern standards I don't think they're that bad. I certainly don't think that Robert is the unloving ogre that he's made out to be.

Cora's biggest flaw as a parent seems to boil down to a single, honest conversation that she was having with her husband about their daughter who doesn't seem like she's going to be married anytime soon. Even though she expresses her fears for Edith in this conversation, to some it translates into Cora being a bad mother who barely cares about her middle child.

I don't know where the evidence is that Mary and Sybil always got preferential treatment while Edith was always a sad and ignored little girl. Mary and Sybil had to deal with various issues with their parents as well. They're no different than Edith in that sense.

Edited by Avaleigh
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I take your point, Avaleigh. I too remember Sybil saying she had a happy childhood and good parents, and Mary obviously thinks very highly of Robert (clearly her judgement isn't always impeccable....)

 

When it comes to Downton, I often find it quite difficult to make the separation between "today's values" and "show era values", because the show isn't always very clear on it. The characters frequently are so liberal, the distinction becomes difficult to uphold. I'm not sure I'm expressing myself very well, I suppose what I'm trying to say is, I feel the show can't make up its mind whether the characters are operating under early 1900s values (homosexuality? sex out of wedlock? thieving servants? scandal! shuuuuuuuun!!!) or early 2000s values (we don't mind really, let's all tolerate everyone's little missteps), so it's unclear which standard they should be judged against.

 

All that said, I absolutely agree in so far as I don't believe Cora and/or Robert are any worse than the "normal parents" of the time, and indeed might be quite kinder than the norm. Which still leaves them at "sucky" according to my/today's standards - tbh I'm still surprised Mary and Robert have any kind of cordial relationship after the way he betrayed her wrt the entail (nota bene that I mention Mary specifically not because I necessarily think this is worse than how Robert's treated the other girls, but because I'd sooner expect Mary to take issue with being treated badly).

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I don't think Robert "betrayed her" with the entail. I think one point where Robert was a sucky parent was that he never really prepared Mary for the reality that she wasn't his first born son. From what I know of the entail laws - a) it was Robert's father who tied the money up, not Robert, and b) the original problem was solved when it was decided that Mary was engaged to Cousin Patrick. The only reason the entail was ever an issue was because Patrick died and the family had no idea who Matthew was. Breaking the entail was never a real option - there was nothing even moderately wrong with Matthew. All battling with Matthew over the entail would have done was embitter Matthew towards the family because there was no way the courts would have decided in Mary's favor (a different male heir maybe and even that's really doubtful). Part of the problem was that Mary, and Violet, were being unrealistic about breaking the entail.

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I'm not suggesting that Robert could have successfully got rid of the entail - the problem was his attitude to the whole thing. As Mary tells Cora when she breaks down and cries, everyone is on her side - except for Robert. He flat out tells her that he won't fight for her, won't try to break the entail - not because it's a waste of time, but because he prioritises what he considers his duty to Downton over her. That, to me, is a parent betraying his child. He couldn't have given her Downton, but he could have given her the emotional support she was obviously asking for.

 

Really, with all of the girls, the problem with Robert as a father is never what he *does* so much as what he *doesn't* do.

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My view on inheritance is that no one is really entitled to one. It's no more unfair for Downton to go to men only than it would be unfair for Downton to go to the first born. None of the Crawley girls deserved Downton anymore than Matthew did or Robert did when he inherited it. It was all earned and created by someone else hundreds of years ago. It will be nice for Mary to be chatelaine of a great house just as it would have been nice for Edith to be chatelaine of Sir Anthony's house if her father and grandmother hadn't messed that up for her, but, while their position in the world gives them a greater chance of marrying into that lifestyle, it isn't anything they've earned by their own merit. As Cora might say, it's not as if they have to go down the mines.

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Edith and the Pig Farmer is making me crazy ... it's so obviously a contrived bit of business designed so Edith and Marigold (ugh, name) will be "discovered."  As I understand it there were two common options -- first, a retired nurse living in the country would take the child and raise it until either the child was 4-5 (potty trained, speaking) at which time it would be introduced as the child of a recently DEAD dear friend, now Edith's ward. Perhaps someone from the magazine, tragically killed along with spouse in a plane crash. The other were foundling hospitals and the use of a proxy mother -- again -- just until a suitable ruse could be found to introduce the child, adorable doubtless, as a ward. Mothers placed their kids in the centers -- like a pawn shop -- while they worked and then redeemed them when they could afford to. As I recall, they could visit, though it was discouraged. (Ethel might be up for a return to the show to be Edith's proxy in dealing the kiddy home -- please please no)

Isobel with her history of advocacy for fallen women (yikes remembering what's-her-name, Ethel, of the red-hair and her baybe -- the illegitimate son of the major) would be the OBVIOUS OBVIOUS OBVIOUS person , if dear old Rosamund is in a snit (which she wouldn't be because she loves her mother and brother) -- whatever. Either could provide the funds needed if, in fact, Edith needed the funds.

In fact, concealment would be sooo much easier if she was still working for the magazine ... as I think she was when we last saw her ....

Oh, and that enormous stone barn was gorgeous, but ridiculous for a single tenant farmer -- a regular Aoah's ark of a cavern.

Okay -- sigh -- I'm done.

Oh wait, yes, there's more -- Edith is an utter cow to be using the pig farmer and his wife as she is. I'm not sure what the wife thinks, but I'm guessing she's going to getting very broody about her husband's attentions to Edith -- and of course she IS bonding with the Marigold. Utterly selfish. The kid will be fine ... since this charade cannot continue for long and she's too young to remember.

Edited by SusanSunflower
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I also don't think that Robert betrayed Mary over the entail. They knew all along that none of their daughters would inherit. Mary never had any right to it. Really, she should have got over that a very long time ago. Particularly as she said that she wasn't committed to marrying Patrick so she actually basically had the same options that she'd always had.

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I just figured out what happened to Gregson.  He may have been abducted by brown coats in Germany but he did not die until the day Marigold was born.  Remember the Cartwright curse, all fiances must die before the day of a Cartwright wedding?  Well, I give you the Crawley curse: one parent must die on the day their offspring is born.  It seems so obvious now, guess I got to pay closer attention from now on.

Edited by MaryHedwig
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I'm afraid we're straying terribly far off topic here (poor Edith, ignored even in her own discussion thread! ;p) but all the same. The entrail existing of course isn't Robert's responsibility, and there was really very little he could do about it. So Mary losing out on what should have been her inheritance ("should" in the sense that it would have been except for gender discrimination) is no fault of Robert's. And if his reaction had been to tell her "okay, so the situation is you won't get to inherit, there's nothing I can do and we need to deal with it - but I'm aware this is screwed up and I'm on your side and I'll still fight for you", then fair play to him. What he actually said was that he wasn't on her side and he wouldn't fight for her - I got the impression Mary's issue wasn't just about not getting Downton, but also (primarily?) about not getting her father's support. I don't usually consider Robert an ogre at all, but you do not tell your child that you won't try to help her because she's just not important enough to you to merit the effort.

 

And I can't help feeling that the Patric situation was different, because he was (a) at least part of the family, which makes it I imagine somewhat less ranking, and (b) more importantly, with him, because of the engagement, Mary had the option of staying on as countess of Grantham. That choice was taken from her when Matthew replaced him (well, for a while XD).

 

Of course,if I were in Matthew's position, set to inherit an estate/fortune only because the otherwise rightful heir was being discriminated against, I would personally feel that I was stealing someone else's inheritance. Now, depending on a lot of factors, I might very well still claim the prize, but that's because I'm not a particularly morally upstanding person, and I would certainly remain aware that the only right thing to do would be to give it back, since it was never rightfully mine. The law is the law, but then again a law that implements gender discrimination is arguably not only unjust but in itself illegal (well, nowadays, that is). So I reckon I'm probably coming at this from a slightly different angle. 

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Oh wait, yes, there's more -- Edith is an utter cow to be using the pig farmer and his wife as she is. I'm not sure what the wife thinks, but I'm guessing she's going to getting very broody about her husband's attentions to Edith -- and of course she IS bonding with the Marigold. Utterly selfish. The kid will be fine ... since this charade cannot continue for long and she's too young to remember.

 

I agree that Edith is pretty much beneath contempt regarding the effects on Mrs. Drewe.  That could be fixed by just telling her the truth.  Hell, I think Mrs. Hughes figured it out in just one scene.  But I don't agree that Marigold will necessarily be fine.  Being moved about and taken from a caregiver at that age is not just a matter of being too young to remember.  Bonding over what appears to be at least 18 months is very significant.  Neural pathways are being formed and can be disrupted by trauma, etc.  I feel worse for Marigold than I do for anybody else.  I am sympathetic to Edith's general plight, but she is really in the wrong with this scheme. 

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She really is. The whole thing with the Drewes makes Edith look selfish and cruel. And it's not the first time. She kissed that farmer even though he was married, she tried to ruin Mary's rep out of spite, she called Sybil fat for no reason. And contrary to that, I can't think of any moment where the show had her be particularly kind to someone (unlike with the rest of the family). Helping the soldiers was probably the closest it got.

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FWIW, She was very kind to Strallen, and not just have a "boyfriend." It may have been a matter of loser's table, but she appeared genuinely sympathetic to this oddly stiff older widower who was flattered by her kindnesses. Yes, she was kind also to Patric. Since Mary and Cora treat her badly and Robert doesn't remember she exists, its not suprising she's not shown being their special friend or comforter. She is the neglected and abandoned middle child --eclipsed by BOTH Mary and Sybil. As a middle child, the well-behaved girl between two difficult and demanding boys, I can relate. She's no one's favorite, not even a little bit. Not even her lady's maid, cough, because she hasn't earned one.

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Anthony was much older, but in every other respect he was perfect -- a lifelong friend of the family, wealthy, titled, big estate and an aristocrat. It's not as though she wanted to run off with the chauffeur (cough.) The family didn't seem to think Sir Anthony was beyond the pale when he was coming to Downton to ask Mary out for a drive. Considering the lack of young men after the war, I didn't see Edith's alliance with Anthony as a rash, setting herself up for failure.

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The family didn't seem to think Sir Anthony was beyond the pale when he was coming to Downton to ask Mary out for a drive. Considering the lack of young men after the war, I didn't see Edith's alliance with Anthony as a rash, setting herself up for failure.

 

No, this is an example of Fellowes's shitty writing in regards to Edith. Sir Anthony *wasn't* beyond the pale when Robert and Cora were desperate to marry Mary off. He was also perfectly acceptable in 1914 for Edith - Cora wasn't horrified at all at the idea that Sir Anthony was going to "ask a question" of Edith. And after the war? When Edith is six years older, and the world is denuded of eligible men? Sir Anthony is a prize, a war vet not too crippled willing to marry, with an estate and money. And suddenly, despite the fact that the age difference never came up before and certainly hadn't changed, suddenly Robert suddenly has a problem with his daughter marrying a man close to his age.... I mean, it made utterly no sense.

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The family didn't seem to think Sir Anthony was beyond the pale when he was coming to Downton to ask Mary out for a drive.

This isn't really true though. Robert was also unenthusiastic at the idea of Strallan being for Mary. That was Cora's idea and she specifically thought of Anthony because she was thinking of Mary as "damaged goods" at that point who needed to be married off ASAP. Robert was never keen on the idea of Anthony for Mary.

 

Considering the lack of young men after the war, I didn't see Edith's alliance with Anthony as a rash, setting herself up for failure.

 

 

I have to disagree here. Anthony tried to brush her off at multiple points and there were at least two occasions where I felt like he seemed pained by her enthusiasm. There was a lot of reluctance on Anthony's part but Edith didn't want to acknowledge it. I thought it couldn't have been more clear in the (season 2 CS?) conversation where she tells Anthony "I know you don't mean to hurt me..." I felt like Edith wanted to force the situation into happening the second time around with Strallan as opposed to letting their relationship develop organically as it did the first time.

 

I also want to respond that I totally agree with ZoloftBob's point about Edith not making any attempt to explain to Anthony the truth about Mary's lie at the garden party the day that the war is announced. IMO that was all on Edith not trying to clarify, antagonizing Mary to begin with and then being sad once she gets a dose of her own medicine.

 

As far as Violet or Robert having a problem with Strallan after the war, I agree that this was silly but I do think that it speaks against the idea that the family sees Edith as a "loser" as is so often claimed when Violet and Robert both say that they think Edith can do better than Strallan. They aren't treating her like she's a pathetic loser who only has this one shot at marriage. At the end of the day though Robert was on board, Violet was accepting of the situation, and it was Anthony who decided on his own to humiliate and break the heart of a young woman who had always been sweet and lovely to him. In no way do I think that anyone in Edith's family should be blamed for Anthony's cowardly and mean act of jilting Edith at the altar.

Edited by Avaleigh
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Strallen after the war saw HIMSELF as damaged goods -- oh, and he was, remember the arm?  Robert didn't want Mary to "settle" or marry someone she was so obviously unenthusiastic about. Cora and Robert were scandalized and, I think, physically repulsed at the idea, much less the impending reality, that someone of their "set" -- age/generation/class -- would someone their daughter's age, much less THEIR daughter-- what will people say??? Yeah, it's creepy for your twenty-something daughter to marry her dad's "best friend" .... I felt very bad for Strallen (dull but kind) who lost Edith and the chance at a happy second marriage and  Cora/Robert, his best friends and longtime next-door-neighbors. It's sloppy writing (so what else is new) if we never heard of him again (and I think we haven't). Strallen was dull as dishwater to endlessly competitive Robert, but he was good enough company for a lonely Edith, not like Edith's great social charms and wit were being squandered. She had a chance to have her own home and get away from Cora, Robert AND Mary. Nuff said.

Edited by SusanSunflower
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The family didn't seem to think Sir Anthony was beyond the pale when he was coming to Downton to ask Mary out for a drive.

Avaleigh quote:

This isn't really true though. Robert was also unenthusiastic at the idea of Strallan being for Mary. That was Cora's idea and she specifically thought of Anthony because she was thinking of Mary as "damaged goods" at that point who needed to be married off ASAP. Robert was never keen on the idea of Anthony for Mary.

I agree that Robert was "unenthusiastic" and "never keen," on the idea of Anthony for Mary. What I said was that the family didn't seem to think Sir Anthony was "beyond the pale." I think there is a pretty wide gap between beyond the pale and not keen. The first describing someone who was wholly unacceptable (as the Dowager and Robert found him for Edith) and the second describing someone the parents would be delighted about. It's a fine point, but if I'm going to be accused, yet again, of telling lies I want to have it clear.

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The first describing someone who was wholly unacceptable (as the Dowager and Robert found him for Edith) and the second describing someone the parents would be delighted about.

 

 

I actually thought I was being diplomatic by saying that Robert was unenthusiastic. I basically thought he did everything but roll his eyes when Cora first floated the idea of Strallan for Mary. Robert sighed, he cited Anthony's boring personality and his age and overall made it seem like he thought it was an inappropriate choice. He of course has no idea about Pamuk at this point so he feels like it's out of the blue for Cora to try to play matchmaker with Mary with Strallan of all people. This is how Robert sees Strallan before the war so to me it doesn't feel that inconsistent for Robert still be unenthusiastic seven years later about a now permanently disabled Strallan paying court to another one of his daughters. 

 

Again though, I  agree that it's unrealistic for Robert or Violet to object considering Edith had no other prospects in the seven years since she'd been going out with Strallan. Considering that they were going through financial difficulties as well it's unrealistic that they wouldn't been happy as clams to unload a daughter so that she could be somebody else's financial responsibility. 

 

As far as my commenting on inaccuracies like when it's claimed that Robert and Cora are "chuckling" over the idea of Edith being a perpetual spinster or when it's said that Cora was the one to ask about Edith when on the show I know and double checked to make sure that it was Robert who asked the question--I'm sorry but I don't think it's a bad thing to point out an inaccuracy like this because I feel like small points like these can help clear up discussion and show why another person might have another point of view.

 

It certainly isn't anything personal and it's a fairly common thing to have happen when discussing long running shows--it's impossible for people to remember everything and I for one like it when somebody reminds me of what actually happened in a scene if I'm mistaken about a particular fact of the episode. Obviously I'm not talking about episode interpretations but straightforward facts like whether or not x person said y to z person. When I see it stated as fact that Mary "delighted" in rubbing Edith's nose the idea that she, Mary, is the favorite, I feel compelled to ask where the evidence of this happening is because I don't recall any scenes that show Mary rubbing Edith's nose in the idea that she is the favorite. When it was claimed that Mary was the sister who was deliberately looking for opportunities to show how easily Mary could capture the interest of a man who was interested in Edith, I felt compelled to point out that it was actually Edith who turned capturing Strallan's interest into a contest that evening and not the other way around. 

 

You might completely disagree but I feel like small distinctions like this can add up and that's another reason I personally like being given clarification when I've been mistaken about what was said, when it was said, who said it, etc. I do apologize though if you were offended by the way I phrased my comments.

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Again though, I  agree that it's unrealistic for Robert or Violet to object considering Edith had no other prospects in the seven years since she'd been going out with Strallan. Considering that they were going through financial difficulties as well it's unrealistic that they wouldn't been happy as clams to unload a daughter so that she could be somebody else's financial responsibility.

It's a writing problem. The show is really invested in making us nostalgic for this golden age of benevolent landowners. So they can't exactly have Robert, who lives in a damn castle, start bitching about the fact that feeding and clothing his daughter (whom he hasn't trained to work or earn her own money in any way) is too expensive and he can't wait to pass the burden along to whoever will take her. But he can't be happy at the match because the whole entire point is Edith isn't desireable and will have to beg for the dregs of acceptable society, and they have to communicate to the audience that Strallan is a loser. I do remember a scene where they're all talking about it and Violet says "Any port in a storm" and Robert and Cora seem to agree. Also, Edith can't marry because then she'll leave the show and won't have a storyline. It's a problem for a show called "Downton Abbey" when the only happy ending is for every character with the excpetion of Robert, Cora, Violet, and Mary have to leave the Abbey.

 

I thought Strallen was handled consistently. He's a sad old stick in the mud who has nothing to offer but the bare minimum of title, land, and money. He's not a developed character in his own right but he doesn't need to be. The whole point of him is how the other characters react to him.

 

Mary, Edith, and Sybil are pretty consistent character types. Edith is the sad loser. The Mary Bennet. The girl wearing glasses and a baggy sweater who desperately wants to be a cheerleader in any American TV show ever. And as the show's gone on and they had to give the characters depth and growth experiences that's changed a bit, but that's mainly what Edith is. And I actually don't think her family (except for Mary) is that mean to her. They just see their daughters as commodities, and Edith as the least marriable. And the show has made it clear that's more her personality than her looks - and that everyone saw it, even Edith herself. Remember when Anna and Carson were talking about how they felt sorry for Edith even though she's an Earl's daughter and they're servants? Cora, at least, helped one daughter smuggle a dead man out of her bedroom, and had no problem with the other running off with the chauffeur. And even in the later episodes, Robert

doesn't punish Edith for Marigold, and even says he believes Gregson would have married her. And Cora didn't blink when she had a child out of marriage,

. What should they have done? Gotten Edith better styling and taught her to be more outgoing and sexy (the way Mary and Sybil were)? Ran around trying to secure a husband for her so she wouldn't be alone? Give her an education? Move her to America where she can snag a rich guy looking for a title? I don't think those are any better. They accepted she probably wasn't going to marry and didn't particularly hold it against her.

 

Also, I think re: Strallan, the show made it pretty clear that Edith didn't much like him personally and was just desperate not to be an old maid.

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Also, I think re: Strallan, the show made it pretty clear that Edith didn't much like him personally and was just desperate not to be an old maid

 

Oh I disagree with you a little. I think she liked Strallan well enough. They got along, she seemed genuinely happy to be around him, and he seemed flattered by her attention. I agree she was desperate to not be an old maid, but I think she did like him, because he did like her and they seemed very companionable.

 

That said, I don't think she *loved* him. I think she liked him personally, and saw the clock ticking and figured this marriage was better than no marriage, and at least she liked the guy she was going to marry. I actually think Strallan did love her but as more of a friend/daughter and slowly realized as the wedding date got closer that yeah, he's marrying a woman young enough to be his daughter and she might be marrying him for some not so great reasons. (Strallan was always talked about like a dumbass but he seemed clever enough to understand Edith's old maid status) Strallan was cruel to wait until the wedding to back away... but had they married, it would have been a classic example of a marriage that falls apart ten years down the road when both parties finally accept that while they might have liked each other, they didn't really love each other.

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Oh I disagree with you a little. I think she liked Strallan well enough. They got along, she seemed genuinely happy to be around him, and he seemed flattered by her attention. I agree she was desperate to not be an old maid, but I think she did like him, because he did like her and they seemed very companionable.

 

This is how they struck me also. But it's another example of Fellowes wavering between the values of early 20th century aristocracy and his 2010s audience. To a 1920s aristocrat, this would have been perfectly good grounds to build a marriage on, particularly since Edith, the second daughter, would be financially taken care of. And if they realized later on they didn't have much of a marriage, they would simply have led very separate lives - not exactly unheard of at the time. I just don't see how the family's sudden objections to Strallan isn't an in-universe plothole, particularly with the shortage of marriageable men post WWI, as people have pointed out so many times before. Except, as noted above, without Edith there would be fewer core characters and less of a story. And to contemporary sensibilities, it's a harsh and businesslike view of marriage

Edited by moonb
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Yes, after the war Strallen was in many ways a "broken man" -- his self-esteem was in pieces partly because of his utterly useless arm (which if you've ever known someone post-stroke, a useless arm is not something you get to just forget -- even or particularly if you have no sensation -- because it's always in danger of flopping around, getting injured or caught on things). He was depressed. I thought Fellowes was stealing from "Rebecca" minus the murder -- Ethel liked romantically thinking she was bringing him back to life. Unfortunately it just made him feel guilty that he was stealing her youth. Yuck, but see also Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Too bad none of these character read the same classics! I'll stop now but I think "marriage of convenience" is not a terrible idea if you have money, lousy if you don't -- It is "settling" but Edith's chances were nonexistent and it was her only chance (at that point) to have her own life, probably why she leapt at writing her little column and fell into Gregson's (married) arms. A girl can only wait so long ... another chance might never come along. That Gregson was attractive... and comfortably off, cherry on top. A pig farmer might have done at that point.

Edited by SusanSunflower
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My theory about why Lady Edith is the least favorite daughter is that her red hair reminds Cora and Robert, particularly Robert, of their mother/mother-in-law, Martha Levinson.

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but Edith's chances were nonexistent and it was her only chance (at that point) to have her own life, probably why she leapt at writing her little column and fell into Gregson's (married) arms. A girl can only wait so long ... another chance might never come along. That Gregson was attractive... and comfortably off, cherry on top. A pig farmer might have done at that point.

 

 

I don't understand why Edith didn't make the most of her time in London by trying to meet new people. She has money, she has two houses where she can stay, she has upper class connections, etc. Instead of using her column and going to parties in London she seemed to zero in on Gregson without considering any other options. Once she found out he was married I don't know why she just didn't do her own thing until he got his situation with his wife squared away. Mary met Carlisle in London at a party and Evelyn Napier. I think if Edith had made more of an effort at socializing while she was in London it could have made all of the difference. When I consider that a character like Rose can go to parties at the Embassy and nightclubs and the fact that she indirectly met Atticus because of her refugee work, I feel like Edith could be and could have been more social if she'd had a mind to be. Instead she spent her free time then with a married man rather than exploring other possibilities. It's too bad but these were her choices at the end of the day.

 

My theory about why Lady Edith is the least favorite daughter is that her red hair reminds Cora and Robert, particularly Robert, of their mother/mother-in-law, Martha Levinson.

 

 

Edith's hair reminds me of Rosamund's. 

Edited by Avaleigh

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This is Julian Fellowes , remember -- Edith became Strallen -- depressed with destroyed self-esteem -- remember how pathetically grateful, simpering almost,  she was responding to Gregson's (not terribly subtle or attractive) first compliments and overtures (and stares and grins -- shudder). I thought he was up to no good until I realized he had nothing to gain from pursuing Edith, except her last name on the byline. As many said, Gregson even looked like Strallen, younger, whole and healthy (and with a libido).

Edited by SusanSunflower

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Oh, and that enormous stone barn was gorgeous, but ridiculous for a single tenant farmer -- a regular Noah's ark of a cavern.

 

That is a Tithe barn and these generally belong to a community/manor house/church.  Search google for images and you'll find pix that look a lot like the one we saw in the episode.   

 

From wiki:  "A tithe barn was a type of barn used in much of northern Europe in the Middle Ages for storing tithes—one tenth of a farm's produce which was given to the Church. Tithe barns were usually associated with the village church or rectory and independent farmers took their tithes there. The village priests wouldn't have to pay tithes—the purpose of the tithe being their support—and some had their own farms anyway, which are now village greens in some villages."

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@DHDancer -- Thanks -- I knew it couldn't be for livestock -- the roof was so high and it was so wide -- high, open roof is not enormously sheltering animals from extreme weather.  Not to mention a nightmare (Herculean) to muck out. Thought it might have been military -- hold a garrison. 

Much too well constructed for animal use, but perfect for showing off accumulated wealth  As someone who vaguely lusts after old barns, even I say, no, that's just too big to think about "converting"

Edited by SusanSunflower

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Regarding Edith in season 5 episode 3 with the farmer's wife: After hinting for an invitation to return the next day and getting nothing, Edith says something like she will come anyway and leave it to Mrs. Drewe to just kick her out.

 

Edith's cringe worthy pushiness in the face of Mrs. Drewe's pointed refusal to invite her back, has brought back unpleasant memories of Edith's pushy behavior with Sir Anthony; Piping up after he stopped to take Mary on a drive to say she, herself, would like to go.  Opening the door of his carriage and stepping right in.  Dropping in on him uninvited.  Refusing to stay away after he asked her to, simply because he referred to her as a lovely young woman.  Because Edith insisted he was just shy and needed encouragement I went along with that, but I could never really read Sir Anthony well enough to figure out if he truly found her attractive or not. 

 

 I always find it hard to "read," upper class British men. On the one hand their elegant manners can make every woman feel flattered,  on the other hand, their elegant manners often  eliminate all the head turning and long looks that an American man might use to indicate interest. 

 

I accept that Anthony was cowardly at the end. I will always believe that Robert shook his confidence the night before the wedding and that without that discouragement from Lord G and the Dowager the two might have had a pleasant marriage and grown to love each other deeply,  if they didn't already.  However, with this new example of Edith's pushiness  I'm wondering if Sir Anthony ever really cared for Edith or was pushed into the relationship from beginning to end.

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Regarding Edith in season 5 episode 3 with the farmer's wife: After hinting for an invitation to return the next day and getting nothing, Edith says something like she will come anyway and leave it to Mrs. Drewe to just kick her out.

And it's that kind of behaviour that's the real problem between Edith and Mrs Drewe, because there's such a power imbalance. As the 'honoured guest' from the Big House, culture and custom require the Drewes defer to her and be grateful to her for deigning to confer her attention on them, whether that attention is welcome/needed or not. She has power over them. It's incredibly difficult for Mrs Drewe to say, "Actually, no, it isn't convenient. We're grateful for your attention, but I've a household to run and need to get on with my work, so I'd rather you didn't just drop in unannounced every day." That she is reaching the point of doing so demonstrates clearly just how disruptive Edith's behaviour has become for the family.

 

Edith lacks subtlety - that's one of her big problems.

Edited by Llywela
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Edith's pushiness and lack of self awareness are her go-to when she's insecure -- she's learned to force herself onto people bc otherwise she'd never be sought out. That's why we see her blossom in season 3 & 4, bc she was unexpectedly sought out and valued; and she developed her interests and found something she was good at and in the process fell in love. Now she's back to grasping and clawing. Only this time, she needs to confide in her family and find a way to be straightforward about it with all involved and work out a solution/compromise.

Edited by msblossom
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Strallen, I think, felt he should be flattered by Edith's attention, but also knew that she was desperate. His self-esteem was poor, particularly after the war, and before the war he was a widower rattling around an empty house, lonely and depressed. I think Strallen appreciated the company but didn't not think it was any sort of "match" and that much-younger Edith would realize that she had settled for "sloppy seconds" and traded a voluntary path for one of going through the motions.** He had had a happy marriage.  She had never even had a real suitor.  Remember what's his name who died on the Titanic who was courting a distainful Mary? That was not a Edith's relationship, her affection was not reciprocated (even if Edith carried a torch). That was watching an older sister and being jealous.

 

** Nobly, he might be considered to have recognized it to be selfish to put his needs ahead of her future happiness, less nobly he "knew" she would come to regret/resent the bargain and him.

 

ETA: Robert and Cora's neighbor and friend, Strallen literally bounced baby Edith on his knee. He loved her as he loved all the girls as one loves the children of friends one has watch grow up. He had unquestioningly liked and cared about Edith long.time as well.  Like Robert, I think he was squicked by the idea of sharing a bed, having marital relations, which is why he ultimately he could be deterred by Violet, who had strongly negative feelings about the pairing. (What they were I'm not sure nor am I finding what she said to him on the eve of the wedding).

Edited by SusanSunflower
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Edith's cringe worthy pushiness in the face of Mrs. Drewe's pointed refusal to invite her back, has brought back unpleasant memories of Edith's pushy behavior with Sir Anthony; Piping up after he stopped to take Mary on a drive to say she, herself, would like to go.  Opening the door of his carriage and stepping right in.  Dropping in on him uninvited.  Refusing to stay away after he asked her to, simply because he referred to her as a lovely young woman.  Because Edith insisted he was just shy and needed encouragement I went along with that, but I could never really read Sir Anthony well enough to figure out if he truly found her attractive or not.

I thought there was a scene in Season 1 when Strallan shows-up unexpectedly at Downton with an invite to go out on a drive. Mary was present and rebuffed him. Edith, in essence, invited herself in Mary's place and Strallan was too polite to decline. So Edith was a little pushy there.

But Strallan did enjoy his drive with Edith. Later, on his own, he invited Edith to a concert, I think in York.

I also got the sense that at the end of Season 1, Strallan was genuinely interested in proposing to Edith (until Mary scotched that).

 

I always find it hard to "read," upper class British men. On the one hand their elegant manners can make every woman feel flattered,  on the other hand, their elegant manners often  eliminate all the head turning and long looks that an American man might use to indicate interest.

My rule of thumb is that JF doesn't do subtlety, so I take things at face value. If a male character expresses interest in a female character, then he's genuinely interested and we should take his interest at face value.

If it's an act -- the duke's interest in Mary, Thomas interest in Daisy in Season 1 -- JF let's us know they're pretending and why.

Edited by Constantinople
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I will never forgive Robert and Violet for convincing Strallen to leave her at the alter.  Could anything be more  humiliating?

 

I also can't forgive them and JF for convincing Strallen to leave her at all.  Anyone would know that for a woman of that time even a marriage of convenience is better than being a spinster.  The scene the morning after the aborted wedding after seeing Mary served breakfast in bed and when the maid says Edith should have breakfast in bed and Edith says "married women have breakfast in bed; spinsters get up for breakfast" was so sad.

 

As it is with Mrs. Drewe.  No matter how hard Edith tries, JF prevents her from having any happiness.  She fell in love; he disappeared.  She realized she was pregnant; but as an upper class woman couldn't have a baby out of wedlock.  Mary's and Sybil's babies are in the Downton nursery surrounded by loving family; Edith's baby needs to be hidden away.  She finds a family who will raise her baby close by so she can at least see her; Mrs. Drewe prevents it.

 

I don't think you can argue Edith as a whole character because JF is so determined to give Mary everything and leave her nothing. Edith could be Mother Teresa and Titania all rolled up in to one and she still would get nothing on this show.  Added to that, Robert and Mary treat her like trash.  Robert's continued snarks about the Drewes getting tired of Edith makes me want to smack him. Repeatedly.

 

If she is allowed access to her baby at the end of the season, you can bet JF has written it to be because Mary arranges it.

 

 

Like Robert, I think he was squicked by the idea of sharing a bed, having marital relations, which is why he ultimately he could be deterred by Violet, who had strongly negative feelings about the pairing.

These are people who have been making alliances rather than love marriages for as long as they can look back on their geneology.  It wasn't so long ago, probably in Violet's youth, that you married for alliance and property and to produce an heir, and had your love affairs on the side.  Even as recently as 1981, Charles married Diana was because she had the right genes and she was a virgin, not because he loved her.  As astute as Violet is, she should have known it would be better for Edith to be married and early widowed than to remain a spinster.

Edited by statsgirl
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These are people who have been making alliances rather than love marriages for as long as they can look back on their geneology.  It wasn't so long ago, probably in Violet's youth, that you married for alliance and property and to produce an heir, and had your love affairs on the side.  Even as recently as 1981, Charles married Diana was because she had the right genes and she was a virgin, not because he loved her.  As astute as Violet is, she should have known it would be better for Edith to be married and early widowed than to remain a spinster.

 

This is what made no sense to me. They kept moaning on about the age gap between Edith and Anthony, when May-December marriages were somewhat common back then, especially in the aristocracy. Then they talked about Edith being a nursemaid to Anthony after his injury and how much she would have to take care of him, which was the height of hypocrisy seeing as these people can't dress themselves and have valets and ladies' maids. It would seem Anthony might have the same (I think he at least had a butler). Plus, it was right after WWI when damn near all the men around Edith's age were killed (on Million Dollar American Princesses, one lord talked about how his mother told him all the men she danced with were dead), except the ones that seem to crawl out of the woodwork for Mary, you would think they would have been somewhat pleased that someone would take Edith off of their hands.

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Oh, Edith.

She already knows how to drive a car and a tractor. She should learn how to fly a plane, become a noted aviatrix, and catch the eye of some dashing veteran WWI flyboy.

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Oh, Edith.

She already knows how to drive a car and a tractor. She should learn how to fly a plane, become a noted aviatrix, and catch the eye of some dashing veteran WWI flyboy.

The way JF writes Edith, she'd turn into the English Amelia Earhart.

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I have to disagree here. Anthony tried to brush her off at multiple points and there were at least two occasions where I felt like he seemed pained by her enthusiasm. There was a lot of reluctance on Anthony's part but Edith didn't want to acknowledge it.

Yeah, she really pushed it. The clear implication was he was the best she could get and she was desperate not to be a spinster.

 

 

Oh I disagree with you a little. I think she liked Strallan well enough. They got along, she seemed genuinely happy to be around him, and he seemed flattered by her attention. I agree she was desperate to not be an old maid, but I think she did like him, because he did like her and they seemed very companionable.

 

That said, I don't think she *loved* him. I think she liked him personally, and saw the clock ticking and figured this marriage was better than no marriage, and at least she liked the guy she was going to marry. I actually think Strallan did love her but as more of a friend/daughter and slowly realized as the wedding date got closer that yeah, he's marrying a woman young enough to be his daughter and she might be marrying him for some not so great reasons.

I think we actually agree on this. They didn't hate each other or anything, but they weren't in love. It's what makes it so ridiculous that Strallan would back out. Back then there was no shame in a couple having separate bedrooms. People married for position/money all the time. Robert and Cora did, and fell in love later. That's why Mary was expected to marry Patrick and later, Matthew. It would have been a suitable match on both sides. He gets companionship, nursemaiding, and a wife who knows what fork to use. She gets saved from a fate worse than death. He wouldn't have expected that Edith would be in love with him. There would have been no real shame or ego-blow that she wasn't. (Unless he was embarrassed and thought he could do better, but the show gave no indication of that).

 

By backing out of the wedding, he hurts his own rep, it costs him friends, people will look down on him. And for what. He gave no indication he thought he could do better and it would have been foolish to expect a love match. And if that was something he wanted, he never should have let it get that far in the first place.

 

 

I don't understand why Edith didn't make the most of her time in London by trying to meet new people. She has money, she has two houses where she can stay, she has upper class connections, etc. Instead of using her column and going to parties in London she seemed to zero in on Gregson without considering any other options. Once she found out he was married I don't know why she just didn't do her own thing until he got his situation with his wife squared away. Mary met Carlisle in London at a party and Evelyn Napier. I think if Edith had made more of an effort at socializing while she was in London it could have made all of the difference.

 

Gregson was the only time Edith ever loved someone. Before that it was all crushes on unavailable men who were chosen for Mary. I can see that she wouldn't be interested in anyone else if she had never experienced love before. She doesn't want to do the 1920s equivalent of going on OKCupid when she's loved someone (and had that reciprocated) for the first time in her life. (Plus, writing. The show demands she stay at Downton).

Edited by Obviously
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It is likely an article of faith that I am in Edith's corner. In my view, she has long been the Upstairs Torture Doll, and TPTB seem to have schadenfreude regarding Edith's fates and foibles.

 

And yet, some in our community make a compelling case that Edith, as a character, brings much of her misfortune and misery on herself.

 

What say you all? Is Edith the mousey girl of S1, with a biting vindictiveness? Is she the jilted bride of S3 (one of the most unhappy Downton moments, in the top two or three, somewhere after Matthew's Date with the Ditch)? Is she the wronged Crawley child? Is she a self-pitying, Shakespearean character?

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I'd go with self pitying Shakespearean character as well. I would feel sorry for a person in her circumstances in real life but Edith as depicted generally creates her own problems and then collapses and then doesn't understand why everyone else is so frustrated with her. If she were just meant to be *dumb* - just not getting that guys weren't into her, I would find her more of an innocent victim, but she seems bright enough to not be so damn clueless

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I've been trying to figure out what Edith might possibly be writing her column about these days .... It's really too bad that she hasn't been writing about adoption laws -- for instance -- so we at home might gain some insight into little Marigold's legal status (and the rights of Edith and Mr. and Mrs. Drewe, if any).  Did Edith have proper papers-in-order to bring Marigold across borders and home to Downton? I don't remember, however, without such paper, there's no DNA test invented yet to prove her parentage. Did the Swiss parents legally adopt? (If they didn't, one can only hope they learned the perils of 'informal adoption' and formally adopted their new replacement child). 

I feel it's inevitable that Edith and Marigold will co-habit and be "mother and child" fairly soon by whatever machinations -- and the Drewes will be left "holding the short end of the stick" -- maybe someone can very very generously buy them out so they're not lurking at every village fete. 

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.

... It's really too bad that she hasn't been writing about adoption laws -- for instance -- so we at home might gain some insight into little Marigold's legal status (and the rights of Edith and Mr. and Mrs. Drewe, if any).  Did Edith have proper papers-in-order to bring Marigold across borders and home to Downton?

 

Marigold would still legally be Edith's child at this point if (1) the adoption laws in Switzerland in the 1920's were similar to those prevailing in the States during the mid-20th century, and (2) Edith never resigned her parental rights.  Many U.S. agencies effected a two-part relinquishment -- the first, immediate but temporary, when the child was first placed with the agency, and the second and permanent surrender, some weeks later.  Since Edith was able to re-claim Marigold from the Schroeders, I assume she never formally relinquished her rights. 

 

Too bad for you, Mrs. Drewe.  Edith was quite the tease about all this. 

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