Understanding Downton Abbey Through Game of Thrones References


By Jenni Wright

I’m going to take a wild guess that most of you do not watch Downton Abbey, PBS’ sleeper hit from England.  And assuming you do not, I think you’re probably not ecstatic about the premier of season 5 of Downton Abbey this year.  But I think I’ve found a solution.  I’m going to walk you through the entirety of the cast and plot line of the show as told by Game of Thrones metaphors.  And we’re going to hold hands together and walk down this mystical journey until at the end you’ve found yourself watching Masterpiece Theater.  You can go ahead and pat yourself on the back right now.

Warning: this article contains plot spoilers for Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is Winterfell

Downton Abbey is a fictional Yorkshire estate, much like the Stark’s domain of Winterfell. The Crawley family sits at the head of Downton during the reign of King George V.  King George V never appears on camera so we don’t know if he’s drunk and jovial like King Robert Baratheon but one can only hope.

The Crawleys are the Starks


Are you looking for a privileged attractive family to root for?  The Crawleys are it.  The main difference is that the Crawleys did not win the sperm game when it came to birthing men.  The head of the house, Robert Crawley (also referred to as Lord Grantham) has three daughters.  Lady Mary Crawley is the eldest daughter and the Sansa Stark of the situation. She’s beautiful and charming and not very kind to her sisters.  Everyone wants her to marry off to someone important.  Lady Sybil is the youngest daughter and has the Arya Stark wild child streak.  She doesn’t keep a list of enemies to kill but she falls in love with the chauffeur which is about as wild as one can get at Downton.  Lady Edith is the daughter with the weakest story lines and dullest character so we’ll call her the Rickon of the group.  Cora Crawley (Robert Crawley’s wife) is American but has embraced the ways of Downton, much like Catelyn Stark who had to embrace the ways of the North.

A handsome man becomes the head of the family after unforeseen tragedy

As Robb Stark was thrust into power after Ned Stark’s head was lobbed off, Matthew Crawley comes riding into town after the heir of Downton dies on the Titanic.  Matthew, a middle class lawyer from Manchester, initially despises the idea of running a great household.  To make matters worse, the woman everyone wants him to marry (his cousin Mary Crawley) calls him a “sea monster” because she’s disgusted by him.  Like Robb, Matthew also becomes a soldier at the beginning of World War I but does not pick up a stray ho bag to impregnate and marry under the Godswood in the process.

Lord Grantham ruins everything for his family just like Ned Stark


Much like Ned Stark, Robert Crawley (Lord Grantham) does not marry his wife out of love.  Robert marries American Cora because of her wealth and the fact that Downton is all but bankrupt. Robert carries around the shame of relying on his wife’s wealth for the entirety of the series and eventually puts the families’ fortune into a risky bet on the Canadian Railway and loses it all.  Ned Stark gives Cersei Lannister the head’s up that he’s not pleased about her bastard children that she’s passing off as the late Robert Baratheon’s which leads to his imprisonment and eventual beheading, thrusting the entire realm into war.  So yeah, the stakes are a bit higher in Game of Thrones.

Are there bastards at Downton?

Yeah but none as awesome as Jon Snow.  One of the servant girls gets impregnated by a soldier when Downton is converted into a convalescent house during the war.  And speaking of servants, Rose Leslie (aka wilding Ygritte of the “you know nothing Jon Snow” fame) is on this show.  She plays a housemaid named Gwen whose most significant plot line involves buying a typewriter.

Yeah, that’s fine but where are the straight up conniving assholes?

Did someone say Lannister?  Sadly, the manipulative characters do not have positions of power but live beneath the house and work as servants of Downton.  Thomas Barrow is the evil and secretly gay underbutler who spends a lot of the show sabotaging the good people and their plans.  His tactics involve blackmailing, selling war rations on the black market and framing people for crimes that they didn’t commit. He frequently teams up with Miss O’brien the personal maid to Cora Crawley.  Miss O’Brien uses a bar of soap to force Cora to miscarry which is a feat that has never been done on television and will never be done again.

And finally, you want another Olenna Tyrell? I give you Maggie Smith. Check. Mate.  


Maggie Smith plays Violet Crawley, Robert’s mother and The Dowager Countess of Grantham.  She is witty and has a talent for slinging the back handed insult that would make even Oscar Wilde blush. She infamously interrupts poor Matthew Crawley in the middle of a story when he first comes to Downtown to ask him “what is a weekend?” to prove she is so rich that she does not understand the need for a day off.

George RR Martin isn’t the only one killing off key characters

And with that, I’ll whet your appetite for the prospect of a Downton Abbey red wedding where all kinds of British royalty get their throats slit open.

Jenni Wright lives in Los Angeles and most certainly knows what a weekend is.  

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