That’s not to suggest the folks upstairs always wielded more power than their downstairs counterparts. Social propriety dictates only outward behavior, and it often seemed as though the Downton servants were the ones who pulled the strings. Such is certainly the case in the “Downton” movie, released Friday, more than three years after the British television series concluded its six-season run.
Set in the late 1920s, the movie consists largely of Downton preparing for a royal visit by King George V and Queen Mary. While the Crawleys — Robert, Cora and their daughters Mary and Edith, along with Robert’s mother, Violet — deal with the usual family drama and logistical rubbish, everyone downstairs tries their best to resist a complete takeover from the royal family’s hoity-toity servants. There’s very little plot and very much banter, highlighting power grabs both subtle and fierce.
Here is a definitive power ranking of the “Downton” movie characters, from boring and weakest to magnificent and sneakiest. (Note that the blurbs contain plot spoilers.)
32. Richard ‘Dickie’ Grey, a.k.a. Baron Merton (Douglas Reith)
Who he is: A trusted friend of the Crawley family, Dickie is also Mary’s godfather. In the series, he fought with his spoiled children to marry Isobel Crawley, the mother of Mary’s late husband, Matthew Crawley.
Why he ranks here: Dickie is a perfectly fine person, and it is truly a delight to hear people say his name with an English accent. That said, he is entirely a background character in the movie.
31. Phyllis Baxter, lady’s maid to Cora Crawley (Raquel Cassidy)
Who she is: Not to be visually confused with housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, Miss Baxter is a well-intentioned lady’s maid with a criminal record who, in the series, was briefly blackmailed by Thomas Barrow.
Why she ranks here: Like poor Dickie, Miss Baxter is barely a part of the movie. She finally seems to express her romantic interest in Mr. Molesley toward the end, though, so three cheers for that.
30. Captain Chetwode (Stephen Campbell Moore)
Who he is: Captain Chetwode approaches Tom Branson, a Crawley son-in-law, in public with a devious look in his eyes. The captain looks like all the other random men who pass through Downton, making it difficult for Tom to determine who he is or what his true motivations are.
Why he ranks here: Well, he tries to assassinate the king. While Tom, an Irishman, has his own issues with the English monarchy, he foils the captain’s violent plan as soon as he figures it out.
27, 28 & 29. All of the Crawley great-grandchildren: Sybil ‘Sybbie’ Branson (Fifi Hart); George Matthew Crawley (Oliver and Zac Barker); Marigold Crawley (Eva and Karina Samms)
Who they are: Sybbie is Tom’s child with his late wife, Sybil Crawley. George is Mary’s child with her late husband, Matthew. Marigold was born to Edith and Michael Gregson, Edith’s magazine editor boss who mysteriously disappeared in Germany. Such drama!
Why they rank here: The Crawley great-grandchildren are still very young and therefore inconsequential. But they’ll inherit Downton and the Crawley wealth one day, which means they are somewhat powerful.
26. Joseph Molesley, schoolteacher and occasional footman (Kevin Doyle)
Who he is: Mr. Molesley worked as Matthew’s valet until the latter’s death and later returned to Downton as a footman. He discovered his passion for teaching while helping assistant cook Daisy Mason with her studies and eventually left the house altogether to become a schoolteacher.
Why he ranks here: I want only the best for Mr. Molesley, but, by golly, if this man isn’t one of the most pitiful characters to ever pass through Downton. He practically faints upon seeing the king and queen.
25. The Royal Chef (Philippe Spall)
Who he is: The better question would be, who does he think he is? Sure, he cooks for the king and queen of England, but he is unnecessarily rude to Downton’s Mrs. Patmore from the moment he walks in.
Why he ranks here: Rudeness is only productive if you’re an established part of Downton.
24. The Royal Butler … or the King’s Page of the Back Stairs (David Haig)
Who he is: This guy is the Charles Carson of Kensington Palace, in that he’s been loyal to the royal family for a long time and will do anything to appease them. He clarifies to the Downton folk that he is “not a butler” but, in fact, a king’s page of the back stairs. They don’t give that title much thought.
Why he ranks here: He is the absolute worst, but Mr. Haig is quite convincing in the role.
23. Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
Who he is: Robert is the Crawley family patriarch and owns Downton with his eldest daughter, Mary.
Why he ranks here: I honestly could not tell you a single significant thing Robert accomplishes in this movie aside from continuing to co-own Downton, therefore giving the royals a reason to visit and the movie a reason to exist. But, hey, that’s pretty important, right?
22. Herbert ‘Bertie’ Pelham, Marquess of Hexham (Harry Hadden-Paton)
Who he is: Edith married Bertie at the very end of the series and, after enduring six seasons of relentless misery, said she was finally “completely happy.” Bertie became Marigold’s stepfather.
Why he ranks here: Bertie is involved in a B-plot that gets quite a bit of screen time, as the king asks Bertie to embark on a project that would keep him away from his family for three months. Even after Edith informs her husband that she is pregnant and that the assignment would require him to miss the first few months of his child’s life, he hesitates to ask the king to find someone else for the job — understandable but not the ideal course of action.
21. Andrew ‘Andy’ Parker, footman (Michael C. Fox)
Who he is: Andy is a recently hired footman engaged to Daisy.
Why he ranks here: Andy somewhat annoyingly plays a jealous boyfriend for much of the movie, sparked by a flirty plumber arriving to fix Downton’s boiler. While Andy breaks the boiler in a fit of jealousy, it’s pretty cool that he loves Daisy and disregards the monarchy enough to risk sabotaging the royal visit.
20. Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern)
Who she is: Cora is an American heiress married to Robert, with whom she had Mary, Edith and Sybil. She has a fun muddled accent and enjoys providing commentary on strange English customs from an American perspective, which makes her a valuable asset for stateside viewers.
Why she ranks here: Cora senses that Edith is upset and, after learning of the conundrum, takes it upon herself to instead appeal to the queen on Edith and Bertie’s behalf. It works. Hurrah for involved mothers!
18 & 19. King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James)
Who they are: King George V was the grandfather of the current queen, Elizabeth II. He married Mary of Teck, and together they had six kids: five boys and one girl, Princess Mary, who appears in the movie.
Why they rank here: They’re very powerful in life but don’t do much for the plot, other than show up at Downton and later allow Bertie to stay home with Edith, so they land in the middle(ish) of the ranking.
17. Richard Ellis, perhaps a valet? (Max Brown)
Who he is: Richard works for the royal family and, just like Barrow, seems to get the short end of the stick from time to time.
Why he ranks here: Richard appears to be sweet on Barrow, which is proved true after he bails Barrow out of jail and later kisses him. Although this is admirably bold for the era in which “Downton” is set, Barrow was jailed in the first place because he went to a gay club with another man after Richard was extremely late to a date he had planned with Barrow.
16. John Bates, valet (Brendan Coyle)
Who he is: Bates is Robert’s soft-spoken valet and Anna Bates’s husband. He was hired at Downton after having saved Robert’s life while they both served in the second Boer War.
Why he ranks here: Though Bates usually tries to avoid stirring up trouble, he and Anna mastermind a plan to (rightfully) regain control of Downton from the royal family’s servants.
15. Lucy Smith, lady’s maid-turned-companion of Maud Bagshaw (Tuppence Middleton)
Who she is: Lucy, said to be a lady’s maid, accompanies the Crawleys’ relative Maud Bagshaw to Downton for the royal visit, during which Violet tries as best as she can to figure out why the childless Maud hasn’t listed Robert as a beneficiary in her will. Maud prefers to call Lucy her companion, and it is later revealed that they are mother and daughter.
Why she ranks here: Though uncomfortable with the tiff between her mother and Violet, Lucy stands her ground when it comes to her inheritance — commendable, given how frightening Violet can be.
14. Princess Mary (Kate Phillips)
Who she is: Princess Mary is the king and queen’s only daughter. She prioritizes her duty to her country over her own happiness and, therefore, remains in a loveless marriage to a dull, controlling man.
Why she ranks here: Princess Mary struggles with what to do about her marriage, given that a divorce would toss the royal family into scandal. After Tom spots her crying about it outside Downton — as an Irishman, he has no idea who she is — the two of them chat vaguely about obligations to their respective families. Princess Mary is inspired to stand up to her husband, telling him that they have no choice but to change for both of their sakes.
13. Henry Talbot, co-owner of Talbot and Branson Motors (Matthew Goode)
Who he is: Henry and Mary got married at the end of the series, and they have a daughter together. Though he lives at Downton, Henry often travels to different car shows for work (and fun).
Why he ranks here: Henry spends most of the movie away at a Detroit car show because the actor who plays him wasn’t able to fit a full “Downton” shoot into his schedule. He nevertheless receives an entrance scene so dramatic that it rivals the king and queen’s. (Author’s note: I will forever think of Matthew Goode as the guy from 2004′s “Chasing Liberty.” If you’ve seen that, you know how much he puts up with in it, and you’ll agree that Mr. Goode deserves this dramatic scene as restitution.)
12. Charles Carson, retired butler (Jim Carter)
Who he is: The curmudgeonly Mr. Carson rose through the ranks at Downton and eventually became the butler. Though he retired because of health issues, he worked for the Crawleys for so long that the family members, especially Mary, treat him as one of their own. He is married to Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper.
Why he ranks here: Mary asks Mr. Carson to replace Barrow as butler for the duration of the royal visit, and he agrees. This is rather mean to Barrow on both of their parts — he’s trying his best! — but it’s hard not to notice the respect with which the Downton staff treats Mr. Carson.
11. Isobel Grey, nee Turnbull, Baroness Merton (Penelope Wilton)
Who she is: Isobel, a former nurse, moved to Downton at the start of the series with her son, Matthew. She remained close to the Crawleys even after Matthew’s death — becoming close frenemies with Violet while co-chairing the hospital — and later married Lord Merton.
Why she ranks here: Isobel tries to act as a mediator in the conflict over who will inherit Maud’s wealth. Unlike Violet, she is able to sense that there is more to Maud’s relationship with Lucy, and encourages Maud to tell Violet the truth to put the argument to rest.
10. Beryl Patmore, cook (Lesley Nicol)
Who she is: Mrs. Patmore is the witty cook who runs Downton’s kitchen. She is exceedingly strict but cares deeply for those she knows well, stepping in as a mother figure to her assistant, Daisy.
Why she ranks here: Along with Daisy, Mrs. Patmore is never afraid to speak her mind — especially when it comes to the royal staff invading her kitchen.
9. Elsie Carson, nee Hughes, head housekeeper (Phyllis Logan)
Who she is: Mrs. Hughes is the head housekeeper. She is married to Mr. Carson.
Why she ranks here: With Mr. Carson technically out of Downton, Mrs. Hughes is the most powerful person downstairs. She is the no-nonsense type and will always look out for her people.
8. Thomas ‘Tom’ Branson, co-owner of Talbot and Branson Motors (Allen Leech)
Who he is: Tom came to Downton as a chauffeur but became a member of the family after marrying Sybil Crawley against her family’s wishes. They eventually warmed up to him and, following Sybil’s death, he continued to help manage and live at Downton for his daughter’s sake.
Why he ranks here: Tom doesn’t consider himself to be a member of the aristocracy, given his humble roots and, as such, is probably the most levelheaded character upstairs. Not only does he provide emotional support to Princess Mary and Lucy, two strangers, but he also saves the king’s life.
7. Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith)
Who she is: As Robert’s mother, Violet is the senior member of the Crawley family. She reveals to her granddaughter Mary that her health is failing, and as such, aims to tie up all her loose ends.
Why she ranks here: Yes, Violet’s quarrel with Maud is a bit much, but it is comforting to see that she has remained her witty, combative self. After someone accuses her of being Machiavellian, for example, she responds, “Machiavelli is frequently underrated. He had many qualities.”
6. Mary Talbot, nee Crawley, mother of the heir to Downton (Michelle Dockery)
Who she is: Mary is the eldest Crawley daughter and runs Downton with her father.
Why she ranks here: Though Mary can be quite prissy at times, it’s notable that Violet points to her, and not Robert, as the future of Downton. As might be uttered in HBO’s “Succession,” Mary is the No. 1 Boy.
5. Thomas Barrow, butler (Rob James-Collier)
Who he is: Barrow, a former footman, stepped in as butler at Downton after Mr. Carson retired.
Why he ranks here: Barrow was an irritating backstabber for much of the series, but we eventually got to know and appreciate him. When Robert and Mary inform him that Mr. Carson will be taking over for the duration of the royal visit, Barrow is appropriately snippy and storms off. The act of insubordination takes Robert by surprise, and, instead of firing Barrow, he admires him.
4. Daisy Mason, assistant cook (Sophie McShera)
Who she is: Once a kitchen maid, Daisy worked her way up to being Mrs. Patmore’s assistant.
Why she ranks here: Daisy’s rebellious streak is more evident than ever before when the royal servants arrive. She has fully come out of her shell and amusingly defends Downton at one point by saying, “We’re not footballs, Mr. Bates, we don’t deserve a kicking!” They most certainly do not.
3. Edith Pelham, nee Crawley, Marchioness of Hexham (Laura Carmichael)
Who she is: Edith is the second Crawley daughter and Marigold’s mother. She is married to Bertie.
Why she ranks here: Though she was for a long time the self-pitying Crawley sister, Edith has finally learned to take a stand when called for. She is very direct with Bertie about his needing to turn down the king’s assignment and, after Bertie says that she should have told him earlier that she was pregnant, she informs him that he will not be making any of this her fault. Growth! We love to see it.
2. Anna Bates, nee Smith, lady’s maid to Mary Talbot (Joanne Froggatt)
Who she is: Anna is Mary’s lady’s maid but has become more of a friend over time. (Remember, she helped deal with the whole Pamuk-dying-in-Mary’s-bed situation back in the first season.)
Why she ranks here: Anna spearheads the downstairs rebellion and also blackmails the royal seamstress, who has been stealing from Downton throughout the visit. How far our meek Anna has come.
1. Maud Bagshaw, Crawley relative and lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary (Imelda Staunton)
Who she is: Maud is a baroness who serves the queen. She is a cousin of Violet’s late husband and somehow inherited an estate from him. She and Violet aren’t the best of friends.Why she ranks here: American viewers might recognize Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter films and, while Maud isn’t at all evil, she is just as stubborn. It’s difficult to win a fight against Violet — she’s the Dowager Countess, for heaven’s sake! — but Maud has what it takes and seems to care endlessly for her daughter, Lucy. If they ever do make a movie sequel, we hope Maud makes a special appearance.
Note: This ranking previously described Crawley as being Isobel Grey’s maiden last name, when in fact it was a name she adopted after her first marriage. We have also amended Mary Talbot’s entry, noting that she is the mother of Downton’s heir, her son George, and not the heir herself.