Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

This Is The Biggest Betrayal In Downton Abbey

When Downton Abbey debuted on PBS in 2011, Anglophiles quickly fell in love with the majestic Grantham estate and dipping into dramas of a sizeable cast, including the wealthy aristocrats upstairs (the Crawleys) as well as their faithful servants below. Touched by world events (the sinking of the Titanic tipped off the first episode) and more personal conflicts (those spicy digs exchanged between sisters Mary and Edith), viewers delight in the excitement to be found in this reserved emotional landscape populated by proper — but hardly unfeeling — Brits.

Any dramatic series worth its salt requires a fair share of betrayal throughout, and fans appreciate Downton Abbey's generosity in that regard. We witness family patriarch Robert cheating on his ill and faithful wife, Cora, with a newly hired housemaid. We watch assistant cook Daisy betray her own heart to marry the doomed footman-turned-soldier William on his deathbed. And we observe our favorite squabbling sisters as they ruthlessly jab at each other, including Edith ruining Mary's reputation by spreading news of her secret affair and Mary seeking to destroy Edith's romantic relationship with insider information of her own.

Each of these duplicities joins a wide range of regrettable behavior throughout Downton Abbey's six seasons, until its finale in 2020. But which is the biggest betrayal of them all? We think that honor may belong to a situation that spans several seasons, and it has the unfortunate Edith at its center.

Lady Edith is left at the altar

Middle sister Edith has more than her fair share of trouble in the search for lasting love. When the series begins, her heart belongs to Patrick Crawley, who chose Mary over her. Mary didn't love him the way Edith did, but the point became moot when the family discovers he went down with the Titanic.

Edith next sets her sights on Matthew Crawley, who eventually builds a life with — you guessed it — Mary. (Is it any wonder these sisters don't get along?) Meanwhile, Edith grows fond enough of the much older Sir Anthony Strallan to fall in love with him, only to lose his heart due to Mary's manipulations. Eventually, Edith and Sir Anthony patch things up, get engaged, and even have a wedding day. But alas, in a humiliating turn of events, poor Edith is left at the altar when her betrothed backs out of the deal, claiming it's for her own good due to the age gap between them. And maybe he's right, but did he really have to wait until she was in full bridal dress, in front of her entire family, before making that decision?

At long last, Edith turns her attention in a new direction — toward a career. A letter she wrote about women's rights is published in the newspaper and catches the attention of a magazine editor. Soon, she sets off for London to meet him — for professional purposes only, of course. Little does she know that he will change her life forever.

Her lover flees the country

From their first meeting, sparks fly between Edith and magazine editor Michael Gregson. But things are... complicated. Michael, Edith discovers, is married. Except, his initial lie of omission wasn't really disloyal to his wife (a mental patient unable by law to consent to divorce), nor was it a measure of any unwillingness on his part to commit to Edith. And so, their love story begins.

Edith and Michael spend time together. They work side by side. They kiss. Eventually, something has to give in order for this relationship to move forward, and Michael proves his devotion by hatching a plan. He'll establish a life in Germany, become a citizen, and use that country's legal system to get his divorce. Edith is beyond touched to think he's willing to become a hated German (this was the 1920s, after all, and Hitler was on the rise) just for her.

It was love, which certainly justifies her next move. Though they're not yet married, Edith finally spends the night with her lover. Shortly after, Michael leaves for Germany, never to return. Has he really jilted Edith so coldly after all they've shared together?

Lady Edith denies her own daughter

Michael's mysterious disappearance is eventually explained. Though he'd remained true to Edith, he'd been tragically murdered by Nazis. Edith is left with a new life to live. She has control of his business, and she's carrying his child, a daughter she names Marigold.

From the moment Edith knows she's pregnant, she begins concocting various cloak and dagger schemes to hide and deny her daughter. With help from her aunt, she travels to Switzerland to give birth where no one will know and leaves Marigold there to be adopted. This doesn't feel right, however, so she brings Marigold back to Downton Abbey and gives her to a farmer and his wife to raise.

But Edith can't let well enough alone, setting the adoptive family on edge with her frequent "drop-ins" and finally taking Marigold back again. This time around, Marigold lives with her at the family estate but not as Edith's daughter — as her ward. A betrayal, yes, but it's the only explanation Edith can come up with that allows her to hide her shame and mother her child at the same time.

As the series wraps up, Edith finds romantic love a second time around, marrying Bertie Pelham. In the end, she gains a higher social status than her older sister as well as a true home for Marigold, finally revealed as her daughter and fully accepted by her new husband. At long last, the much-slighted Edith has a happy ending.