Set across pre-and post-World War I England, Downton Abbey was the perfect blend of history and juicy drama, which fans loved to watch. The show transported viewers into a time that was quaint and picturesque, and also told a tale of the social and economic norms of that era. For the time, both the upstairs and downstairs characters were doing things that would be considered very scandalous.
Death by sex, love affairs between classes, illegitimate children, and murderous plots were an everyday occurrence in the Downton Abbey universe. For the era that the show was set in, these scandals were most shocking. For the present-day viewers, Downton Abbey knew how to get even 21st-century eyebrows raised.
Mary And Kemal Pamuk
One of the most questionable romantic decisions Mary made on Downton Abbey was her secret rendezvous with the Turkish ambassador’s son Kemal Pamuk. What began as a fun fling between the Lady and Pamuk (which was also quite contentious at the time) became grim when the Turkish man died while getting intimate with Mary.
To top it all off, Anna and Cora had to carry his body to his own room so that Mary wouldn’t be connected to the death, which was pretty shocking. Either way, the whole affair, for many reasons, would have been a scandal that Mary would be unable to ever recover from.
The Duke Of Crowborough With Thomas
Being gay during the era of Downton Abbey was not easy, and a closeted Thomas found affection and intimacy in some unexpected places. When the Duke of Crowborough came to the estate in pursuit of Mary and her fortune, it was revealed that he had been in a long-time affair with the help of Downton Abbey.
The entanglement between the two was an absolute surprise, but a fascinating one. It ended up even worse when Thomas tried to blackmail the Duke with their love letters. This was one of Thomas’ escapades in his struggle with his sexuality, which was one of Downton Abbey‘s best storylines.
The “Cheerful Charlies” Revelation
While being a part of a theatre troupe is no big deal in itself, that buttoned-up Carson was part of one before coming to Downton Abbey left audiences and his fellow characters flabbergasted. A stickler for rules and stoic to the tee, it was quite amusing to find out that Carson sang and danced to earn a living in another life.
What made things even more interesting was his tale of friendship and botched romance with Charles Grigg, who stole his love Alice. It was certainly something for the books. More importantly, it added another level of depth and insight to the character of Carson.
Easily one of the most upsetting events of the show was O’Brien’s callousness with Cora and her baby, especially after the latter had treated her so well. Falsely thinking that Cora was going to replace her because of the pregnancy, the lady’s maid intentionally placed a bar of soap under the bathtub to cause Cora to fall and miscarry.
Sadly, her plan worked. Luckily, the people who knew of her misdeeds were aware of what a big deal her treachery was, and that she would be punished in the worst way if she were found out. The heartbreaking thing, however, was that it didn’t need to happen.
Bates Getting Arrested For Vera’s Murder
Perhaps one of the most shocking deaths on Downton Abbey, Vera went out with a bang and tried her best to take down Bates with her, even in the afterlife. The nature of her suicide by slow arsenic poisoning was truly devious, as were her stories of being scared of her life and being threatened by her ex-husband.
Audiences won’t know where the news of the suicide-disguised-as-murder reached. However, it would be a fair guess that the grueling trial and absurd revenge plot would have been heard far and wide. Either way, the disturbing long-game that Vera played showcased an almost sociopathic nature, determined to drag her husband down even after her death.
Sybil And Tom’s Romance
An absolute scandal for the Granthams was the budding romance between Sybil, a lady, and Tom Branson, her chauffeur. The two of them shared similar values and a passion for social good, but their class difference made their pairing quite contentious.
Tom’s impassioned speech about how much he loved her was one of his most iconic scenes on the show. It showed that he was ready to battle it out with society and her family to make them work, but even then, the echoes of disdain and controversy followed Tom for many years from both nobility and the working class.
Lord Grantham And Jane’s Affair
Viewers almost jumped off their seats when they realized that something could be going on between Jane, the housemaid, and Lord Grantham. Cora and Robert had some hiccups, but his infidelities with Jane, which thankfully only involved a few kisses, were shameful.
Nobody but the two knew of what they had done. If word got out about the affair, which would have happened had Jane not left the Estate, it would have disgraced the Granthams in society.
Edith Being Pregnant With Gregson’s Child
Back then, men and women weren’t allowed to consort pre-marriage, so a child out of wedlock was rare. If it ever happened, then the child was hidden away in a European country and given up for adoption. Something similar happened with Edith, but what made it more controversial was that Michael Gregson was married when she got pregnant, and then consequently killed.
She couldn’t stay away from Marigold for too long either and pulled her from her adoptive parents to keep her close by. Despite her best efforts, people got to know that Marigold was her biological daughter, which caused waves.
Mary’s Premarital Affair With Lord Gillingham
Mary was an absolute feminist for her time. Her idea of trying out a physical relationship with Lord Gillingham before committing to him was very forward-thinking at the time, but not acceptable according to social mores back then.
Moreover, Mary also asked Anna to procure birth control for her illicit affair with Lord Gillingham, which was completely forbidden for women to do at the time, even if they were married. The dalliance and the premarital affair were a big stigma back then.
The Dowager Countess’ And Prince Kuragin’s History
Again, a staunch believer in manners, propriety, and social norms, it came as a total surprise to Violet’s family and fans when her extramarital entanglement with Prince Kuragin was revealed. She had a florid past with the Russian prince, and almost ran away with him in her youth before coming to her senses.
In fact, the embers of their love seemed to rekindle when they met again in their old age. However, Violet was too wise to leave her life of comfort and nobility behind.