If you’re a fan of "Downton Abbey," chances are, you fell head over heels in love with Matthew and Mary back in the early days of the show. They gave us all the romance, yearning, and will-they-won’t-they energy we crave from a good period drama.
Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley didn’t initially seem like a natural match. In fact, the superior Mary quite literally turned her nose up at the middle class Matthew in their first few meetings. However, as the pair got to know each other, Mary softened her tough exterior and Matthew learned to let go of some of his prejudices about the upper classes. But, the course of true love never did run smooth — when Mary confessed the truth about an earlier affair, Matthew ended their brief engagement (a very outdated portrayal of the unfair standards placed on women’s purity at the time, to be sure.) Of course, their flame never died, and after many years (and a World War), the pair finally settled down together. Sadly, their marriage was cut short when — spoiler alert — Matthew died in a tragic and very unexpected car accident.
But we all know that story — here are some of the things you never noticed about your favorite "Downton Abbey" couple.
Matthew and Mary weren’t actually meant to be such a good match
Looking back at Matthew and Mary’s first meeting, it’s amazing to see just how frosty their early relationship was — these two really did epitomize the enemies-to-lovers pipeline! Even though the pair didn’t exactly click in their initial meeting, the chemistry between the two actors was still evident from the very beginning. It’s hard to imagine a world where they didn’t eventually fall for each other.
However, it turns out, when the show was first conceived, Matthew and Mary weren’t actually meant to fall in love. In fact, Matthew was actually meant to fall in love with Mary’s youngest sister, Sybil. "Matthew Crawley was supposed to end up with Sybil," actor Allan Leech explained at a Deadline Emmys event in 2016. Apparently, the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, had what he called a "bible" — an original document with all of the plans for the show. The idea of Matthew and Sybil getting together was one of those ideas — apparently, very few of the plans ever came to fruition. Thank goodness Fellowes changed his mind, or we would never have had Matthew and Mary!
Matthew and Mary’s entire relationship was underscored by class warfare
It’s no secret that "Downton Abbey" is all about the class divide in the U.K. Upstairs lives the well-off family who spend their days in leisure. Their work consists of ensuring they don’t lose their property. Downstairs is the troop of servants who scurry around unseen, facilitating it all. The first time you watched "Downton Abbey," you may not have realized how much this class divide defined the relationship between Matthew and Mary.
However, rewatching their early scenes (and even some of the later scenes), it becomes clear that their entire relationship was underscored by a sense of class warfare. And in many ways, the fact that the couple were a symbol of battling class values made them far more interesting. As one writer put it in a piece for Vox, "’Downton’ made it easy to care about Mary and Matthew when the subtext of their every conversation was about their warring levels of wealth and rank, when each line was weighted with the knowledge that the world Matthew was leaving was the world of the future."
Matthew and Mary made each other the best versions of themselves
Any great relationship should change you for the better. And that’s exactly what happened with Matthew and Mary. Let’s face it — both of them had their fair share of flaws at the start of the show. Mary had a tendency to be self-centered and snobbish, while Matthew was quick to judge and, in his own way, equally snobbish. While those flaws never completely disappeared, when they were together, they brought out the best in each other.
As actor Dan Stevens told OnTheBox in 2012, "Mary was quite a fierce character when Matthew turned up in series one and I think he softened her and, you know, they were always destined to be together." Of course, he added, "She remains quite a fierce monster underneath." Even though Mary never lost her potential for cruelty, she became less of a snob — plus, she helped Matthew understand what an honor it was to run a place like Downton. Stevens was right to say they were totally meant to be.
The idea of losing Matthew changed Mary
While being with Matthew certainly changed Mary for the better, being apart from him was actually even better for her. In fact, in Season 2, when Matthew was engaged to Lavinia, Mary realized how much she missed Matthew — and she became a much kinder person because of it.
"The thought of losing Matthew had a huge effect on her," actress Michelle Dockery told the Daily Mail. "It made her a nicer person in the end." And, as Dockery explained in a Collider interview, "She doesn’t always make the right decisions and is, of course, full of regret for what happened between her and Matthew, at the end of the first series."
So, how did Mary become nicer? Well, for one thing, she began helping out with the war effort at Downton. Plus, she welcomed Lavinia into the family with open arms, even though she was technically her rival. That shows some serious growth if you ask us!
Matthew’s inexplicable recovery from paralysis was probably a plot device for his romance with Mary
"Downton Abbey" wasn’t always filled with the most believable plot lines. You probably remember raising at least one eyebrow at the Bates-being-framed-for-murder arc or the ludicrous Russian-Prince-who-love-the-Dowager-Countess storyline. Some of the least plausible plot lines on the show involved medical incidents. One of them was Matthew’s temporary paralysis. During World War I, Matthew is injured and paralyzed from the waist down. The local doctor is convinced that his injuries are permanent. However, soon enough, he miraculously feels a "tingle" and makes a full, inexplicable recovery.
While fans of the show were undoubtedly delighted to see Matthew leap back to his feet, it’s pretty clear that his injury was merely used as a dramatic plot device to create even more tension between him and Mary. As one reviewer wrote in The Guardian, "The paralysis, it transpired, was in fact spinal bruising, medically possible — just — but narratively insulting." During his short stint as a paralyzed war hero, Matthew was cared for by Mary — it really was the perfect way to reignite some sparks between the couple.
Matthew and Mary’s will-they-won’t-they romance was fueled by their flaws
Sometimes, when we fall in love with a TV couple, it’s hard to admit that the people in that couple are flawed individuals. But this couple certainly does have plenty of personal flaws between them. As one fan put it in Salon, their relationship was "on and then almost off again thanks to the twosome’s individual flaws — Mary’s tendency to be self-involved and inflexible and Matthew’s to be self-righteous and inflexible."
Looking back, this viewer was absolutely right. The couple actually would have managed to seal the deal a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for their unique flaws. Mary’s self-involvement meant that she didn’t always give the relationship the attention it deserved, and Matthew’s self-righteousness meant that he found it hard to forgive Mary for her past. No wonder these two took so long to finally get together.
Mary’s relationship with Carlisle was about her ‘shelf life’
For Matthew and Mary fans, there was nothing harder to watch than the increasingly unhealthy relationship between Mary and Sir Richard Carlisle in Season 2. The relationship began after Mary and Matthew called off their engagement at the end of Season 1. When Matthew returned from the war with a brand new fiancée, Mary quickly struck up a romance (if you can call it that) with Carlisle. He was older and crueler than Matthew — plus, he and Mary not only had nothing in common, they actually seemed to dislike each other.
While some fans may have thought that this brief rebound affair was about making Matthew jealous, the truth is, Mary wasn’t getting any younger. "Mary is 27, by the return of the series," actress Michelle Dockery told Collider. "You’re pretty much on the shelf, at that time. She needs to get a move on." So, even though Mary still had feelings for Matthew, she felt she had to settle down with someone to secure her future. We’re certainly glad things have changed in the last hundred years or so!
The proposal scene was one of the most romantic moments in TV history
It’s impossible to talk about the Matthew and Mary of it all in "Downton Abbey" without spending some time gushing about that proposal scene. After all of the ups and downs in their relationship, the couple finally put a ring on it in the Season 2 Christmas special. While fans of the show definitely took note of the scene at the time, looking back on the show, we think it’s fair to say that this proposal scene was one of the most romantic TV proposals ever.
The fairytale proposal happened outside of the beautiful Downton estate during a light snowfall. Matthew followed Mary outside. When she told him she planned on leaving for America, he said, "Would you stay if I asked you to?" Then, he apologized for blaming her for the affair with Pamuk. "You’ve lived your life and I’ve lived mine," he said. "Now it’s time we lived them together." He got down on one knee as the music swelled and they kissed in the snow — it really doesn’t get more romantic than that! We think this proposal scene beats even the sappiest Netflix holiday rom-coms, and easily earns the title of most romantic on-screen proposal ever.
Mary and Matthew’s wedding was kind of like a royal wedding
After the cheesy, snowy proposal, things continued looking up for Matthew and Mary. Their wedding was one of the most memorable, extravagant moments in the show’s history. In fact, it was such a big occasion, the stars even compared it to a royal wedding.
Actress Michelle Dockery told the Daily Record, "I felt a bit like Kate Middleton with all the security but we didn’t want people seeing the dress before the day. I had never worn a wedding dress — I’ve never filmed an on-screen wedding before. I loved it." Apparently, on the day the wedding was filmed, huge crowds of fans gathered near the set to catch a glimpse of the TV couple. Dan Stevens added, "There was quite a lot of security and it was crawling with paparazzi. I didn’t actually see Michelle in the dress till she walked down the aisle which was pretty realistic." Sounds like they might as well have filmed the wedding at Westminster Abbey!
Mary kept important secrets from Matthew after they married
Most of us know that any healthy relationship needs to be based on honesty and truth. Keeping secrets from your partner almost always leads to problems. While Matthew and Mary were usually truthful with each other, Mary did keep some pretty critical secrets from Matthew during their marriage — namely, she decided not to tell him about her fertility treatment. Instead, when she visits a fertility doctor, she tells her husband that the trip was about her hayfever.
She then gets a "small operation" in London without telling Matthew. When she returns, she lies again, telling him she doesn’t feel like sleeping with him because she’s tired. Matthew finally discovers the truth when he sees Mary at a fertility clinic. She explains, "There was something wrong with — actually I can’t talk about this sort of thing — even to you." Apparently, she was too prim to discuss her fertility with her own husband! We have to say, this type of lie could have easily resulted in a much bigger problem between them than it did.
Mary and Matthew actually deal with their disagreements about money in a really healthy way
Even though Mary sometimes struggled to discuss things openly with Matthew, for the most part, they actually had pretty good communication as a couple — especially when it came to money. Shortly before their wedding, Mary discovered that Matthew’s ex-fiancée’s father had left him his entire fortune. This comes at the perfect moment, as her family has just lost all of their money to a bad investment. Mary assumes that Matthew will accept his inheritance and save Downton. Matthew, however, is too proud to accept. Mary almost decides to call off the wedding — but in the end, they get married, knowing that they are in disagreement about the money.
As therapist Elisabeth Joy LaMotte explained in a piece for HuffPost, their disagreement may initially look like a pretty big red flag for the couple. However, the way they dealt with their money disagreement was actually pretty commendable. "The lesson lies in the extent to which they fully enjoy their early marriage in spite of this ongoing disagreement," she wrote. "One moment, they speak openly about how much the completely disagree with one another. The next moment, Mary says, ‘Now kiss me and let’s go to bed!’" It’s quite impressive how this couple manages to work through their problems.
Matthew wasn’t actually meant to die — and there were a few other scenarios that could have happened
Just when everything was looking rosy for Mary and Matthew, "Downton Abbey" fans were treated to the devastating Season 3 Christmas special. Shortly after the birth of his first child, Matthew was killed in a shocking car accident. As actor Dan Stevens later revealed to "Today", his character was killed off because he had wanted to leave the show to pursue other projects. "Something in my gut told me that it was time to explore," he said.
As the show’s creator Julian Fellowes told Radio Times, "Dan only decided to leave when we were about to start filming, [I had] already written five episodes and cast them." Initially, Fellowes had hoped Stevens would return for one episode in Season 4, but the actor declined. "I didn’t want his death to dominate the Christmas special, so that’s why we killed him at the very, very end," Fellowes said. The other option would have been to kill Matthew and Sybil at the same time. It sounds like Matthew’s tragic death could have been very different.
Even after Matthew’s death, Mary was impacted by their relationship
Even though Matthew’s death was incredibly heartbreaking for many fans of "Downton Abbey," there is one silver lining — their story has always been one of true love. After Matthew’s death, Mary grieves and eventually moves on, marrying Henry Talbot. However, her love for her first husband has always remained constant. It’s clear that Mary was forever changed by their relationship. "The thing about Matthew is he — he changed her in a lot of ways," actress Michelle Dockery told HeyUGuys. She added, "Like she says in series four, he, you know, it’s almost like she’s mourning the person that she was when she was with him." Of course, she ultimately learns to be a (somewhat) good person without Matthew, too. But with or without Matthew, it’s clear that these two had something truly special. As Mary says in Season 6 while visiting Matthew’s grave after becoming engaged to Henry, "Remember, however much I love him, I will always love you."