Spotlight: Best Blackmails of Downton Abbey
Both upstairs and downstairs at Downton Abbey, secrets, scandals, and salacious doings abound. Because reputation is everything to Downton's inhabitants, silence is golden. And in the face of blackmail, silence must sometimes be bought. From the Dowager Countess' recent shakedown of Neville Chamberlain, to revelations of Mr. Carson's shameful past on the Yorkshire stage, look back at a compendium of Downton Abbey blackmails…so far!
"I wouldn’t have the courage to refuse your mother-in-law."—Neville Chamberlain
Blackmailer: The Dowager Countess
Blackmailed: Neville Chamberlain (then Minister of Health)
The Secret: Neville Chamberlain was part of his brother-in-law Horace de Vere Cole's notorious prank that threw London into chaos when he and his friends—including Chamberlain—dug a trench across Piccadilly.
The Threat: Exposure of his participation in the much-publicized prank
The Payoff: Attend dinner and wield influence endorsing the status quo at the hospital.
The Resolution: Robert's terrifying ulcer rupture got Chamberlain off the hook before he had to take a side.
"You had better think of something. If you don’t want to find yourself sewing mail bags."—Denker
Blackmailer: Gladys Denker
Blackmailed: Septimus Spratt
The Secret: When Spratt's escaped convict nephew showed up at the Dower house in search of shelter, the stuffy butler hid the fugitive in the Dowager Countess' potting shed.
The Threat: Notify the police of Spratt's aiding and abetting.
The Payoff: Convince the Dowager not to fire Denker.
The Resolution: Spratt reminded Violet how long it takes to find a good lady's maid, persuading his Ladyship to give Denker another chance.
"Don’t bother. You’re not the first person who’s tried to blackmail me."—Lady Mary
Blackmailer: Rita Bevan
Blackmailed: Lady Mary
The Secret: Lady Mary's sketching trip was actually a week-long romantic tryst in Liverpool with Tony Gillingham, and chambermaid Rita Bevan has the hotel register page to prove it.
The Threat: Exposure and scandal
The Payoff: £1,000
The Resolution: Robert gave Bevan a paltry fifty pounds, extracted her confession to guarantee that she never returns for more, and awarded Mary his blessing as mature, tough, and worthy of running the estate!
"I’m tired of waiting, Miss Baxter."—Thomas Barrow
Blackmailer: Thomas Barrow
Blackmailed: Phyllis Baxter
The Secret: Baxter was imprisoned for stealing jewelry from her former mistress.
The Threat: Exposure of her past, which would lead to certain termination of her job, and subsequent difficulty finding employment again.
The Payoff: Act as Thomas' spy around the house, reporting to him any incriminating information that he can use in his schemes—particularly surrounding Anna and Bates' connection to the dead valet, Green.
The Resolution: With Molesley's encouragement, Baxter revealed all to the fair and compassionate Cora, who eventually decided to let her stay on at Downton.
"You can't stop me from speaking to her ladyship."—Edna Braithwaite
Blackmailer: Edna Braithwaite
Blackmailed: Tom Branson
The Secret: When Edna secretly entered Tom's room and plied him with whiskey, the two ended up having relations.
The Threat: She claims she may be pregnant, and threatens to tell Cora.
The Payoff: Marry her.
The Resolution: When Tom sought help from Mrs. Hughes, she summoned Edna and called her bluff about her alleged pregnancy, certain that the lady's maid had planned the whole thing in order to trap Branson. She sent Edna packing.
"If you don't come back to me, I'm going to the newspapers with a cracking story. And I'd like to bet the Granthams won't survive it."—Vera Bates
Blackmailer: Vera Bates
Blackmailed: John Bates and, by extension, Lady Mary
The Secret: The Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk died in Lady Mary's bed, and Anna was one of the people who carried him back to his room.
The Threat: She will go to the press and bring down the Crawleys, and Anna, with news of the scandal.
The Payoff: Return to her.
The Resolution: Bates at first complied with her demands, leaving Downton and paying Vera for a divorce. But she wouldn't be satisfied while Bates still loved Anna; she sold the story exclusively to Mary's fiancé, Sir Richard Carlisle, who suppressed it in order to have Mary under his thumb.
"He threatened to expose my past, to make me a laughing stock in this house, and in my vanity and pride, I gave him what he wanted."—Charles Carson
Blackmailer: Charles Grigg
Blackmailed: Charles Carson
The Secret: The staid pillar of moral virtue, Charles Carson, was once part of a song and dance double act on the stage, the Cheerful Charlies.
The Threat: Reveal Carson's past and disgrace him.
The Payoff: Give the petty criminal shelter, food, and money.
The Resolution: Carson put him up in an empty cottage and was reduced to raiding Downton's pantry to feed him. But giving him money proved a bridge too far, and Grigg stormed into the Abbey to disclose Carson's past to the earl. Robert gave him twenty pounds and banished him under threat of prosecution for theft and blackmail. The Cheerful Charlies' weaker half obeyed…until his return in Season 4!