Downton Abbey is undoubtedly one of the most popular shows to have come out of the United Kingdom in the last decade. With its melodramatic plots, its lively characters, and its beautiful costumes that evoke a bygone era, it’s catnip for fans of the period drama. It also stars one Maggie Smith as Lady Violet, arguably the series’ most popular and irascible character.
While her sharp tongue and cutting one-liners have earned her legions of fans, it’s also true that sometimes her words and her actions leave much to be desired. While she’s a good person as a whole, sometimes she does and says some outright terrible things.
10When She Almost Lets That Man Die During A Spat With Isobel
From the beginning of the series, it’s clear that Violet has a conservative nature. She doesn’t want things to change, particularly if she doesn’t know what lies on the other side of that change. Sometimes, that leads her to do things that put people’s lives at risk. For example, she tries to keep Dr. Clarkson from undertaking a medical procedure that could save a man’s life, mostly because it was her enemy Isobel’s suggestion. Though the man is eventually saved, it doesn’t reflect well on Violet.
9She Puts Down Sybil For Having Her Own Opinions
Sybil is definitely one of the more radical members of the Crawley family. Not content to simply accept things the way they are, she’s always looking for some new cause to get involved in. When someone remarks that she’s entitled to her opinion, Violet sharply retorts that no she isn’t, that her eventual husband will tell her what her opinions are. This is a bit hypocritical of Violet, since it’s hard to imagine her ever conceding any opinion to her husband.
8Her Caustic Remark About Mr. Pamuk’s Dying (And About Him General)
The visit of the Turkish diplomat Mr. Pamuk to Downton, and his subsequent visit to Mary’s bed in the middle of the night, sows the seeds for much later conflict and trouble for the Crawleys. Needless to say, as a woman of a certain generation, Violet has lots of less than savory things to say about their visitor.
It’s an unfortunate reflection of the sort of xenophobic views that Violet and those of her generation had for those not from the UK.
7Her Insensitivity Toward The Soldiers Convalescing
The second season of the series sees those at Downton swept up into the chaos and bloodshed of World War I, and at one point wounded soldiers are brought to convalesce on the property. Violet, of course, doesn’t really approve of all of these people being on the estate, and being who she is, she doesn’t really keep her thoughts to herself. While her comments are inevitably played for laughs, they also betray a rather selfish and unthinking part of Violet’s personality that lurks beneath the surface.
6The Joke She Makes About Cholera During The Spanish Flu Pandemic
Not content with making snide comments about recovering soldiers, Violet also shows a significant lack of compassion about those afflicted with the Spanish Flu (including several members of the staff). In fact, she makes some tasteless joke about guests and cholera. Robert, of course, gives her a bit of a reprimand for it, but it’s very clear she doesn’t take him too seriously. Again, it’s a rather humorous moment, but it suggests that Violet doesn’t always care too much about the suffering of other people.
5She Always Claims Victory At The Flower Show
One of the most venerable traditions around Downton Abbey is the flower show which, of course, Violet wins every year (despite the fact that she obviously doesn’t grow her own flowers). Isobel being Isobel, she soon reveals that the judging might not be entirely fair. Clearly, Violet isn’t above taking advantage of her social position to secure these wins. And while it’s not a truly terrible thing, it does reveal that there’s a petty streak to her personality.
4She Convinces Dr. Clarkson To Lie To Cora About Sybil’s Death
After Sybil dies in childbirth, Cora blames Robert, thinking that their daughter could have been saved with a C-section. Violet convinces Dr. Clarkson to say this isn’t so, and this leads to the reconciliation of these two characters. While it might appear that this is actually a good thing, it is in fact morally ambiguous.
One can’t help but wonder whether it would have been better for Violet to stay out of things, if only so Robert and Cora could have had an honest reconciliation rather than one based on deception.
3She Gave Up Her Own Happiness As A Youth
Late in the series, it’s revealed that Violet very nearly ran away with a Russian aristocrat but ultimately decided that she should stay with her family. While of course Violet has every right to do with her romantic life as she pleases, one can’t help but wonder whether she did both herself and her family a disservice by staying in a marriage that clearly wasn’t as romantically or emotionally fulfilling as it should be.
2When She Tries To Obstruct The Hospital Merger
Despite the fact that Isobel had earlier proved that she knew a thing or two about medicine, Violet once again decided to lock horns with her when it came time to possibly merge the small hospital with a larger one. While Violet might have had some good reasons for her objections, ultimately it seems to come down to both her innate conservatism and her unwillingness to ever admit that Isobel might be right about something.
1When She Doesn’t Tell Her Family About Her Illness
In one of the most heartbreaking moments in the film, Violet reveals that she is mortally ill. However, since this moment comes rather late in the film, it seems that she was actually hiding her diagnosis for quite some time before finally deciding to come out with it. While, again, it’s entirely her own choice about whether or when she reveals this important information to her family, one can’t help but wonder whether it would have been kinder to have alerted them to this situation earlier so that they could prepare themselves and also be there for her.