Downton Abbey: Does Richard E Grant’s art historian break up the Crawleys’ marriage?

Is there trouble brewing between Robert and Cora Crawley? Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern fuel the fire...

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Will there be trouble in paradise for Downton Abbey power couple Robert and Cora Crawley? It’s certainly looking that way, with the introduction of art historian Simon Bricker, played by Richard E. Grant. The Withnail and I actor will grace four episodes of the upcoming fifth season – and rumour has it he’s set to cause a ruction between Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his long-suffering spouse. 

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“When a good-looking man like Richard E. Grant turns up claiming to be an art historian, you need to lock up your etchings!” joked Bonneville at the Downton Abbey series five press launch. 

The series opens with the celebration of Robert and Cora’s wedding anniversary – with more than three decades of marriage belying some fundamental differences between the couple. “There’s been a tease of it in episode one that Robert and Cora have been married 34 years and there’s a slight sense of stasis, taking each other for granted,” continued Bonneville.

“Certainly, Robert is set in his ways and stuck in a rut so when the twinkly-eyed art historian comes, it’s not the paintings he’s interested in.”

That sounded ominous, so we tried to ease our fears when we chatted to Elizabeth McGovern – who plays Lady Cora. Sadly, she only fuelled the fire. “All the characters are coping with a changing world in different ways and, because of Cora’s nature, she finds change a little bit more easy to embrace than Robert does which places a wedge between them.

“They’re so different as people and I think that tests their marriage,” she continued, adding, “but they’ve also got a great love and long history together.

“There are aspects to her personality that haven’t really been explored and Richard E. Grant’s character is an art historian and that seems to be something that Cora has really got a personal passion for.”

Uh-oh, we spell trouble. Brace yourselves, Downton Abbey fans. 

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Downton Abbey returns to ITV at 9pm on Sunday 21 September. Watch the trailer below…