Downton Abbey: Maggie Smith’s best one-liners

Violet Crawley really has a way with words - here are some of our favourites from the Dowager Countess...

Quick tongued Violet Crawley – played by the Emmy award-winning Maggie Smith – has had us in stitches with her clever quips and put-downs since series one. 


Here are a few of our favourite Maggie moments…

Remember back in series one when Violet met Cousin Isobel? They almost get on nowadays, but relations were a lot pricklier at first. When a friendly Isobel reaches out to the Dowager Countess, her response was rather cold…

ISOBEL CRAWLEY “What should we call each other?”

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Well we could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham…” 

The look on the Countess’s face when she was first introduced the notion of “the weekend” was priceless. What it must be like to have such a charmed life that your Sundays run on into Mondays without a need for differentiation… If only! 

EARL OF GRANTHAM “You do know I mean to involve you in the running of the estate?

MATTHEW “Oh don’t worry. There are plenty of hours in the day and, of course, I’ll have the weekend.”

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Wha- what is a weekend?” 

Remember when Lady Mary wasn’t happily wed to Matthew? And what a scandal she caused by bedding exotic hot-blooded Turk Pamuk who then went and died on her?

Pre-marital sex and covering up a death all in one night? Oh Mary, it’d never have happened with a nice English boy…

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Oh my dears, is it really true? I can’t believe it. Last night he looked so well. Of course, it would happen to a foreigner… It’s typical!”

MARY “Don’t be ridiculous.”

DOWAGER COUNTESS  “I’m not being ridiculous. No English man would dream of dying in someone else’s house. Especially someone they didn’t even know.”  

Ah, back in the day when Mary wasn’t head over heels for handsome Matthew. As Violet was well aware getting hitched with a saucy secret like Pamuk to hide is a tricky matter – and you do always need a plan B… 

DOWAGER COUNTESS “The question is, will she accept Matthew?”

CORA “I’m not sure.”

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Well if she doesn’t, we’ll just have to take her abroad. In these moments you can normally find an Italian who isn’t too picky…”

Remember Lavinia? A lot of people weren’t best pleased when she showed up at the start of series two, seemingly scuppering any chance Mary and Matthew had of finally getting together. If only we’d known then how that would all turn out, maybe Violet wouldn’t have been so scathing after meeting the poor lamb for the first time…

DOWAGER COUNTESS “So that’s Mary’s replacement? Well, I suppose looks aren’t everything…”

CORA “I think she seems rather sweet. I’m afraid meeting us all together must be very intimidating.”

DOWAGER COUNTESS “I do hope so.”

Violet Crawley has never had much time for whingers, Edith. You should know that by now…

EDITH “Am I just to be the maiden aunt? Isn’t this what they do, arrange presents for their prettier relations?”

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle class.” 

Violet never did much like newspaper mogul Richard – and she wasn’t the only one pleased to see the back of him! We don’t know about you, but it pretty much made our Christmas…

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Well, what on earth’s the matter?”

RICHARD “I’m leaving in the morning Lady Grantham. I doubt we’ll meet again.”

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Do you promise?”

And here we are at the start of series three. Violet has never been one to shy away from her dislike of Americans – and Cora’s mother is no exception. 

DOWAGER COUNTESS “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”

MATTHEW “But isn’t she American?”


A comedy gem from series three here. When, in a hilarious plot twist, ALL the Earl’s formal shirts go missing from his room and, horror of horrors, he has to wear an inappropriately informal shirt under his dinner jacket, Martha Levinson says he looks as though he is “dressed for a BBQ”, but Violet goes one better, ‘mistaking’ him for one of the staff…

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Oh do you think I might have a drink?”

[turns to Earl of Grantham] Oh I’m so sorry, I thought you were a waiter…” 

There’s only room at Downton for one quick-tongued matriarch and, although it was lovely to have Shirley MacLaine in the cast for a couple of weeks, we have to agree. Long may Violet Crawley look down on the inhabitants of Downton and pass her witty judgement on them all…

DOWAGER COUNTESS “Just how long is she here for?”


DOWAGER COUNTESS “No guest should be admitted without the date of their departure settled” 


Downton Abbey continues on Sundays at 9:00pm on ITV1