Downton Abbey names took off from the series’ earliest days. You almost certainly know a girl who shares her name with the Dowager Countess or her American daughter-in-law. Maybe with the middle daughter’s secret child, too, or the chauffeur-turned-family-member.
This post is packed with spoilers for the original series, as well as the 2019 film, but only mild ones for the May 2022 movie that takes us back to all of our beloved friends, upstairs and downstairs, at Downton.
Names come from the aristocratic Crawley family, the lords of Downton Abbey. (Strictly speaking, the head of the family is Earl of Grantham and Viscount Downton, but he’s referred to as Lord Grantham.) But they also come from the many servants required to make the manor run well. And we meet others over the course of the series – doctors and lawyers and journalists, men and women who point to a changing world.
While Julian Fellowes created the characters, their names reflect the era beautifully.
Options are richer for the ladies than the gentlemen. Maybe that’s because Robert and Joseph and John don’t feel especially attached to the series. Or maybe it’s because the era meant that they were referred to by their surnames or titles far more often, and so their names don’t feel as linked to the show. However, a few surname names do make this list, inspired by the male characters.
There’s no question that the series and the movies that followed influenced baby names – particularly baby girl names. It’s hard to imagine Cora and Marigold rising quite so dramatically without the characters. Though later seasons gave us characters with names like Atticus, already rising in the rankings before the show’s debut. And, of course, the characters reflect naming trends in England – which are just different enough to feel distinct. Alfred, for example, is back in the UK, but languishes in the US.
The Ladies of Downton Abbey
We love loyal Anna, ladies maid and beloved of the long-suffering Mr. Bates. She has a rough road, too. But at the series’ end, the couple lives happily ever after, with son Johnny joining their family. As a given name, Anna feels undeniably classic. Though this generation may associate it more strongly with Elsa’s sister in Frozen than the hallowed halls of Downton Abbey.
While rarely mentioned on the show, Mrs. Patmore’s given name is the lovely Beryl. I’d have left it off this list, except it’s just too wonderful to overlook. It’s a gemstone name, a green stone, and it would have been relatively novel when the Abbey’s cook was born. That makes Beryl the rough equivalent of a name like Mackenzie or Kaylani today.
Mary’s second child, her daughter with second husband Henry Talbot.
The graceful and gorgeous Lady Grantham brought an American fortune to Downton when she married the Earl. She’s a devoted mother and wife, and brings a quiet strength to her role. When the series debuted in 2010, Cora was rising steadily in use, following sound-alike Nora up the charts. The British drama helped the name more than double in use since its debut. One reason to adore the name: it sounds like the Latin cor – heart.
Kitchen maid Daisy features in story lines from the very first season, and she remains a force to be reckoned with throughout the series. Her floral name fits right in with the era, since the Victorians embraced so many in the decades prior to the show’s setting. The household staff also includes an Ivy, and plenty of botanical favorites belong to the aristocratic characters, too.
The Crawley’s middle daughter spends several seasons as poor Edith, the one always overlooked and prone to tragedy. But Edith triumphs over them all. She forges a career as a writer, and then ends the sixth season by marrying Bertie Pelham, becoming the Marchioness of Hexham. As a name, Edith has hibernated for years. And yet, it’s a 1930s favorite – so if the hundred year rule applies, it’s just about time for Edith to feel fresh once more. Nickname Edie is a bonus.
Like other senior members of staff, she’s always called Mrs. Hughes. But the head housekeeper’s given name is Elsie.
Another of the Crowley’s housemaids, her personal story is tragic – but ultimately has a happy ending. A former Top Ten name in the US, Ethel was just right for the era. And while it has yet to make a comeback, never say never.
Hard-working housemaid Gwen is part of the show’s first season. She studies to become a secretary and leave behind service. Lady Sybil helps her to land a job. We later learn that Gwen married and had a family when she returns to Downton for a visit in a later season.
Isabella graces the US Top Ten, and has for many years. Isabelle isn’t too very far behind. But Isobel – the Scottish spelling – remains quite rare. Still, if you prefer Katharine to Katherine and Elinor to Eleanor, perhaps Isobel will appeal to you, another elegant alternative spelling that might be just different enough to feel new.
Another member of the Downton staff. Just like Violet and Daisy, Ivy is a reminder that girl names drawn from nature were popular at the turn of the twentieth century, just as they are today.
A love interest for Downton heir Matthew Crawley, Lavinia Swire appears in the second season. Her flowing name seems pitch-perfect for the character, though it’s seldom heard in recent years.
Tom Branson’s second wife, introduced in the 2019 film. Her backstory is fascinating, and fuels much of the movie’s drama.
Lady Edith’s secret daughter, it’s originally planned that she’ll be given up for adoption. But Edith can’t bear to be parted from her, and eventually takes her in as a ward, before admitting their relationship. The show launched the name. It sits just a bit outside of the current US Top 1000, and continues to gain rapidly in use. Originally a mash-up of Mary and gold, the richly meaningful name could easily join other floral favorites on the charts.
Lady Mary Crawley is the eldest daughter at Dowton. Sometimes cold and calculating, even cruel, she’s also whip-smart, generous, and brave, too. Her first husband’s death devastates her, but by series’ end, she’s found love once more. In the movie, we also meet two historical figures – Queen Mary and her daughter, Princess Mary.
A Crawley cousin by birth, Maud is the Dowager Baroness Bagshaw and one of Queen Mary’s ladies-in-waiting when the 2019 movie opens. She’s also – secretly – mother to Lucy.
Robert’s sister, Rosamund is aunt to the Crawley sisters. She’s a key figure in several seasons, and the Crawleys often visit her London home.
The extended Crawley family includes cousin Rose, daughter of Hugh and Susan MacClare, and great-niece to Violet Crawley. Lady Rose moves in to the grand house when her parents move to India. Her rebellions and romances dominate several storylines, as does her eventual marriage to The Honourable Ephraim Atticus Aldridge.
Sybil was given to just a dozen girls the year Downton Abbey debuted; by 2018, that number soared to 108. The youngest Crawley daughter, idealistic, romantic, and warm, Sybil marries for love, and dies tragically young. Her daughter is also Sybil, called Sybbie. She’s raised at the Abbey, alongside her cousins. While rare, it could be part of the next wave of vintage revival names, a substitute for Abigail or Evelyn.
When Lady Rose returns from America, she announces the birth of her daughter, Victoria Rachel Cora.
Is any character more appealing that the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the incomparable Maggie Smith. At time, she’s snobbish and rude, but also loving and fierce. And Violet Crawley gets all of the best lines. The name was just outside of the US Top 100 when the show debuted, but it’s only continued to climb since we met the fearless, stronger-than-strong matriarch of the Crawley family.
The Gentlemen of Downton Abbey
Young Alfred is a footman and war veteran when the third season begins. The name is perfect for the era, and still feels impeccably British – at least to an American audience.
Lady Rose loves passionately, and without regard to the realities of the day. She ultimately falls for The Honourable Ephraim Atticus Aldridge, known by his middle. He’s heir to a title, which makes him a suitable match, but he’s Jewish, so there’s plenty of tension in the storyline, too. In the US, we didn’t use the name Atticus at all until Harper Lee made it so famous in To Kill a Mockingbird. So it strikes me as slightly anachronistic. Except there are plenty of ancient men called Atticus, and a few others along the way, too.
The British love Bertie. There’s PG Wodehouse’s immortal creation, Bertie Wooster of Jeeves and Wooster fame. And then there’s Herbert “Bertie” Pelham, aka the Marquess of Hexham. He and Edith fall in love, and despite many challenges, ultimately marry at the end of the series. This makes middle sister Edith a marchioness – meaning she outranks even her mother.
We meet Tom Branson, the Irish chauffeur, at the very beginning of the show. Sparks fly between Tom and Lady Sybil from the first. They ultimately break all the rules and marry. After Sybil’s tragic death in childbirth, Tom remains to raise their daughter at Downton. As a member of staff, he’s referred to as Branson, though once he joins the family, he’s most often Tom. A surname associated with a popular Missouri resort destination, it was already rising when the show premiered, but spiked along with the character’s storyline.
Carson sounds just right on a baby boy today. And yet it’s undeniably a Downton name, the surname of the dignified, but caring, butler, Charles Ernest Carson. Serious and loyal, Carson is the backbone of the household, along with the head housekeeper – and his future wife, Elsie Hughes. He’s also more than mere employee, especially to Lady Mary and her father. Carson symbolizes an entire era.
As firstborn son to a future king, George makes an impeccably royal choice. There’s a George on the throne during the Downton days, too. In fact, the 2019 movie centers around a visit from King George V. But it’s the son of Matthew and Mary that wears the name most prominently on the show. He’s born just hours before his father’s tragic accident, and grows up in the nursery as the heir to all of Downton Abbey. In the US, George seems ready for revival, a successor to Jack and Henry and William, too.
Lady Mary’s second husband, the handsome and dashing Henry Talbot.
A handsome footman, Jimmy is really James Kent. But he’s most often known as Jimmy, ambitious and flirtatious. Most James today are James or possiby Jamie, but Jimmy remains an upbeat, throwback nickname option, too.
Mr. Bates is actually John. But his first name is seldom heard. Instead, Johnny makes this list because it’s the name John and Anna give to their firstborn son.
Classic Matthew is falling in use, while Mateo and Matias climb. But it’s Matthew Crawley that sets the series’ drama in motion – and his demise that causes yet more complications for the family. The show helped transform our perception of the name, from Matt – a cowboy and a quarterback – to English gentleman Matthew. And that might help give the name a new life for twenty-first century parents.
This classic name belonged to several characters mentioned in the series. But Michael Gregson was the most significant. The publisher who gave Lady Edith her start as a writer, he’d later become her love interest. And, while he died before meeting her, he was also the father of Marigold.
Edith’s firstborn son with husband Bertie, he’s heir to his father’s holdings. As several fan sites point out, he’s also likely already an earl. They named their son after Bertie’s beloved cousin.
Maybe it’s a stretch to include Reginald among Downton Abbey names. But it is Matthew Crawley’s middle; his father’s first; and Lavinia’s father’s first name, too. Plus it sounds just right for the era, a starchy, serious name with adorable short form Reggie.
Robert Crawley is the Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville. While the name is too traditional to be clearly tied to the character, the show adds some polish to a common name.
One of the most intriguing characters, footman Thomas Barrow schemes and plots his way through the series. He suffers terribly, too, but ends the series in triumph, succeeding Carson as butler at Downton. A classic name, it might not be so linked with the show as a name like Marigold or Branson. But, like Matthew, Thomas reminds us that the full name feels very different from the casual short form. Calling your Thomas by the full two syllables might make the traditional choice a little bit on the surprising side.
What are your favorite Downton Abbey names?
First published on September 14, 2019, this post was revised and republished on May 19, 2022.