Countess Violet Grantham Quotes

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The Queen of Mean dishes it out…

Dowager Countess of Grantham

Dowager Countess of Grantham



Maggie Smith as Countess Violet is the undisputed highlight of each episode of Downton Abbey. Her favourite objects of scorn include unsuitable husbands, Americans, and of course, Isobel Crawley. Read on for some of the loveable snob’s most scathing zingers…

“What is a weekend?”

“Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”

“Things are different in America, they live in Wig Wams.”

“I was right about my maid. She’s leaving – to get married! How could she be so selfish?”

“First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

“Hepworth men don’t go in for loneliness much. I knew his father in the late 60s. Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?” (Where are the snows of yesteryear?)

“Why does everyday involve a fight with an American?”

“Alas, I am beyond impropriety.”

“I will applaud your discretion when you leave.”

“I knew this family was approaching disillusion, I wasn’t aware that illusion was already upon us.”

“Everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.”

“We’ll have to take her abroad, in these moments you can usually find an Italian who’s not too picky.”

“Mary won’t take Matthew Crawley, so we better get her settled before the bloom is quite gone off the rose”

“Give him a date for when Mary’s out of mourning. No one wants to kiss a girl in black.”

Lady Mary: “I was only going to say Sybil that is entitled to her opinions.”
Countess Violet: “No, she isn’t, until she is married. And then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.”

“Twenty four years ago you married Cora against my wishes for her money. Give it away now and what was the point of your peculiar marriage in the first place?”

Cora Crawley: “Are we to be friends then?”
Countess Violet: “We are allies my dear which can be a good deal more effective.”

“I couldn’t have electricity in the house. I couldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapours seeping about.”

“Why do you always have to pretend to be nicer than the rest of us?”

“Edith, you are a Lady, not Toad of Toad Hall.”

“I don’t dislike him, I just don’t like him. Which is quite different.”

“Oh, I should steer clear of May. Marry in May, rue the day.”

“No doubt you will regard this as rather unorthodox, my pushing into a man’s bedroom uninvited.”

“I was watching her the other night, when you spoke of your wedding. She looked like Juliet on awakening in the tomb.”

“Wasn’t there a masked ball in Paris when cholera broke out? Half the guests were dead before they left the ballroom.”


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

“I do hope I’m interrupting something.”

Cora: “I hope I don’t hear sounds of a disagreement.”
Countess Violet: “Is that what they call discussion in New York?”

“Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”

“Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

“I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.”

“If she won’t say yes when he might be poor, he won’t want her when he will be rich.”

“It always happens when you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.”

Cora: “I might send her over to visit my aunt. She could get to know New York.”
Countess Violet: “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

“One can’t go to pieces at the death of every foreigner. We’d all be in a constant state of collapse whenever we opened a newspaper.”

Cora: “I hate to go behind Robert’s back.”
Countess Violet: “That is a scruple no successful wife can afford.”

Countess Violet: “Why would you want to go to a real school? You’re not a doctor’s daughter.”
Sybil: “Nobody learns anything from a governess, apart from French and how to curtsy.”
Countess Violet: “What else do you need? Are you thinking of a career in banking?”

Doctor: “Mrs. Crawley tells me she has recommended nitrate of silver and tincture of steel.”
Countess Violet: “Why, is she making a suit of armor?”

Lord Grantham: “We better go in soon or it isn’t fair to Mrs. Patmore.”
Countess Violet: “Oh, is her cooking so precisely timed? You couldn’t tell.”

Countess Violet: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Countess Violet: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

“I used to think Mary’s beau was a mésalliance but compared to this he’s positively a Hapsburg.”

“She’s so slight a real necklace would flatten her.”

“Sir Richard, life is a game, where the player must appear ridiculous.”

“You see, sometimes we must let the blow fall by degrees. Give him time to find the strength to face it.”

Sir Richard: “I’m leaving in the morning Lady Grantham. I doubt we’ll meet again.”
Countess Violet: “Do you promise?”

“It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere.”

Isobel and Violet's banter is a highlight of Downton Abbey

“Just because you’re an old widow, I see no necessity to eat off a tray.”

“There can be too much truth in any relationship.

“If I were to search for logic, I would not look for it among the English upper class.”

“She is a good woman. And while the phrase is enough to set my teeth on edge, there are moments when her virtue demands admiration.”

“I wonder your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara around the clock.”

“The only poet peer I am familiar with is Lord Byron and I presume we all know how that ended.”

“Wars have been waged with less fervour.”

Isobel: How you hate to be wrong.
Countess Violet: I wouldn’t know, I’m not familiar with the sensation.

“It is her fuel. I mean some people run on greed, lust, even love. She runs on indignation.”

Lady Edith gets some advice from Countess Violet

“My dear, we country dwellers must beware of being provincial. Try and let your time in London rub off on you a little more.”

“Try not to let those Yankees drive you mad.”

Isobel: It’s only me.
Violet: I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self worth.

“No life appears rewarding if you think about it too much.”

“Rosamind has no interest in French. If she wishes to be understood by a foreigner, she shouts.”

“Switzerland has everything to offer, except perhaps conversation. And one can learn to live without that.”

“He’s the most unconvincing fiance I’ve ever come across.”

Countess Violet (to Isobel): Can’t you even offer help without sounding like a trumpet on the peak of the moral high ground.

“Violet: British peerage is a fountain of variety.”

“The combination of open air picnics and after dinner poker make me feel as though I’ve fallen through a looking glass into the Dejeuner sur l’Herbe.”

Martha Levinson: I have no wish to be a great lady.
Countess Violet: A decision that must be reenforced whenever you look in the glass.

“There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like. Avoiding one’s friends, that’s the real test.”

Countess Violet (to Lord Grantham): Your father always told the village what they wanted.

“Principles are like prayers. Noble of course. But awkward at a party.”