Downton Abbey series 4: Elizabeth McGovern says, “O’Brien’s departure is a trauma that takes on greater proportions” for Lady Cora! (INTERVIEW) *Spoilers*

by Lynn Connolly


Fans of Downton Abbey will most likely know that lady’s maid O’Brien – who was played by the fabulous Siobhan Finneran – has left the estate and taken up a post with one of Lady Cora’s relatives!

And that’s something that’s set to cause Lady Cora some upset in the forthcoming fourth series of the show.

Elizabeth McGovern, who of course plays Lady Cora, explained, “I think she experiences a little bit of displacement grief when she finds out O’Brien left in the middle of the night…

“You know how sometimes, when there’s a generalised sadness, it manifests in an overreaction to something that is really not that huge?

“Well O’Brien’s departure is a minor trauma, but it takes on an even greater proportion as a displacement for the major trauma, which is of course the hole created by Matthew’s death.”


Next, Elizabeth discussed Cora’s marriage to Robert – who’s played by Hugh Bonneville – which was of course sorely tested last year over the death of Sybil.

She remarked, “Even though we see them as basically an extremely happily married couple, Cora’s more willing to take another side of an argument than Robert is.

“She feels much more comfortable doing so, and also – which I’m really happy about when I see it in the script – she’s much more impatient [in the new series] with his flaws than she has been in seasons past.

“So she’ll be impatient with him when he’s being obstinate about moving on with the times, and things like that.

“But all of that is still within the context of a lot of love and understanding on Cora’s part for her husband.”


Elizabeth added of Cora, “She’s a woman of her time, and she makes the best of the deal she made marrying Robert [but] I had wondered if we’d ever be seeing Cora make more demands for herself because of the changing expectations of women…

“But what’s seeming to happen is that she’s projecting it on to her children and her grandchildren, and making demands for them.

“She’s still very happy to take a passive role herself, and to have no expectations for herself.”

However, Elizabeth remarked that Cora’s main goal is to help her daughter Mary – who’s played by Michelle Dockery – to move on from Matthew’s death.

She said, “She wants to make things right again. Cora’s modus operandi is very much to try to move Mary on…


“To move the whole family on actually, and to give Mary another dimension to her life by giving her some power and control over the estate.

“And even though Cora accepts a complete lack of power and control for herself in her own life without batting an eye, she very much wants it for her daughter.”

With regard to how Cora adapts to being a grandmother twice over in the new series, Elizabeth said, “You don’t see her on her hands and knees with the children very much…

“But that’s symptomatic of the time – children were raised by staff. But she’s definitely got their best interests very much in her mind.

“She’s particularly protective of the chauffeur’s daughter, and the complication that she might inherit as a result of that.

“That’s something that I really appreciated about the writing of that part – that Cora had a chance to come to the little girl’s aid.”


We’ll see how she does so in the first episode, when we get a glimpse of the prejudice that little Sybbie may have to face throughout her life.

For now though, here’s a look at the series four trailer…

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.