Gordon or Crawley? Downton Abbey’s Biggest Secret Was Never Revealed

Gordon or Crawley? Downton Abbey’s Biggest Secret Was Never Revealed
Image credit: PBS

A man with a burned face became the most mysterious character in the entire series.

Great Britain, Yorkshire, April 1912. The heir to the Earl of Grantham, Patrick Crawley, dies on the Titanic. The family hopes that, with no male heirs left, the land and family fortune will pass to the eldest of the Earl's three daughters.

But the Earl, who has devoted his life to making Downton flourish, refuses to defend his eldest daughter's rights to the inheritance. He believes that everything, including his wife's considerable fortune, should go to a distant relative – a bourgeois lawyer.

This was the beginning of the main mystery of the series, which was never solved.

The second season of Downton Abbey was set during the First World War and Downton was turned into a convalescent home for recovering soldiers during the war. One of the soldiers who went there was Major Patrick Gordon, who had severe burns on his face and hands.

Gordon or Crawley? Downton Abbey’s Biggest Secret Was Never Revealed - image 1

He talked a lot with Edith, one of the Earl of Grantham's daughters, and confessed to her that he was Patrick Crawley.

According to Gordon, he survived the Titanic shipwreck, but suffered from amnesia afterwards. He ended up in Canada, where he took the surname Gordon, and his memories returned when he was injured in a battle explosion.

Due to severe burns, family members could not be sure if Gordon was really Patrick Crawley. The stakes were high, as he could also be a con man who knew enough about the real Crawley to impersonate him and end up with an inheritance.

It was then discovered that the real Patrick may have met a man named Peter Gordon before the sinking of the Titanic, as well as some other circumstantial evidence suggesting that Gordon was an imposter. But at the same time, Gordon still knew too much about the real Patrick.

In the end, he wrote a farewell letter in which implied that he was leaving with the best of intentions so as not to cause any more problems for the family, and Edith and everyone else were left wondering if Gordon was really the heir or a con man who had had a change of heart about his con.

Nowhere in the series was this mystery further revealed, and it remains the best-kept secret of Downton Abbey to this day.