Cora Crawley Shouldn’t Forgive Robert For ‘Downton’ Death

Mon, January 28, 2013 12:01pm EST by 13 Comments

Cora Crawley is beyond right to blame her dolt of a husband, Robert, for the unnecessary death of Downton’s most beloved character.

Cora Crawley experienced an earth-shattering tragedy on last night, Jan. 27’s episode of Downton Abbey. Just at a time that should have been full of happiness — her daughter Sybil is expecting a baby and the family’s estate has been saved by Matthew Crawley’s inheritance — there is an unexpected death and Robert is to blame!

Cora’s beautiful “baby,” youngest daughter Sybil, who is just 24, dies minutes after childbirth due to a severe case of eclampsia. Now Cora is in agony experiencing what no parent ever should have to endure- the death of a child.

But what is particularly tearing apart Cora is that Sybil’s death could likely have been prevented.

Why Robert’s To Blame For Sybil’s Tragic Death

And the person most responsible for Sybil’s death was her own father and Cora’s husband — Robert Crawley, Lord Grantham.

Despite Cora’s pleas to her husband to take Sybil immediately to the hospital for a Cesarian section which could have possibly saved her life — Robert refuses.

Robert is so caught up in his upper crust snobbery that he refuses to listen to the advice from distressed, local Dr. Clarkson, who urgently warns the family that Sybil is suffering from dangerous toxemia during childbirth.

Dr. Clarkson has been pitted against some fancy doctor brought in from London by Robert — Sir Philip Tapsell.

Sir Philip may look good in tails for dinner but he barely pays attention to Sybil who is in agony as she suffers in a difficult labor upstairs while the Crawleys and Sir Philip dine below.

Why Doesn’t Anyone Listen To Dr. Clarkson?

Meanwhile Dr. Clarkson points out first to Cora — who is all ears — and then to the rest of the Crawleys, that Sybil has all the classic symptoms of a dangerous state of toxemia, which can lead to deathly eclampsia.

Poor Sybil complains of excruciating headaches, has mental lapses from reality, and hallucinates that she is still nursing at a hospital. Dr. Clarkson points out that her ankles are swollen and that her baby appears to be on the small side.

I’ve checked out the symptoms of toxemia, which is a pregnancy complication affecting 2-6 percent of first-time mothers according to the American Pregnancy Association.

And just like Dr. Clarkson said — Sybil had textbook symptoms of toxemia: headaches, fatigue, swelling in the feet and too much protein in her urine. All symptoms that Dr. Clarkson pointed out to fancy Sir Philip and to know-nothing Robert Crawley. The symptoms are caused by dangerously high blood pressure in the expectant mother.

Did Robert Crawley’s Pride Kill His Daughter?

But Robert, who naturally had so little medical knowledge that he didn’t even want the issue discussed in front of his mother, the Dowager, ignores Cora and Dr. Clarkson and refuses to allow Sybil to be moved to the hospital.

Robert doesn’t seem to understand that his daughter could die as the result of his refusal to listen to the country doctor.

Furthermore, he also leaves Sybil’s distraught husband Thomas, the former chauffeur, out of the decision, even though he is obviously Sybil’s next of kin.

Instead, Robert overrules Cora and Dr. Clarkson’s pleas and insists that he won’t allow Sybil to be exposed to germs in a public hospital.

Obviously, his concerns about cleanliness are warranted — this is the early ’20s before the era of antibiotics which made surgery safe.

But as Dr. Clarkson knew, toxemia would likely lead to the fatal eclampsia if Sybil didn’t get an immediate C-section and that would be a certain death sentence.

How Eclampsia Can Cause Death

Eclampsia results when toxemia (also called preeclampsia) isn’t treated quickly, causing liver or kidney failure and also massive bleeding, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

The reason that Sybil’s baby was small is because toxemia can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood, so the fetus gets less oxygen and food.

As Sybil’s condition quickly deteriorates and Dr. Clarkson and Sir Philip argue, Cora can barely contain herself, especially when Dr. Clarkson repeats that they must do a Cesarean before it is “too late.”

The only thing that can save her is an immediate delivery of the baby which will relieve her high and escalating blood pressure.

He warns that once “seizures” start, nothing can be done to prevent her death.

A Decision That Splits A Family

Cora, like any normal mother, owed her strongest allegiance to her child — in this case Sybil. That bond overruled even her loyalty and deference to her longtime husband.

Her instincts told her to listen to Dr. Clarkson and save Sybil, while her husband placed his allegiance to a well-titled physician above the wishes of his wife.

His pig-heeled decision meant that the entire family witnessed the horror of Sybil’s agonizing death during a series of seizures.

Her death may NOT have been prevented if she ended up dying from complications of a C-section, but it was absolutely sealed by her father’s refusal to listen to his wife and the doctor who had known Sybil since she was born.

Cora is heartbroken and so haunted by the agony that Sybil’s death may have been prevented that she can’t bear to sleep with Robert, or to barely even be with him in the same room.

And Cora is right. What Robert did IS unforgivable! He #1) didn’t take the risk to Sybil’s life seriously, #2) didn’t put his wife’s urgent concerns over his deference to a titled doctor and #3) didn’t inform Sybil’s husband Tom about the options for her treatment.

Tom of course, when he found out that there was a chance to save Sybil, wanted her rushed to the hospital immediately — but it was too late!

Where Can Cora Go From Here?

Robert’s role in Sybil’s death is unforgivable. And if Cora does force herself to go through the charade of forgiving him, she’ll never be able to forgive herself.

Living that lie would eat away at Cora for the rest of her life.

As a mother, Cora must stay true to her daughter and act in the best interests of her baby granddaughter and son-in-law, Tom.

That’s the only thing she can do to honor Sybil’s last wishes.

What do you think, HollywoodLifers – should Cora forgive Robert for Sybil’s death or not? Let me know!

– Bonnie Fuller

Follow Bonnie!

More Downton News:

  1. ‘Downton Abbey’ Recap: Everyone Suffers Sybil’s Labor Pains
  2. Matthew Crawley Needs To Save Downton Abbey With His Fortune
  3. ‘Downton Abbey’ Recap: Tom & Sybil — International Fugitives?

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Posted at 8:04 AM on May 18, 2013  

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Posted at 7:57 PM on April 19, 2013  

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Posted at 6:53 PM on January 29, 2013  

Of course she should forgive him. He was arrogant and wrong but he lost his daughter as well. I know if he knew Sybil would die he would not have acted that way. Robert is hurting as well, she should take her time to forgive but forgive none the less. Yes as mothers our instincts are different than fathers and we align with our children; but unless its the case of molestation from the father etc. I don’t agree with choosing one or another and throwing our husbands to the dogs. Just my opinion! Great post!

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Posted at 11:10 PM on April 15, 2013  

I think the reconciliation scene between Cora and Robert was beautifully acted and I believe that forgiveness is important in marriage. This is Jullian Fellowes’ creation and it is drama.

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Posted at 2:28 PM on January 29, 2013  

I lost my twins in 2008. It is horrific to go through. picking the outfits, finding a plot, picking a headstone, the casket, the flowers, the church, and then a luncheon. Then writting Thank you’s.

Corra is entiled to her pain and suffering. Her husband has to truely appoligiez and he needs to say why he did what he did, and how his attitude needs to change. But If he doesn’t it will not be good. I blamed my husband and when he told me and explained why he acted the way he did, it started to heal.

I also had to forgive the doctors in the deaths, keeping options away that would have save at least one of my sons. I loved Sybil. A very modern woman, killed by men thinking they know better.

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C. C. Gevry

Posted at 12:26 PM on January 29, 2013  

I’m not saying she shouldn’t forgive him, but it will be hard. It will take time. I don’t like the direction they are taking with Robert’s character, first losing Cora’s fortune by not listening to his lawyer and then playing a role in his daughter’s death. I hope they redeem him, because I truly liked his character until recently.

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eileen drape

Posted at 8:35 PM on January 28, 2013  

Count me out of “Downton Abbey.” Sorry, but killing off Sybil was a big mistake. It breached the trust that had been established between the creator and audience. That relationship was built on the sense that this was harmless entertainment – a drama yes, but not high tragedy. We know that conflicts were central, but we also knew it would not take a turn into the abyss. Yes, peripheral characters died (like Lavinia) but we were not at all invested in those characters. Then came the terrible ordeal of Sybil, and the trust was broken. It was like killing off Little Joe on “Bonanza.” It was inconsistent with the long-established trust that the story would not turn deeply dark – that this was Dickens, not Shakespeare. But our trust was broken. Clearly Fellowes decided, yes, he could be Shakespeare – an over-reach. In the end, the show has failed as what it was and for the reason it became popular — that we knew it was harmless and wouldn’t wreak havoc on our souls. He set us up — so don’t count on me any further. I’m done with Downton. And I’m not the only one.

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Posted at 3:51 AM on January 29, 2013  

Well, actually the actress decided to leave, so there wasn’t much else for Fellowes to do, especially if he didn’t want to write out Branson as well at the same time. And why should another actor lose a job from someone else’s desire to leave? Besides, Sybil, sweet as she was, was quite possibly one of the most boring and one dimensional characters of the show otherwise filled with quite complex characters, so it will only be interesting to see what her death will trigger in the remaining, more interesting members of the family.

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Posted at 5:14 PM on July 15, 2013  

Actually she was the most interesting of all the sisters. She cared about politics, went to rallies, held a job, married against her father’s wishes and made her own life overseas. How is that less interesting than sitting around drinking tea and whining about not getting everything you want, like Mary does? Mary is a dull cow.

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Posted at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2013  

Yes she should forgive him, when she’s ready. Not that her blaming him isn’t perfectly justified and understandable, but let’s face it – how many correct diagnoses had Dr. Clarkson made before the case of Sybil? None? To be fair, one could just as easily argue that Robert was thinking only of Sybil’s best when he would rather rely on the opinion of another physician, even though in this case it obviously backfired in a very unfortunate way.

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Posted at 5:19 PM on January 28, 2013  

Great article!

Although I knew that Lady Sybil was going to leave the show, it was still a heart wrenching scene. She was complaining about headaches, so I wonder if the complications of pregnancy caused a seizure by an oncoming stroke or aneurysm?

Oh, well, the remaining episodes will definitely lead to more drama!

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Posted at 1:25 AM on February 2, 2013  

@Anc. Lib. “I wonder if the complications of pregnancy caused a seizure…?” Uh, it was clearly indicated she died from eclampsia. Regarding forgiving Richard. Hopefully Cora can reconcile with Robert because true forgiveness is not something earned; it is bestowed; it is merciful. I too was shocked at Sybil’s death. That character could have been played by someone else beginning at seaseon 3. It’s often done.

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Posted at 1:26 AM on February 2, 2013  

Oops sorry, I meant “Robert” not “Richard” of course.

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