This weekend, news broke that Daisy Lewis will be joining the cast of Downton Abbey for the upcoming fourth season. According to the Daily Mail, the 28-year-old British actress will play the live-in nanny to baby Sibyl and may be a potential love interest for the heartbroken widower Tom Branson. Upon seeing a picture of Daisy Lewis, a question arose in our minds: Why is it that so many of the female staff members at Downton Abbey are redheads?
[Note: Spoilers about from here on out.]
First, we have Gwen Dawson, the lovable housemaid played by Rose Leslie (aka Ygritte, for all you Game of Thrones fans). Gwen was a kind, respectful servant, but her boldness — a quality intrinsic in gingers — shone through when she secretly took a correspondance course in typing and left Downton to pursue her dream of being a secretary.
Then, there’s Ethel Parks, the outspoken housemaid who replaces Gwen’s replacement. Like her red hair, Ethel certainly is fiery. She makes it clear that she resents her position at Downton Abbey after working as the head maid at a smaller estate. Ethel’s passion leads her to hard times, however, as she becomes pregnant as the result of an affair with the later deceased Major Charles Bryant. Fired from Downton and working as a prostitute, she struggles to support her baby Charlie and ultimately has to make the heartwrenching decision to send him to live with the wealthy Bryant family.
Lastly, we can’t forget Mrs. Beryl Patmore. This ginger cook is one tough cookie. As she shouts orders at Daisy and prepares lavish meals for the Crawley family, Mrs. Patmore makes it clear that she runs this kitchen. But she’s also not afraid to show her softer side, acting as a caring mentor to her young assistant cook (and much of the staff).
So, there you have it — the growing lineup of Downton Abbey gingers — but we still have not yet begun to answer the question: Why all the redheads? Maybe it’s a total coincidence. Or maybe Irishman Branson has a liking for pretty gingers. Or maybe the fact that red-haired women are relegated to servile positions in this show is a sort of perpetuation of gingerism, à la South Park’s “Gingers have no souls” saying. Or maybe Daisy Lewis won’t even be a redhead on the show. After all, the Crawleys’ cousin Lady Rose is blonde, but Lily James, the actress who plays the rebellious teen, has naturally dark hair. As for now, all we can do is speculate.
What will Daisy Lewis bring to the saga of the Crawley family and the staff of Downton Abbey? We’ll have to wait and see.