There's Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, Mr. Knightley, Mr. Thornton, Mr. Ferrers and then there is Matthew Crawley. The beloved hero of Downton Abbey took the world by storm as a lawyer turned heir who overnight had a great dynasty thrust upon his young shoulders. And that reason alone is what separates Matthew Crawley from the heroes of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. The son of a upper middle class doctor and a former nurse, Matthew has lived a comfortable, very educated life in Manchester, England working as a city solicitor. He was not raised in a great estate home, with servants to do his bidding. He knows nothing about managing land or dealing with family traditions. At least he's willing to try...and as long as it doesn't change him.
Matthew is given a lukewarm greeting by the residents of Downton Abbey, when he and his mother arrive. He is most especially put off by snotty Lady Mary who believes, that as the oldest, she should have Downton, not some distant stranger cousin. However, instead of buckling underneath the pressure of having to prove himself, Matthew goes above and beyond everyone's expectations. His once perceptions of how the wealthy live begin to change as Robert teaches him how to care for the tenants and protect the land. Mary, Edith and Sybil all have varied views of him, but all agree that he's worth keeping around.
The longer Matthew stays in Downton, the more he realizes how much of a difference he can make. Not much is spoken of Matthew's father, but it's clear that Matthew missed him dearly and finds a new father figure in Robert Crawley. While Robert loves his daughters dearly, he sees the son on Matthew he was never able to have. He sees an honest, good, and honorable man than any father would be proud of having and that any father would want his daughter to marry.
While Matthew hold the title of unexpected heir in the story; to fans he is simply an everyday hero. While hardly a brooding hero, people love him because he was a regular guy who went through extreme changes in his life, without himself being changed.
Matthew has always been a moral compass throughout his time on Downton Abbey. Yet, he was portrayed in a way that didn't make him too good to be true. Was he flawed, definitely? He could be judgmental, analytical, impatient and had difficulty getting over heady issues in the past. Yet, instead of these flaws demeaning his character, they made his character so much more real. Matthew wasn't always broodiness and hard work; he knew how to relax and have fun. There was also a sense of cluelessness about him that endeared him to the world. He didn't always know what was going on or how to handle things. What person ever does?
When Matthew died at the end of season 3, it did quite a bit of damage to the show. Many male Downton Abbey fans stopped watching the show, because for the first time, there was a guy that could relate too. That didn't have the perfect or unattainable qualities that girls always seem to want. Someone who was just as confused about love as they were. Matthew wasn't Mr. Darcy or Mr. Thornton who do could do no wrong; he was a lawyer who only wanted to do what was right. However, Downton Abbey survived for three more successful seasons, but really, the loss of Matthew was keenly felt through out the rest of the show.
From, lawyer to landowner, Matthew Crawley broke the mold for the romantic hero. A guy who could be understanding, but confused. Who could love deeply and lose greatly. A man who knew how to laugh, have fun and look beyond the boundaries of society.
Thank you, Matthew Crawley for being the everyday hero the world needs right now.