A Psychological Look at the Fate of Baby Marigold on Downton Abbey

If you like the television show Downtown Abbey as much as I do, I wonder if you share my concern: I’m really worried about Lady Edith and her baby girl Marigold. Oops! Remember, that last part is a secret that some of the Grantham Family don’t share. However, I know that I can trust you to remain silent as we watch Lady Edith struggle between her love of Marigold and her fear of discovery as an unwed mother. Now, here is the problem: poor baby Marigold has been abandoned four times in her young life and abandonment can have serious consequences. Warning: this post contains spoiler alerts if you have not watched the most recent episodes.

Let’s take a look at Marigold’s history:

Abandonment situation #1: After breastfeeding her daughter for four months and weaning her, Lady Edith abandons her daughter to the care of Mrs. Schroeder.

Abandonment situation #2: Lady Edith takes Marigold away from Mrs. Schroeder, the mother Marigold has bonded with and knows.

Abandonment situation #3: In an attempt to keep baby Marigold close, Lady Edith devises a rouse to have Mr. and Mrs. Drew raise Marigold. Lady Edith believes this will give her the opportunity to visit her daughter without giving away her secret. Thus, Lady Edith comes and goes away from Marigold, depending on the whim of Mrs. Drew.

Abandonment situation #4: Finally, Mrs. Drew’s hostility towards Lady Edith removes her from Marigold. The proximity to Marigold, without full parental rights, is too much for Lady Edith to bear. Once again, Lady Edith places Marigold in an abandonment situation, by separating her from Mr. and Mrs. Drew, the only parental figures that toddler Marigold knows and loves.

When Lady Edith integrates Marigold into the Grantham family, she identifies her as a foundling, taken in by the largess of Downton Abbey. Typical of the aristocratic life in the early 1900’s, Marigold now lives under the stigma of adoption, while being cared for by nannies– yet another bond she will have to build. That is a lot of transition for one little girl to go through in such a short period of time.

Children such as Marigold who experience foster care and/or adoption can have abandonment issues, being torn from the arms of one caregiver and placed into those of another…and another…and another. In the early stages of childhood, your child’s anchor to the world is the sound of your voice, the smell of your body, and the touch of your hand. Young children do not even see their parents as separate from themselves, but rather as appendages. Therefore, separation for your baby can be terrifying. To have it happen more than once can be devastating. Therefore, children such as Marigold may need a lot of parental compensation to reestablish the feelings and bonds of intimacy, love and security.

If Marigold continues to be told she is adopted by Lady Edith, she will have to deal with identity development, self-esteem, feelings of loss, and intimacy. Feeling that she was rejected by her family of origin, Marigold may suffer feelings of rejection, grief, and loss. Marigold, like other children of adoption. often experience the fear that something is wrong with them – after all, their biological parents gave them away. Further, if Marigold grows up at Downton Abbey with cousins George and Sibyl, as well as other children that frequent the manor, she may feel stigmatized by being adopted and biologically different while vulnerable to teasing and bullying.

What do you think? Are you as concerned about Marigold’s wellbeing as I am? I guess we will have to tune in to find out.