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Best Dowager Countess Quotes: ‘Downton Abbey’ Season Three

Lady Violet’s best zingers and bon mots

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey, Dowager Countess

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

Oh no she Downt'nt! True, Downton Abbey may not be the most action-packed show on television. But thanks to the irrepressible presence of Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, it packs an arsenal of zingers, one-liners, and bon mots brutal enough to make a Walking Dead shotgun blast look like a musical number from Dora the Explorer. Imagine those two old-man Muppets who heckle from the balcony dressed in Edwardian drag and you've got an idea of the scathingly funny energy that Dame Maggie Smith brings to every scene she's in.

Which makes it hard to come up with the definitive list of her best lines from Downton Abbey Season Three, but like the Dowager Countess herself we never shirk from a challenge. In the aftermath of Sunday's shocking season finale, here are Lady Violet's 16 best quotes from Season Three. Disagree if you want, but both we and the Dowager are never wrong.

By Sean T. Collins

Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Joss Barratt/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode One

Violet, to Robert in his black tie: "Do you think I might have a drink? Oh, I'm so sorry – I thought you were a waiter."

Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Joss Barratt /Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode One, to Robert

Robert: "Can I tempt you to one of these new cocktails?"

Violet: "No, no, I don't think so. They look far too exciting for so early in the evening."

Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE; Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Two

Violet, on Sir Anthony at the altar: "He looks as if he's waiting for a beating from the headmaster."

Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Joss Barratt/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Three, on the Dromgooles

Tom: "They turned everyone out of the castle. Lord and Lady Dromgoole, their sons and all the servants. And then they set fire to it."

Edith: "What a tragedy."

Violet: "Well, rather yes and no – that house was hideous. Of course, that is no excuse."

Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey

Joss Barratt/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Three

Cora: "I think Granny's right."

Violet: "Can somebody write that down?"

Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey

Joss Barratt/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Nick Wall/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Three, to Carson

Carson: "Hard work and diligence weigh more than beauty in the real world."

Violet: "If only that were true."

Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE; Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Four

Matthew: "Edith has had an invitation to write a newspaper column."

Violet: "When may she expect an offer to appear on the London stage?"

Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE; Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Five, to Robert

Violet: "Robert, people like us are never unhappily married."

Robert: "What do we do if we are?"

Violet: "Well, in those moments, a couple is 'unable to see as much of each other as they would like.'"

Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey

Nick Wall/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Five, to Dr. Clarkson

Dr. Clarkson: "You want me to lie?"

Violet: "'Lie' is so unmusical a word."

Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Downton Abbey

Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Five

Isobel: "I think Cousin Robert is referring to Ethel's work as a prostitute."

Violet: ". . . Well, of course these days servants are very hard to find."

Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Joss Barratt /Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Six, to Robert

Robert: "I'll do it on one condition – no, two. First, Matthew must agree . . . Second, you will both admit it when you realize you were wrong."

Violet: "Oh, well, that is an easy caveat to accept, because I'm never wrong."

Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Six

Violet: "I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there."

Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith

Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Six, to Isobel

Isobel: "Were you a very involved mother with Robert and Rosamund?"
Violet: "Does it surprise you?"
Isobel: "A bit. I'd imagined them surrounded by nannies and governesses, being starched and ironed to spend an hour with you after tea."
Violet: "Yes, but it was an hour every day."

Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith

Courtesy of (C) Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Seven

Violet: "That is the thing about nature: there is so much of it."

Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

Joss Barratt/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Seven, to Edith

Violet: "Edith, stop fascinating that young man and come make a four at bridge."

Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; Joss Barratt/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Episode Seven, to Robert

Robert: "They do say there's a wild man inside all of us."
Violet:
 "If only he would stay inside."

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