Two years after losing the unborn heir to Downton (thanks to the misguided machinations of her maid, O’Brien), Cora has moved on. But she is still carrying guilt over her complicity in covering up the Mr. Pamuk affair.
“Cora is totally disoriented by the war,” said Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the lady of the house. “It’s a giant inconvenience for her, more than anything else. She hasn’t got a son that she’s sending into the front lines. It’s not her war yet; she’s an American. But it undermines her way of life, and she takes a long time to adjust to this new reality. She is put under a lot of pressure to volunteer the house as a convalescent home, and so, very quickly, the house is invaded by not only hundreds of soldiers who are in every nook and cranny, but also other people that want to run the house. This really takes Cora’s mojo away because she doesn’t have a role any more. She does eventually roll up her sleeves, and pitch in, and figure out how to deal with it. But it really undermines her confidence.”
“Funnily enough, one of her emotional supporters is O’Brien,” McGovern continued. “They have such a complicated relationship. But O’Brien is often the one that she turns to, really to bolster her confidence and to give her advice, more than any other character… There’s more to her than meets the eye. You can never take anything for granted, or anybody.”