The Dowager Countess of Westeros: The Wit and Wisdom of Olenna Tyrell and Violet Crawley


It took about two minutes in the presence of Olenna Tyrell, the refreshingly no-nonsense noblewoman introduced to audiences on last night’s Game of Thrones, for audiences to start comparing her to Downton Abbey‘s Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Played by Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith, respectively, the two women steal the spotlight whenever they’re onscreen (sure, Olenna’s only been in one episode, but we know great characters when we see ’em), and both are wise matriarchs with a penchant for dropping bon mots. In celebration of these whip-smart women — not to mention the writers who obviously had a blast creating them — here are their opinions on everything from motherhood to meal service. They’re not always the same, but these ladies’ class and sass is unmatched by anyone else on TV.

On Speaking Their Minds

“Grandmother,” Margaery said, “mind your words, or what will Sansa think of us?” “She might think we have some wits about us. One of us, at any rate.” — A Storm of Swords, Chapter 6

“I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.” — Downton Abbey, Season 2, Episode 4

On Mourning a Death

Sansa: “I was very sorry when I heard of Lord Renly’s death, Lady Margaery. He was very gallant.” “Gallant, yes, and charming and very clean. He knew how to dress and smile and somehow this gave him the notion he was fit to be king…It was treason. I warned them. Robert has two sons and an older brother. How could he possibly have any claim to that ugly iron chair?” — Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 2

“One can’t go to pieces at the death of every foreigner. We’d all be in a constant state of collapse whenever we opened a newspaper.” — Downton Abbey, Season 1, Episode 3

On Eating Well

Servant: “The cheese will be served after the cakes, my lady.” Olenna: “The cheese will be served when I want it to be served, and I want it to be served now.” — Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 2

“It seems a pity to miss such a good pudding.” — Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 6

On Inflated Egos

“The thought that one day he may see his grandson with his arse on the iron Throne makes Mace puff up like…now, what do you call it? Margaery, you’re clever, be a dear and tell your poor old half-daft grandmother the name of that queer fish from the Summer Isles that puffs up to ten times its own size when you poke it.” Margaery: “They call them puff fish, Grandmother.” “Of course they do. Summer Islanders have no imagination. My son ought to take the puff fish for his sigil, if truth be told. He could put a crown on it, the way the Baratheons do their stag, mayhap that would make him happy.” — A Storm of Swords, Chapter 2

“It always happens when you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.” — Downton Abbey, Season 1, Episode 5

On Flattering Colors

“No, don’t blush, with your hair it makes you look like a pomegranate.” — A Storm of Swords, Chapter 6

“Well… give him a date for when Mary’s out of mourning. No one wants to kiss a girl in black.” — Downton Abbey, Season 1, Episode 1

On Proper Titles

“Hush, Alerie, don’t take that tone with me. And don’t call me Mother. If I’d given birth to you, I’m sure I’d remember. I’m only to blame for your husband, the lord oaf of Highgarden.” — A Storm of Swords, Chapter 6

Mrs. Crawley: “What should we call each other?” “Well, we could always start with Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham.” — Downton Abbey, Season 1, Episode 1

On Mother-Son Relationships

“There is entirely too much tut-tutting in this realm, if you ask me. All those kings would do a deal better if they would put down their swords and listen to their mothers.” — A Storm of Swords, Chapter 6

Robert Crawley: “Oh, don’t worry about that. I can handle her.” “Oh really? Well if you can, you must have learned to very recently.” — Downton Abbey, Season 1, Episode 4