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Downton Abbey is an episodic drama chronicling the experiences of the Crawleys, an aristocratic Edwardian family, and their legion of servants who attend them upon their estate, after which the series is titled. Filmed at Highclere Castle and created by Julian Fellowes, it stars Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, and Shirley MacLaine.
The story arc of Downtown Abbey roughly encompasses the years 1912-1921, the Edwardian and post-Edwardian era, World War I and the inauguration of the Irish Free State. The series begins with news reaching Downton Abbey of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. On board the Titanic were the heir presumptive of Downton Abbey and the Grantham peerage, James Crawley, and his son Patrick. Cousin and nephew respectively to Robert, Earl of Grantham (Bonneville), the death of the heir promptly throws the Crawley family into disarray, as the question of succession suddenly arises in the absence of viable male heirs.
Lord Grantham is otherwise penniless to boot, his wealth excluded to (and bound up in) an entail, his personal riches consisting of those brought to the marriage by his American wife, Cora (McGovern). Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), the eldest daughter, had been engaged to Patrick, but the rule of primogeniture cancels her rights to the Grantham inheritance, which includes all money and property once owned by her mother. The Dowager Countess (Smith) endeavors to break the entail, which would prevent an outside male heir from claiming house, land, and all wealth, but Lord Grantham, a traditionalist, is against this idea.
Lord Grantham engages a former army associate, a Mr. John Bates. Lame and proud, Mr. Bates immediately ruffles feathers on staff, and is deemed unsuitable to the job of valet. Lady Cora's lady's maid, O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran), and a troubled and ambitious young footman, Thomas (Rob James-Collier), scheme and plot to cast Mr. Bates in the worst light possible. Thomas has long desired to be Lord Grantham's valet; in between he has carried on an affair with the Duke of Crowborough, whom he tries unsuccessfully to blackmail. Lady Cora and the butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), convince Lord Grantham Mr. Bates must be sent away, and the Earl nearly relents. At the last minute he changes his mind, and invites Mr. Bates to remain.
The new heir, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), arrives at Downton Abbey. He is a solicitor and intends to continue working. He loathes the idea of assuming lordship at Downton Abbey, though his mother is keen on the whole affair. She insists they remain in order to disprove assumptions about their social class on the part of the Crawleys. Class warfare plays out in the tension that arises between Matthew and Lady Mary, and the Dowager Countess and Matthew's mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton). Isobel, having been assistant to her late husband, a physician, keeps busy by working at the local hospital. An old acquaintance tries to blackmail Mr. Carson with secrets about his days as a music-hall performer. When Lord Grantham gets wind of these developments, he pays off Mr. Carson's blackmailer.
Lady Edith, the middle Crawley daughter, finds Matthew handsome and offers to give him a tour of the local churches. To her chagrin he is more turned on by the architecture than her company. Lady Mary is thrilled when word reaches her Evelyn Napier, a wealthy peer and possible suitor, is coming to call. He brings with him a handsome Turkish politician, Mr. Kemal Pamuk, with whom Lady Mary is instantly smitten. Thomas escorts Mr. Pamuk to Lady Mary's bedroom after dinner, where Mr. Pamuk successfully overcomes her romantic objections. They share a night of passion; Mr. Pamuk dies in Lady Mary's bed. Mary, her lady's maid, Anna (Joanne Froggatt), and Cora remove Mr. Pamuk's body. Daisy (Sophie McShera), a scullery maid, spies upon them as they do.
Lady Sybil, the youngest Crawley daughter, assists Gwen, a housemaid, with her attempts at a secretarial career. Lady Cora becomes pregnant, but loses the baby after slipping on a bar of soap strategically placed beside her bath by O'Brien. During a garden party, the Dowager Countess thanks O'Brien for placing a want ad in a newspaper, confessing her desire to replace a lady's maid who has recently left her. O'Brien realizes the error in her previous assumptions. Minutes later, Lord Grantham announces the outbreak of the war.
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Downton Abbey Full Episode Guide
With summer in full bloom, Rose anticipates her 'coming out' and is to be presented at Buckingham Palace. Meanwhile, the family and majority of the staff are in London, preparing Grantham House for the busy social program.
Rosamund concocts a plan to help Edith deal with her problem, but Violet can see right through their facade. Isobel is the object of someone's attention, while Mary asks Gillingham for a favor. Rose is frustrated by her failed plans and Alfred realizes too late that he may have made a mistake. Just as Bates and Anna seem to be getting over the worst, some unexpected news shakes her up.
Cora's brother gets himself into trouble in America and Robert must travel overseas to bail him out. Blake and Mary set aside their differences as they address a new business venture for the estate. Violet suddenly gets sick, and romance is in the air downstairs.
A birthday celebration for Robert is in store, but Rose's surprise contribution to the event does not sit well with the family or the help. A new farming venture on the Downton estate comes with serious consequences for Mary, and Edith receives more unwelcome news.
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Downton Abbey News
Now you can put on those pearls, dress up pretty and pretend you're Lady Mary or Lady Sybil... but probably not Lady Edith. Poor Edith.
Gary Carr will be the first recurring "ethnic" role on the show... and he joins many new characters hoping to liven things up at our beloved Downton.
The trailer arrives from a film hoping to become classic to the young, star-crossed lovers of today.
To tide you over until 2014, here's a few things that "Downton Abbey" fans can expect from the upcoming season. Who is leaving, returning, or joining?
Bad news on the heels of a season filled with exits... one more big character will not be returning for the fourth season. Who must fans bid farewell?
If you caught the "Downton Abbey" season finale and are left asking, 'why? WHY?' show producer Gareth Neame has some answers for you regarding the major twist in the show, and how this may affect its future. Spoilers ahead!
After season three ends, many fans were sadly disappointed by early spoilers because of the U.S. winter airing of "Downton Abbey." PBS addresses the issue of airing the show in the winter vs. the fall - the same time as the U.K.
In an episode set approximately a year from where we left off, the family travels to Scotland, Mary heavily pregnant. Tom has a new admirer, as well as Mrs. Patmore, and Jimmy and Thomas may finally work through their tensions.
With the season three finale of "Downton Abbey" arriving quickly, here's a few things we know about the upcoming episode and what audiences can look forward to. Mild spoilers involved.
Everyone argues over Thomas' fate against the backdrop of a much-loved cricket match. Lady Grantham invites her niece's daughter, Rose, to stay with them... but Rose brings more trouble than she is worth.
Mr. Bates is released from jail, and Thomas, encouraged by O'Brien, puts the moves on James, stirring up the entire household.