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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.

Sunday 9:00 PM et/pt on PBS
5 Seasons, 43 Episodes - Returning Series
Drama, History
8.9/10
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Downton Abbey Full Episode Guide

  • The Crawleys celebrate Christmas at Downton.

  • Mrs. Pattmore gets a surprise. Anna is in a quandary. Someone tries to sabotage Rose and Atticus's relationship.

  • Mary is finally free of one suitor, Edith's motives are revealed.

  • Violet’s heart is awakened by an ancient spark. Bates finally reveals the truth to Anna. Answers to a painful mystery are finally found.

Downton Abbey News

'Downton Abbey' Will Officially End After Next Season...But Might Get a Movie!

The big ITV/PBS show will be ending soon.

Don't Worry, Maggie Smith Isn't Leaving 'Downton Abbey' (We Hope)

Is the Dowager Countess really leaving the PBS show like the rumors are saying?

10 Best Returning TV Shows Premiering in January

When are your favorite shows premiering this month? Find out here!

'Downton Abbey' Releases Season 5 Stills...With One Huge Mistake

Can you spot the historical inaccuracy in the new "Downton Abbey" pics?

Want to Dress Like You're on 'Downton Abbey?' Wish Granted.

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.

'Downton Abbey' Casts Gary Carr in First Recurring Black Role

 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.

Will This Generation Embrace Its Own 'Romeo and Juliet?' [VIDEO]

The trailer arrives from a film hoping to become classic to the young, star-crossed lovers of today.

What's in the Mix For 'Downton Abbey,' Season Four?

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?

Who is Leaving 'Downton Abbey?'

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?

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