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The Ultimate Guide to Downton Abbey and How to Watch it in the Best Order

Here is everything you need to know about Downton Abbey (with spoilers)! Plus, everything we know about a third Downton Abbey movie.

I’ve put together a handy guide of everything (or at least the essential information) you might want or need to know about the beloved romantic period drama seriesDownton Abbey (including the new film, Downton Abbey: A New Era – which premiered in theaters in the U.S. on Wednesday, May 20, 2022). How many episodes of Downton Abbey are there, how many seasons; is there a season 7, who are the main characters, what happens in each season and movie (with spoilers), how to watch the TV show and the movies in the best order, will there be a third film and more.

Downton Abbey guide - featured image using a promo shot from the 2019 movie
Photo Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

If you’re looking for a quick rundown of everything Downton Abbey, I’ve got you covered! Just be warned: There are numerous spoilers in this article.





Downton Abbey promo image
Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Downton Abbey is the award-winning historical drama series (it won 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, numerous BAFTAS, SAG awards, and more) from the talented Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Gosford Park.

The series spanned two decades and chronicled the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in early 20th century England at the large family estate of Downton Abbey (filmed at the real Highclere Castle).

With storylines about social change, war, love, and tragedy, not to mention lots of scandals, while following some of the most memorable characters in TV history, it’s not surprising Downton Abbey became such a huge pop culture phenomenon.


The multigenerational drama takes place on a fictional Yorkshire family estate spanning the years between 1912 to 1926. Downton Abbey, in fact, begins on a historic date: the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.

The series starts during the Edwardian Era and moves on into the Modern Period – showing the first world war, the Spanish Flu Epidemic, then the 1920s, and more.

The first movie takes place in 1927, while the second and latest film was set soon after in 1928.

If a third or fourth film premieres in the future, we may finally see the Crawley family enter a new period: the 1930s.


In total, Downton Abbey aired for six seasons with 52 episodes (including the specials) and two feature films to date.

Downton Abbey first premiered in the U.K. on September 26, 2010, and then in the U.S. on PBS in January 2011.

The series aired between 2010 and 2015 (2016 in the U.S.), with the movies premiering in 2019 and 2022.


Episode length varies from episode to episode. The episodes range between 47 and 93 minutes, with the specials airing on the longer side.

The first Downton film aired for 2 hours and 2 minutes, while the new movie Downton Abbey: A New Era is 2 hours and 5 minutes.


The TV series’ rating changes from episode to episode ranging between TV-PG and TV-14. Everything is mild: Suggestive references, language, violence, etc. There is an assault in season 4, but it’s not graphic. Overall, the series feels PG-like.

Downton Abbey, the movie, is rated PG for suggestive references and language. Downton Abbey: A New Era is also rated PG for mild innuendo, thematic elements, and language.


mary and matthew wedding photo
Matthew and Mary. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

If you’ve never seen Downton Abbey before or need a refresher, this is how you watch it in chronological order (it’s the best way!)

The order starts with the TV show and moves on to the feature films. So, nothing too complicated! You just want to make sure you don’t miss the specials – they come at the end of seasons 2-6.

  • Season one (S1) of Downton Abbey
  • S2 of Downton Abbey (including the special at the end of the season: “Christmas at Downton Abbey.”)
  • Season 3 of Downton Abbey (including the special at the end: “A Journey to the Highlands.”)
  • S4 of Downton Abbey (including the special at the end: “The London Season.”)
  • Season 5 of Downton Abbey (Including the special “A Moorland Holiday.”)
  • S6 of Downton Abbey (including the series finale special: “The Finale.”)
  • Downton Abbey Movie (2019)
  • Downton Abbey: A New Era Movie (2022)

Besides watching the show and movies, you can also check out numerous behind-the-scenes features, official companion books, watch other similar shows, and more! 

For our thoughts on this historical drama series, read our review!


Find out where to stream Downton Abbey (IE: Amazon Prime, Netflix), where you can watch Downton Abbey for free, and which TV channel it’s on by going to our companion article here (just click on the link below):

Where to Watch Downton Abbey: How to Stream the Romantic Period Drama Series (Updated June 2, 2022!)


(Spoilers – stop reading if you don’t want to know major plot points relating to the series and latest film.)

Now it’s time to look back at the show and movies: a refresher if you’re trying to remember who’s who! I warn I include spoilers relating to the series and all the way to the latest feature film, Downton Abbey: A New Era.

First, let’s do a quick breakdown of the essential characters.


Upstairs/Nobility (And Middle-Class)

Violet Crawley – Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith)
Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley.
Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Violet Crowley is the former matriarch of Downton Abbey and the mother of Robert Crawley, the current Earl of Grantham, and Lady Rosamund. However, she rules the estate with her clever wit, demanding presence, and barbed tongue.

She loves her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and her “best” friend is Isobel Crawley – who she loves to debate. She has a mysterious past – keeping numerous secrets close to her chest – including a couple of significant romances.

Unfortunately, Violet passes away surrounded by family in Downton Abbey: A New Era. But her memory lives on.

Robert Crawley – The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
Robert Crawley
Robert Crawley. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Robert Crawley is the patriarch of the Crawley family and the 7th Earl of Grantham. He co-owns the estate with his daughter, Mary, and while Robert values tradition and order, he’s a kind and just employer who cares about his employees and their families.

Sometimes he’s at odds with his progressive daughters and wife, but he loves his family deeply and only wants what’s best for them. Over time, he becomes more open-minded.

Cora Crawley – Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern)
Cora Crawley
Cora Crawley. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Lady Grantham is an American heiress who fell in love with and married Robert, becoming the Countess of Grantham. While their marriage was initially about saving Downton with her substantial dowry, they developed a deep mutual love and now have a good marriage.

She’s a kind, compassionate mother and grandmother who wants what’s best for her family.

Lady Mary Crawley – now Talbot (Michelle Dockery)
Lady Mary in season 2
Lady Mary. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Lady Mary is the eldest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. And her son, the heir to Downton Abbey. She’s a strong-willed, determined woman not afraid to speak her mind. Sometimes she can be cruel (especially to her sister Edith) – but she’s also capable of immense compassion.

After the death of her husband, Matthew, she grieves for a long time. But she eventually finds happiness again with Henry Talbot, a wealthy race car driver. However, their marriage has difficulties due to his long absences.

Mary also continues to have a close relationship with the former head butler, Mr. Carson – a man who loves her like a daughter.

Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael)
Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey
Lady Edith. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Lady Edith is the middle child of Lord and Lady Grantham and often finds herself overshadowed by her sisters – especially Lady Mary. But she comes into her own throughout the series and gains confidence – even pursuing a career in journalism.

She has a daughter, Marigold, from a previous relationship and is now married to Bertie Pelham, the 7th Marquess of Hexham. They share a son.

Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay)
Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey
Lady Sybil. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Lady Sybil is the youngest Crawley daughter and, initially, the most progressive. She falls in love with the family’s Irish chauffeur, Branson, and they eventually marry – much to her family’s dismay.

Sadly, she dies shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Sybil. Her death affects everyone deeply, especially Branson, her sisters, and parents. But her determined and righteous spirit lives on in her family’s memories.

Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens)
Matthew in Downton Abbey (1)
Matthew Crawley. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Matthew Crawley was the heir to Downton Abbey and Lady Mary’s first husband before his tragic death in a car accident. He was a good man who always tried to do the right thing even as he struggled to adapt to his role as the heir and the new upper-class lifestyle he was unaccustomed to.

While Matthew and Mary struggled to express their feelings for each other – leading to miscommunication, ultimately, they found happiness together and had a child: George.

Isobel Grey, Baroness Merton (previously Isobel Crawley) (Penelope Wilton)
Isobel in Downton Abbey
Isobel in Downton Abbey. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Isobel Crawley, played brilliantly by Penelope Wilton, is Matthew Crawley’s mother and Lady Mary’s mother-in-law.

She’s a compassionate idealist who often finds herself at odds with the Dowager Countess (they love to debate with each other) because of Isobel’s liberal views. Although underneath their banter, they are the best of friends.

Isobel is a widow and, later in the series, falls in love with and marries Lord Merton. She survives her son, Matthew Crawley.

Tom Branson (Allen Leech)
Branson in Downton Abbey
Tom Branson. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Tom Branson is the former “socialist” family chauffeur who falls in love with and marries Lady Sybil. After her death, he moves to America with their daughter, Sybil. But he eventually returns to Downton because he wants Sybil to grow up around her family.

He has a revolutionary spirit and a desire for justice, but he’s also compassionate and loving – growing to understand both the upstairs and downstairs world.

In the first Downton Abbey film, he falls in love with Lucy. They marry in the second film and are very happy together.

Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode)
Henry Talbot in Downton Abbey
Henry Talbot. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Henry Talbot is the second husband of Lady Mary and a talented race car driver. His profession often leads to dangerous situations (and worry for Mary). He’s also often gone due to work, but Henry’s a good man and an intellectual equal for Mary.

Bertie Pelham (Harry Haddon-Paton)
Edith and Bertie in Downton Abbey movie
Edith and Bertie. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Bertie Pelham is Lady Edith’s husband and the current Marquess of Hexham. He’s a sweet person who loves his wife and his stepdaughter. Lady Edith and Bertie now share a son.

Maud Bagshaw/Dowager Baroness Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton)
Maud Bagshaw in Downton Abbey movie
Maud Bagshaw. Photo Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

Maud Bagshaw makes her first appearance in the 2019 film Downton Abbey. She’s the Dowager Baroness Bagshaw (the cousin of Violet) and secretly plans to pass on her inheritance to her secret illegitimate daughter, Lucy (who acts as Maud’s maid and companion) for appearance’s sake.

Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton)
Lucy and Tom in Downton Abbey film 2019
Lucy and Tom. Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

Lucy Smith, the secret daughter of Maud, learns of her mother’s identity later in her life. Meanwhile, Maud plans to leave her fortune to Lucy, while Violet schemes to prevent this from happening. But eventually, they work it out in favor of Lucy as initially planned.

During it all, Lucy falls in love with Tom Branson (their marriage happens in the second film) as they connect over their similar backgrounds.

Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond)
Lady Rosamund Painswick in Downton Abbey
Lady Rosamund Painswick. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Lady Rosamund Painswick is the sister of Robert and daughter of Violet. She’s a widow without children of her own but loves to get involved in all her family’s affairs. She’s close to her brother and nieces.

Downstairs/The Staff

Mrs. Elsie Hughes (Phyllis Logan)
Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes
Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Mrs. Hughes is the housekeeper of Downton Abbey. She’s a no-nonsense woman who runs a tight ship. But she also has a heart of gold and is fiercely loyal to those she loves. She’s also got a bit of snark in her!

Later in the series, she married Mr. Carson, the head butler! It may just be one of the best love stories of the show.

Mr. Charles Carson (Jim Carter)

Mr. Carson is the retired head butler of Downton Abbey (although he returns from time to time to serve). He’s a very proper man who takes his job very seriously and is happily married to Mrs. Hughes.

But he also has a deep respect and love for those he works with and the people he serves, especially Lady Mary – who he loves like a daughter.

He’s somewhat old-fashioned in his views, but that just adds to his charm. 

At the end of the second film, Mr. Carson returns to temporarily serve as the head butler at Downton Abbey after Thomas Barrow resigns.

John Bates (Brendan Coyle)
John and Anna Bates
John and Anna Bates. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Mr. Bates is the valet to Lord Robert Crawley (a man he served with during WWI). He’s a bit of a mystery when we first meet him, but Bates has a strong work ethic with unshakeable morals and is fiercely loyal to those he loves – especially his wife, Anna.

He has one son.

Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt)

Anna (now Anna Bates) is the head housemaid of Downton Abbey and the lady’s maid to Mary. She’s kind, intelligent, and intensely loyal.

She falls in love with Mr. Bates, and they eventually marry (against all odds). The two go through a lot together, but they always come out stronger. Together, they share a son.

Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier)
Thomas Barrow
Thomas Barrow. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Barrow begins as an ambitious under-butler who will do whatever it takes to get ahead – even if that means being dishonest or playing dirty. Because of this, he’s often in conflict with Mr. Carson.

But Thomas has arguably the most tremendous growth out of all the characters becoming more empathetic over time. He becomes the head butler and even finds romance for the first time with Richard (Max Brown), even though it doesn’t work out.

In A New Era, Thomas develops another romance with a famous actor: Guy Dexter.

In the end, he decides to resign from Downton and move to America to have a relationship with Dexter in Hollywood.

Mrs. Beryl Patmore (Lesley Nicol)
Daisy and Mrs Patmore in Downton Abbey
Daisy and Mrs. Patmore. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Mrs. Patmore is the head cook. She’s a bit of a mother figure to all the staff (especially Daisy) and is always there with some sage advice – even if she is also rather bossy. She also has quite the tongue when she gets in a bad mood.

Mrs. Patmore (by the end of A New Era) is in a romantic relationship with Mr. Mason, a local farmer.

Daisy Mason/Parker (Sophie McShera)

Oh, Daisy! She begins as the kitchen maid (and is now an assistant to Mrs. Patmore), who is always getting into trouble. But she means well.

She’s the widow of William Mason (another Downton servant who died from injuries related to WWI) and is now close to her father-in-law, Mr. Mason.

Daisy is now married to Andy Parker, a handsome and considerate young footman on staff.

They live on Yew Tree Farm with Mr. Mason (who plans to move out soon to live with Mrs. Patmore).

Andy Parker (Michael Fox)
Andy and Daisy Parker
Andy and Daisy Parker. Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

Andrew Parker is Daisy’s husband with a promising career at Downton Abbey – now in the running for the head butler. He also has an interest in farming.

The series revealed he didn’t know how to read, but he’s taught and overcomes his insecurities about it.

Joseph Molesley (Kevin Doyle)
Mr. Molesley
Mr. Molesley. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Mr. Molesley was the original butler for Crawley House and Matthew’s loyal valet, but after Matthew’s death, he becomes a teacher while sometimes working as a footman at Downton Abbey. He’s brilliant, but he often struggles with his confidence.

However, Mr. Molesley finds his niche when he helps a film director write a screenplay. He will now write four scripts a year for Hollywood while still living in England.

Now able to afford marriage, he proposes to Miss Baxter – and she accepts!

Miss Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy)
Thomas and Miss Baxter. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Miss Baxter has a troubled background, but she’s emerged as an honorable and trustworthy lady’s maid. She is now engaged to Mr. Molesley.  

Miss Gladys Denker (Sue Johnston)

She’s the lady’s maid to the Dowager and incredibly loyal to her despite some of her troublemaking behavior.

Mr. Albert Mason

Mr. Mason is a widower, a local farmer, and the father of the now-deceased William Mason. He’s still close to his daughter-in-law Daisy and is in a romantic relationship with Mrs. Patmore.

New Characters in Downton Abbey: A New Era

downton abbey a new era still
Hugh Dancy and Michelle Dockery in A New Era. Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures
Guy Dexter (Dominic West)

Dexter is a famous Hollywood star playing the lead role in the new Hollywood movie filming at Downton. He becomes friendly with Thomas Barrow and makes him a romantic offer.

Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy)

Dancy plays the swoony Hollywood film director who comes to make a movie at Downton. While there, he becomes interested in Mary.

Madame Montmirail (Nathalie Baye)

She’s the widow of the deceased Marquis, who mysteriously left a villa to Violet. She’s not too happy with this surprising news and wants to keep the estate in her own family.

Marquis de Montimirail (Jonathan Zaccai)

He’s the son of Madame Montmirail and the executor of his father’s will. He is more understanding and wants to honor his father’s wishes to leave the estate to Lady Violet (who leaves the villa in her own will to young Sybbie).

Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock)

Myrna is a glamorous Hollywood film star and the lead of the new movie filming at Downton. She struggles with self-esteem and the possibility of a waning career due to the transition from silent films to talkies.

More Characters (Click on each name for more information)

Siobhan Finneran as Sarah O’Brien. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV
  • Alfred Nugent: Sarah O’ Brien’s nephew and a former footman at Downton Abbey.
  • Charles Blake: A former love interest of Lady Mary’s and the boss of Evelyn Napier.
  • Dr. Richard Clarkson: He’s the local town Doctor and often treats the Crawleys.
  • Ethel Parks: A former housemaid. During the War, she had an illegitimate son and gave him to his grandparents.
  • Evelyn Napier: A friend of Lady Mary’s. 
  • George Crawley: Lady Mary’s and Matthew’s son.
  • Gwen Dawson/Harding (Rose Leslie): She worked as a housemaid at Downton Abbey, but with the help of Sybil, she was able to get a job as a secretary. She now has a good marriage and works in government.
  • Ivy Stuart: A former kitchen maid.
  • Jimmy Kent: He’s a former footman at Downton Abbey. 
  • John Bates: Anna’s and Bates’s son.
  • Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James): She’s the rebellious great-niece of Lady Violet who stayed at Downton Abbey for a few years until she married Atticus Aldridge. Together, they share a daughter: Victoria, and live in New York.
  • Lavinia Swire: Matthew Crawley’s former fiancé. She tragically passed away from the Spanish Flu.
  • Lord Merton/Richard Grey: Isobel’s husband. 
  • Marigold: Edith’s daughter. Michael Gregson is her biological father, while Herbert Pelham is her stepfather.
  • Michael Gregson: Edith’s lover and Marigold’s father. He passed away in 1923.
  • Peter Pelham: Edith’s and Bertie’s son.
  • Richard Ellis: A romantic interest for Thomas.
  • Sarah O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran): A former troublemaking lady’s maid for Cora. She used to be close with Thomas, but their friendship deteriorated. She quit – becoming the lady’s maid for a Marchioness.
  • Sir Anthony Strallan: A wealthy local landowner and former fiancé of Edith.
  • Sir Richard Carlisle: The former fiancé of Lady Mary and a merciless businessman in the newspaper world.
  • Septimus Spratt: Violet Crawley’s butler. He often fights with Miss Denker. 
  • Sybil (Sybbie) Branson: Sybil’s and Branson’s daughter.
  • Tony Gillingham: Another former love interest of Lady Mary’s.
  • Vera Bates: Mr. Bates’s former troublemaking and vindictive wife. She’s now deceased.
  • William Mason (Thomas Howes): He was the second footman at Downton, fighting alongside Matthew during the war. He died from injuries during the war but not before marrying Daisy.

(And many more!)


Season 1 of Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey season 1
Season 1. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Season 1 of Downton Abbey has seven episodes. The story begins in April of 1912 and concludes in August 1914 with a big cliffhanger.

Season 1 Summary: 

Downton Abbey tells the story of the Crawley family (an aristocratic family) and their servants living in early 20th century England.

Season one begins with a bit of a shocker: It’s April 1912, and the sinking of the Titanic has tragically taken the heir of Lord Grantham (Robert Crawley), leaving the status of potential heirs in question – since Lord Grantham and the Countess of Grantham (Cora) only have daughters (Mary, Edith, and Sybil) and the law states the heir must be a male.

Eventually, the title goes to Matthew Crawley, a distant cousin (and middle-class lawyer) who was not expecting to inherit anything. The first season follows Matthew (and his mother, Isobel) as they try to adjust to their new life while also dealing with the challenges an upper-class lifestyle demands.

Matthew also begins developing romantic feelings for the acerbic Lady Mary, who despises Matthew at first – especially since he’s taking what should rightfully be hers. But something romantic is sizzling to the surface.

Meanwhile, the Dowager and Isobel love to debate, while Sybil becomes interested in politics and feminism (even becoming friends with socialist chauffeur Branson). Mary is cruel to Edith, and Cora trusts her devious maid, who is not to be trusted.

The servants of Downton Abbey, on the other hand, also struggle to adapt to changing times. Mr. Carson, the head butler, remains loyal to Mary. Thomas Barrow and Miss O’Brien scheme to get the new valet, Mr. Bates, fired – much to Anna’s horror (who quickly becomes loyal to Mr. Bates).

Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper, runs a tight ship with the perfect balance of kindness and firmness. Mrs. Patmore, the main cook, worries about her eyesight going bad, while her assistant, Daisy, has a silly crush on Thomas.

Gwen Dawson dreams of a life greater than one of servitude. And with the help of Sybil, she begins applying for secretary jobs.

The first season ultimately culminates with a devastating announcement: World War I has begun. This event brings the characters together, setting up the storylines for future seasons.

Key Episodes to Watch: 

If you’re looking for essential episodes to watch, you can’t miss episodes 1, 3, and 7! (Although I have a soft spot for episode six when Sybil attends a political rally with Branson!)

Season 2 of Downton Abbey

downton abbey season 2
Season 2. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Downton Abbey season 2 has nine episodes (eight regular episodes and one Christmas special). The series begins in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme and ends at the beginning of 1920.

Season 2 Summary: 

Season two of Downton Abbey goes global, covering WWI, the Russian Revolution, the Spanish influenza epidemic, social changes, and more. Downton Abbey becomes a convalescent home for wounded soldiers during it all, leading to numerous conflicts for everyone, both upstairs and downstairs.

Meanwhile, Matthew, Thomas, and William fight in the war (tragically leading to the death of William). Sybil becomes a nurse (despite her family’s protests) and falls in love with Branson. Matthew becomes engaged to a woman who’s not Mary, while Mary begins dating a ruthless newspaper man – even though she wants to be with Matthew.

The romance between Anna and Bates grows stronger. They choose to marry despite the false murder accusation against Bates. Daisy marries William before he dies. So much tragedy and drama!

But thankfully, the season ends on a good note! Mary and Matthew become engaged after many years of miscommunication and tragedy! Finally!

Key Episodes to Watch:  

The essential episodes of season two are episodes 1, 3, 8, and 9. You won’t want to miss the season’s setup (and introduction of new characters), Downton as a hospital, the Spanish flu epidemic, and the happy ending for Mary and Matthew!

Season 3 of Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey season 3
Season 3. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Downton Abbey season 3 has nine episodes (eight regular episodes and the Christmas special: “A Journey to the Highlands.”). Season 3 spans less time than previous seasons covering 1920 through 1921.

Season 3 Summary: 

The third season of Downton Abbey covers the beginning of a new decade. As time continues to move forward, it inevitably leads to changes for many of the characters.

Lady Mary and Matthew finally marry in a beautiful and swoony ceremony, while Sybil and Branson return so she can deliver their baby away from the turmoil of Ireland.

Lord Grantham’s lousy investment leads to possible bankruptcy for Downton (although when Matthew inherits a substantial sum of money, they can save the estate).

Despite the temporary good news, season three is ultimately one of tragedy. Lady Sybil dies in childbirth, while Matthew later dies in a car accident soon after the birth of his son.

Elsewhere, Mrs. Hughes has a health scare, Lady Edith develops an interest in journalism (and in a particular handsome journalist), Lord and Lady Grantham have more marital troubles after Sybil’s death, Anna fights for the release of Bates from prison, Thomas gets in a serious mess, O’Brien continues to scheme, and so much more addictive drama!

The series also introduces new characters: Lady Rose (the great-niece of the Dowager, Violet Crawley) and Cora’s American mother, Martha – played by Shirley Maclaine. Not to mention the new maids and footmen, who cause many romantic conflicts.

Key Episodes to Watch: 

The essential episodes are 3.05 and 3.09 – the episodes when we lose two of the most beloved characters of the series.

Season 4 of Downton Abbey

downton abbey season 4
Season 4. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Downton Abbey season 4 has nine episodes (including eight regular episodes and the Christmas special: “The London Season”). Season 4 takes place between February 1922 and the summer of 1923.

Season 4 Summary: 

It’s been six months since the tragic loss of Matthew – with Mary still heartbroken and in intense mourning.

Despite all the recent tragedies, life continues to move forward with the Jazz Age and modernization reaching Downton.

Lady Rose becomes romantically entangled with a black singer, and many suitors vie for Lady Mary’s attention. Lady Edith finds herself pregnant, and without a husband, Anna is horrifically assaulted, Bates deals with another murder accusation, Molesley struggles with unemployment, and the new maid, Baxter, arrives at Downton after O’Brien permanently leaves (with Thomas bullying Baxter).

Plus, Violet becomes seriously ill, Mrs. Hughes and Carson hold hands on the beach, Isobel has a new suitor (Lord Merton), and the Prince of Wales dances with Rose!

If season 3 was about loss, then season 4 is about how to move forward amid grief.

Key Episode to Watch: 

The best episode of season 4 is 4.09, “The London Season!” It’s Downton Abbey at its entertaining best.

You can’t get much better than Paul Giamatti guest-starring, a letter heist dealing with a famous prince, a significant romantic development between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, Lady Edith giving birth to her daughter, Marigold, and so much more. It’s absolute perfection with so many vital storylines and character developments.

Season 5 of Downton Abbey

downton abbey season 5
Season 5. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Downton Abbey season 5 has nine episodes, including the 2014 Christmas special, “A Moorland Holiday.” Season 5 takes place between the years February 1924 and December 1924.

Season 5 Summary: 

It’s 1924, and the roaring 20s are in full swing! A murder mystery, a war memorial, Russian refugees, a tragic loss, comings and goings, and more happen during season 5.

Lady Rose finds romance, Lady Mary still finds herself in a love triangle, Edith struggles with the right thing to do with Marigold, Anna is arrested for murder, and a maid causes trouble for Tom Branson.

The season ends with Anna being released and Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes becoming engaged.

Key Episodes to Watch: 

The best episodes of season five are 5.06 (when Violet goes to see Prince Kuragin), 5.08 (when Lady Rose gets married), and the Christmas Special, 5.09. Seeing Mr. Carson’s proposal is must-watch television!

Season 6 of Downton Abbey

downton abbey season 6
Season 6. Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

So, how many episodes are in the last season of Downton Abbey? Like the previous seasons (besides season 1), there are nine episodes in season 6, including the Christmas special (and final episode) “The Finale.”

The final season begins in early 1925 and ends in 1926 on New Year’s.

Season 6 Summary: 

Much happens in season 6, ultimately leading to a lot of resolution and happy endings for the characters (and fans of the show!)

Tom and Sybbie Branson move back from New York with a plan to stay for good, while Rose moves to NYC with her husband.

Both Edith and Mary find love in season 6: Lady Mary with Henry Talbot and Edith with Bertie Pelham (Edith finally gets her HEA!). Plus, the two warring sisters ultimately find peace with each other.

In other developments, Anna and Bates have a baby, Thomas gets the job as the head butler, Isobel Crawley and Lord Merton marry despite his conniving children trying to keep them apart, and Cora and Robert work past their marital problems. And even Daisy finds true love with Andrew.

As everyone welcomes a new year, they look to the future with hope and nostalgia for the past.

The series ends with a lovely exchange between Isobel and Violet.

Violet: Makes me smile, the way every year we drink to the future, whatever it may bring.

 Isobel: Well, what else could we drink to? We’re going forward to the future, not back into the past.

 Violet: If only we had the choice!

It’s the perfect happy ending to a beloved show, leaving room for possible future stories.

Key Episodes to Watch: 

The essential season 6 episodes are 6.08 (the penultimate episode) and 6.09, “The Finale.” You’ll want to find out how the story ends and where everyone ultimately ends up when the show concludes.

Downton Abbey (2019) Feature Film

Downton Abbey 2019 movie still
Downton Abbey 2019 movie. Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

The movie picks up a year after the series ended in 1927 and was initially released on September 13, 2019, in the U.K. It was released on September 20, 2019, a week later, in the U.S.

Watch the Trailer:
Movie Summary/Recap (Major Spoilers):

Downton Abbey: the Motion Picture follows the Crawley family and their staff preparing for a surprise royal visit from the Queen and King of England! It’s a beautiful reunion film and continuation with much of the cast returning.

A few essential plot points from the film:

  • Tom Branson stops an assassination on the King.
  • Edith and Bertie discover she’s going to have a baby!
  • Thomas develops a friendship/romance with Richard – Royal Dresser to the King.
  • We meet Lady Maud Bagshaw – the Queen’s lady-in-waiting – and a cousin of Violet’s. She has a secret illegitimate daughter, Lucy, masquerading as her maid (who Tom falls in love with). 
  • The Downton staff conduct a mutiny so they can serve the Royals!
  • Daisy is unsure of her marriage to Andrew but works it out.
  • Violet is sick and doesn’t have much longer to live. She leaves the future of Downton in Mary’s capable hands.

Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022) – Feature Film

downton abbey a new era still
Downton Abbey: A New Era. Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

The latest Downton film’s release date was on April 29, 2022, in the U.K., and soon after, on May 20, 2022, in the U.S. The movie takes place in 1928.

RELATED: Celebrate The DVD Release Of Downton Abbey: A New Era With A Giveaway
Watch the Trailer:
Official Synopsis

“From award-winning creator Julian Fellowes comes the motion picture event DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA. The much-anticipated cinematic return of the global phenomenon reunites the beloved cast as they go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa.”

Movie Summary/Recap (Major Spoilers):

The film starts in 1928 with a beautiful wedding between Lucy Smith and Tom Branson! Soon after, Violet makes a shocking and exciting announcement: She’s inherited a French villa from an acquaintance from her past for mysterious reasons.

Violet then announces she plans to leave the villa in her will to young Sybbie – since she’s the least protected of her great-grandchildren.

From there, the movie splits into two storylines: Some family members and staff go to the French Riviera to check out the villa while others stay behind to accommodate a film crew wanting to film a Hollywood movie at Downton Abbey!

Some plot developments in the film:

  • Cora thinks she may have cancer but discovers it is anemia in the end, and she will live!
  • Henry is often absent from home, causing marital strife between him and Mary. While he’s away, Mary’s tempted by a romance with Jack Barber, the swoony Hollywood director who reminds her of Matthew. But she chooses her duty over a passionate affair with him – much like her grandmother, Violet.
  • The silent film star Myrna Dalgleish is rude to the staff at Downton but warms up over time when she reveals her hidden insecurities about her career.
  • Mr. Molesley discovers a hidden talent for screenwriting and begins a career as a Hollywood screenwriter.
  • Miss Baxter and Mr. Molesley become engaged.
  • Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason finally get together!
  • Thomas resigns as butler and decides to move to America to romantically be with Guy Dexter, the Hollywood star filming the movie at Downton Abbey.
  • Robert thinks he might be the son of Marquis de Montmirail, and that’s why he left the villa to Violet. But Violet insists his birth father is Lord Grantham.
  • Lucy reveals she’s pregnant!

In the end, Violet sadly passes away surrounded by her loved ones. But her memory lives on, and the family moves forward.



Unfortunately, there is no season 7 of Downton Abbey and no plans for a seventh season in the future. Thankfully, you can re-watch all six series and now the two feature films. There may also be more movies to look forward to in the future.

So, while there is no seventh season, the Downton Abbey universe is far from over! Besides the TV show and the movies, you can deepen your love for everything Downton by reading official companion books, cookbooks, watching behind-the-scenes features, and even a spinoff prequel show on HBO Max: The Gilded Age. (Let’s all cross fingers for an appearance by a young Violet and Robert!)


While no official announcement has been made, based on statements from the creator, Julian Fellowes, and Gareth Neame (executive chairman of Carnival Films), a third movie (as well as a greater cinematic universe) is possible.

Neame states: “We can go on with these people as long as the audience wants to go on seeing them and as long as they enjoy them… And we can, you know, do that in all sorts of different ways. We’ve got to be wise to the future and think of those possibilities and any number of things could happen in the future.”

On the other hand, Fellowes says: “You never know if more is going to be wanted. After every series, after the first film, and now after the second, each time I have said a heart-wrenching goodbye to these people… and then here we are back again… People talk about stage plays and further movies, but I think it will be made clear to me if there’s a strong demand, and if that’s what people want, then I won’t fight it.”

On Sky, Fellowes also admitted that if the fans and the cast want more, he’s “sure” they’ll “find a way of delivering more.”

So, if you want more Downton Abbey, make sure to go out and support the latest film!

How much do you love Downton Abbey? Are you excited about its recent return? And have you seen the new movie yet? What did you think? Discuss everything Downton Abbey below.

The Ultimate Guide to Downton Abbey and How to Watch it in the Best Order; Pinterest image


By on June 2nd, 2022

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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