Downton Abbey series four to begin six months after Matthew's death

Creator Julian Fellowes: I hoped Dan Stevens would stay for the start of the new season and make a happier Christmas special

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Downton Abbey series four to begin six months after Matthew's death
Written By
Susanna Lazarus

For American Downton Abbey fans who had succeeded in remaining oblivious to Matthew Crawley's road accident, Sunday night was somewhat traumatic. 

The feature-length Christmas special, which saw Dan Stevens' character die on the roadside, was finally broadcast in the US at the weekend - and creator Julian Fellowes has been subjected to yet another wave of scrutiny from dissatisfied fans mourning the demise of one of their favourite Crawleys.

Speaking about how the family are going to pick themselves up at the start of series four, Fellowes revealed that he plans to resume the plot six months on, with Lady Mary's efforts to "rebuild her life in a society which is changing", dispensing with the need to "do funerals and all that stuff. That's all in the past by then."

So any fans hoping to get a glimpse of Matthew's widow decked out in her mourning attire can think again. Fellowes also revealed to the New York Times that he had wanted Stevens to appear in the first episode of series four, to make the Christmas special a more light-hearted affair.

"I had hoped that we would have one episode of this fourth season that I'm writing now, so we could have ended the Christmas special on a happy note - the baby, everything lovely," Fellowes admitted. "And then kill [Matthew] in the first episode of the next series. But [Stevens] didn't want to do that.

"I didn't want his death to dominate the Christmas special, so that's why we killed him at the very, very end." 

Fellowes also discussed the departure of Stevens' co-star Jessica Brown-Findlay - whose character, Lady Sybil, died in childbirth midway through series three - explaining the plot implications when a member of the Crawley family decides to leave the show. 

"When an actor playing a servant wants to leave, there isn't really a problem - [that character gets] another job. With members of the family, once they're not prepared to come back for any episodes at all, then it means death. Because how believable would it be that Matthew never wanted to see the baby, never wanted to see his wife? So we didn't have any option, really. I was as sorry as everyone else."

Here's hoping Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith and co stick around for the time being - after those dramatic festive final moments, viewers won't be too happy if another family member kicks the bucket anytime soon...

Read what Julian Fellowes and Hugh Bonneville had to say to RadioTimes.com at the National Television Awards

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