Downton Abbey series 5: What do we know so far?

New faces, new spouses and potential catastrophe...

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Downton Abbey series 5: What do we know so far?
Written By
Ellie Walker-Arnott

Downton Abbey might not be on our telly screens right now. But when has that ever put us off talking about the hit ITV period drama? Yeah, that's right. Never. 

While the cast continue to film the much-anticipated fifth series - primping up their impressive hats, perfecting their withering glances and getting up to all sorts of upper-class shenanigans - now is the perfect time to contemplate what's to come next time we are invited down that gravelly drive to the Abbey. 

1. We'll be welcoming new faces.  

As ever, a new series of Downton Abbey wouldn't be complete without a few fresh new faces. This year we are welcoming Sue Johnston - she of Waking the Dead, Coronation Street and The Royale Family fame - as the Dowager Countess’s lady’s maid Denker. We don't know much about Denker's temperament, but you can probably brace yourselves for a bit of healthy and much-welcomed sparring between Violet Crawley and her maid. 

Richard E Grant is also joining the cast as art historian Simon Bricker. Additional details are scarce, but Grant did tweet a couple of photos from the set, proving he's looking pretty dapper in his new role... For speculation on why an art historian might be visiting the Abbey, click here

Anna Chancellor will also appear in the upcoming series as Lady Anstruther. Keen fans will recognise her name as she's the woman Jimmy the footman previously worked for. There have been hints that the relationship between social-climber Jimmy and his employer was a little more than purely professional, so that might make for an interesting storyline... 

2. Lady Rose could be leaving

Lady Rose might have only been in Downton Abbey for a series and a half, but series five might see her bid farewell to the Abbey. Why, we hear you cry? Lily James, the actress who plays her, is now playing Cinderella in Disney's live-action film. The movie is out next spring, and publicity for the big-budget flick would clash with filming a potential series six. Boo!

Rumour has it she won't be killed off though and the door to Downton will always be open. Don't get your mourning clothes out just yet though. It's all hearsay at the moment - there's been no official statement confirming any of it - so, you never know, Rose might be here to stay. Yay!

Lady Rose, Lily James, Cinderella, Downton Abbey

3. O’Brien might be coming back

Don't hold your breath on this one - the rumours only started because Siobhan Finneran, who left the drama before the start of series four, said "I'd love to return and wreck the Bates' marriage or something like that." So, it's unlikely. But there's always hope Downton's master schemer could make a return visit... 

O'Brien, Downton Abbey, Siobhan Finneran

4. Lady Mary might have picked her man

Series four was like an episode of Take Me Out. Once newly single Lady Mary was ready to mingle she was fighting off suitors. You know, romantic lunches with childhood chum Lord Gillingham one day, rolling around in a pig pen with Charles Blake the next...

All the will-she-won't-she might be put to rest in series five (and you'd hope so too, if only for the poor boys' sakes.) Michelle Dockery, who plays the lovely Lady Mary, was spied on set back in February kissing Tom Cullen, who plays Lord Gillingham as the pair left – get this – a hotel. Yep. A hotel...

Lady Mary, Lord Gillingham, Downton Abbey, series 5

5. It won't be all plain sailing for Lady Edith 

Last time we saw her she was backtracking on the whole secret Swiss baby plan. Lady Edith's love child with Gregson (who is still MIA) is now back at the Abbey, living with the multi-talented Pig Man. Edith might be much happier with this arrangement, but it leaves her in a risky position, reveals Laura Carmichael: "Alastair Bruce, our historical advisor on set, pointed up to the house one day and said to me, “Laura, all of this relies on the fact that the lords and the ladies behave in a certain way. They’re held in esteem by the village because they are supposed to be morally right. If you slip, it’s game over and your status is completely diminished.."

So, if the rest of the Crawley's uncover her secret in series 5? "The shame Edith’s situation would bring on the family would be catastrophic," says Carmichael. 

Downton Abbey, Lady Edith, series 5, Laura Carmichael

6. Anna and Bates still have troubles ahead

Naturally. Downton's loved-up pair haven't had it easy so far - they've already got a blackmailing ex-wife, that poisoned pie, Green the valet and a swift prison sentence under their belts. But apparently there is still a shadow hanging over them in series five.

"We start season five withe Anna Bates in a slightly more positive place," said star Joanne Froggatt. "The season finale was a year on from the attack. Time has moved forward... but there is still this shadow hanging over them, so they have more hurdles to cross, unfortunately." The course of true love never did run smooth, eh?

Bates, Anna, Downton Abbey, series 5

7. It might air at the same time in America as it does here

You know how smug you feel getting to watch Downton Abbey months before it airs in the US? Well, that might all be about to change. Julian Fellowes is keen for the show to air simultaneously here and across the pond, a move which would cut down on those pesky spoilers. 

“I want to have simultaneous transmission in American and Britian,” Fellowes told the Telegraph. “The BBC have shown it can be done because they did it with Doctor Who so all this talk that it’s impossible is wrong.”

Lady Mary, Downton Abbey, series 5

8. The Christmas episode involves a railway

When it comes to series five, concrete plot details are scarce. Can you tell?! One thing we do know though, is that the cast and crew took over the Horsted Keynes Station on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. So we can assume someone might travel by train... Sorry, that's all we've got. 

9. Series 5 might be the last 

There were rumours, there were denials...  "I don't know yet if there is a season six, but it's not going to go on for ever," said Fellowes back in January before executive producer Gareth Neame stepped up to say: "There are no plans to end the show after the fifth series."

But the question mark over how long Downton can run for still remains. Our advice? Make sure you enjoy every second of the fifth series when it airs later this year...

Downton Abbey, Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess, series 5

Downton Abbey will return for a fifth series and a Christmas special later this year

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