Downton Abbey series three plot details revealed

Financial worries and the Irish Troubles will colour the period drama's third season

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The Troubles in Ireland will be the centrepoint of much of series three of Downton Abbey, according to the show’s creator Julian Fellowes, with financial worries and the repercussions of the Great War also affecting the characters in the ITV period drama.

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Speaking at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in California, Fellowes said: “The ’20s are a more nebulous time. In the third series you see the impact on this family of the Irish Troubles…

“At the time [it] was actually much more the headline than the suffragettes or the other things. The Irish Problem seems to be a yawning difficulty for Britain and the British Empire.”

Fellowes added that the third season would be partially about recovery after the First World War and promised viewers “some laughs, some tears.”

Preview footage of the new series showed Robert and Cora Crawley discussing money worries, Mr Bates languishing in prison and Mary and Matthew having a heated fight.

Brendan Coyle, who plays Bates, said of his character’s fate: “All I can tell you is Bates is in prison. Possibly he could be killed in prison; possibly he could take his own life.” 

And Fellowes said of Robert and Cora’s situation: “Cora’s upbringing was not the same as Robert’s… but as things start to change and the plates are shifting, we are reminded what Cora comes from. If anyone understands the world that is coming, it’s Cora.”

The writer also revealed that none of the show’s characters will be heading to America, and that Shirley MacLaine’s casting was a way of adding a US angle to the drama.

Actor Hugh Bonneville, who plays Robert Crawley, ended the junket with aplomb when he opened his shirt to reveal a t-shirt bearing the legend: FREE BATES.

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Downton’s third series will air in the autumn in Britain and in January 2013 in the US.