Good heavens! Downton Abbey returns for series four with record viewing figures of over 10 million

The series four opening episode has beaten its series three premiere - and become the most watched drama of 2013 so far

Matthew Crawley’s untimely death in Downton Abbey’s Christmas special may have left us traumatised. But it seems we weren’t completely put off the hit period drama.

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In fact, over 10 million of us (that’s 39.6% of viewers) sat down in front of the telly last night to watch the premiere of the show’s fourth series on ITV. 

The episode, which saw Mary mourn for Matthew, Thomas get up to his old tricks and Downton’s kitchens get an electric whisk, drew an average audience of 9.5 and peaked at 10.5 million, making it the most viewed drama of 2013 so far.

Last night’s 90-minute premiere, which was up 123% on ITV’s slot average over the last three months, was also Downton’s highest rating series opener ever. The episode was watched by nearly one million more Brits than the opening episode of series three, which peaked at 9.6 million in autumn 2012. 7.7 million people tuned in to watch the series one premiere back in 2010. 

Downton Abbey’s main competition last night was new BBC1 series By Any Means, which pulled in 4.11 million viewers and an audience share of 16.4%, around half of Downton’s share. 

Downton Abbey continues on Sunday at 9:00pm on ITV. 

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