Downton Abbey: Matthew’s secret will and other handy but entirely implausible plot twists

Last night's secret will may have seemed a little unbelievable, but it's not the first time Downton has embraced unlikely and highly convenient occurrences...


How handy was it that Matthew’s secret will magically appeared in last night’s Downton Abbey?


There we were thinking he hadn’t written one. Mary was penniless. Robert was getting all power hungry. Baby George was going to have to run the estate from his nursery, etc, etc… 

And then, months after his demise, someone decided to look through his things. And you’ll never guess what they found. It was only a (kind of) will. Matthew had, apparently, decided to write one at the start of the Christmas special, just moments before he drove headfirst into a ditch.

It’s unlikely… but true, according to the show’s creator Julian Fellowes. And who are we to argue with the period drama genius?

The thing is, though, this isn’t the first time Downton has stumbled upon such a highly convenient plotline. Do you remember these?

Matthew learns to walk again

Back in series two, poor old Matthew went off to fight at the front and suffered a serious injury. Matthew was told he would never walk again. NEVER. 

He cried a bit, sent Lavinia away and Mary turned all maternal and stroked his brow for a while. As the pair grew close again, clearly still in love with one another, people began to worry about the future of Downton. With Matthew out of action from the waist down, there would be no little Matthews to look after the estate. They were back to square one again. 

Until Matthew’s prognosis suddenly changed, that is. One minute he was wiggling his toes, an ad break later he was waving a walking stick around and by the end of the episode he might as well have been doing the can-can… Problem solved. 

Lavinia dies 

Sweet Lavinia popping her clogs really was rather handy, wasn’t it? Nice as she was, no one ever wanted her and Matthew to end up together. But she was so sweet and he so morally upstanding, he could hardly break his word. With Downton’s heir up and about again, it seemed like the perfect time to reunite him with Lady Mary, too. But his wedding to Miss Swire was getting closer by the minute.

If only there was some way to get Lavinia out of the picture once and for all… 

Cue a handy outbreak of Spanish flu and her swift and sudden death.

Robert loses all the money

Last night wasn’t the first time a letter has solved Downton’s problems… Remember at the start of series three when Robert lost all of the Downton money? (Silly man.) It soon transpired that Matthew was set to inherit almost exactly the amount of money the Crawleys needed from his dead ex-fiancé’s papa.

Crisis averted. Almost… 

Papa Swire writes a(nother) letter 

But Matthew’s conscience got the better of him and he declared that he could never use poor wronged Lavinia’s money. Then, a few episodes later – when everyone was getting a bit tetchy and the viewing public were worried that Downton Abbey was about to be renamed Downton Semi-detached – Matthew received a letter from beyond the grave. 

It turned out Lavinia had written to her father from her Spanish flu-sickbed, telling him that Matthew didn’t love her, and that she’d seen him snogging Mary, but that he was an awfully good chap anyway. So (not long for this world himself) Mr Swire wrote his own letter, telling Matthew he knew everything, but stressing that Matthew should “not allow any grief, guilt or regret to hold [him] back in its employment.” 

It’s like he knew Matthew would feel too guilty to use to money to save Downton’s estate, isn’t it? 

Vera has pastry under her fingernails 

There was a time when Mr Bates looked destined to rot in a prison cell, wearing grey pyjamas and threatening his fellow inmates with sharpened pencils. But that’s no fun, is it? Viewers like Bates. And they like to see Bates with his Anna, too. Which wasn’t really happening much with him behind bars. 

Handily, Anna happened across Vera Bates’s friend who remembered seeing pastry under Vera’s fingernails on the day she died (as you do…), meaning that Vera MUST have baked the poisoned pie. So Bates was in the clear. 

Can a life sentence really be thrown out because someone had dough under their fingernails? Well, erm, yes. In Downton-land it seems that really can be the (pastry) case… 

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