6 new things we’ve learned about the Downton Abbey Christmas special

Plot details have emerged about Downton Abbey's festive episode, Christmas trees, secrets and scandals...

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We all know what happens in 30 days and nine hours time. And we’re not talking about your nan opening the After Eights. That’s right, Downton Abbey is back and as an early Christmas present we’ve been treated to a sneaky peek at the special by those lovely chaps over at ITV. 

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We’ve made our Christmas predictions, rounded up some rumours about what to expect, but now we have the cold, hard facts. And, actually, we’re not too keen on all of them… 

It’s primarily set during “early autumn” 

Erm, is it just me or is that not especially Christmassy? We’ve been assured that after two years of sun-soaked specials that this year will see a return to the snowflake-filled episodes we crave. “The next Downton Christmas special will have a tree… presents,” Allen Leech assured RadioTimes.com earlier this year, while Elizabeth McGovern recently told STV that the episode is “very Christmassy… people who are looking for a big tree will be satisfied this year.” 

But if the special starts in early autumn we’re a little worried about just how true these statements are. It seems the episode will span several months and end with the Crawleys clustered around the Christmas tree, but a fully festive special this is most definitely not. 

Time hasn’t moved on much 

The end of series five ended with the Crawleys hosting Rose’s wedding and opening Downton’s war memorial in rather warm weather and we’ll pick up with the gang in early autumn of the same year. It’s fair to assume that everyone’s situations won’t have changed too much. Branson won’t have left. Daisy won’t have passed her exams. Marigold’s existence will still for the most part be a secret. Anna will still be in jail… 

Bates is taking “drastic measures” 

Talking of Anna, it seems while she “faces an uncertain future behind bars” Bates is set to take “drastic measures” in order to clear her name. Now this isn’t a huge surprise, Bates is wily, clever and notoriously hot-headed. Plus he’s got a whole set of nefarious skills up his sleeve – pick-pocketing, forgery, you name it Bates can probably do it. So what will the episode see him do? Blackmail the police? Break Anna out of jail? Confess to the crime himself so she’ll be set free?

The Crawleys are at Brancaster Castle with the Sinberbys

Even when the episode does end up featuring the festivities, there’s a chance it won’t be at Downton Abbey itself. The episode sees the Crawleys on a grouse-shooting holiday it Brancaster Castle. Remember the Christmas episode in 2012, the boring bit before Matthew died? Well, chances are it’ll be quite like that. Lots of misty hilltops and posh people waving guns around. 

There is a scandalous secret

When isn’t there, eh? ITV tell us “a scandalous secret threatens to undermine the holiday” while “surprises are in store as the familiar become better acquainted.” It all sounds rather intriguing, doesn’t it? There’s a chance this statement refers to Edith’s still secret child. If the Sinberbys were keen to end their affiliations with the family over a divorce, chances are they won’t be too thrilled by this news either… 

Princess Irina has been found

So much for Violet living out the rest of her days in sexy sin with Prince Kuragin. The Christmas episode will see his missing wife Princess Irina make an appearance. Irina, who will be played by Jane Lapotaire, is sure to ruffle some feathers when she arrives at the Abbey. We can’t imagine relations between her and the Dowager are warm and friendly. Let the sparring commence! 

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Downton Abbey returns for a Christmas special later this year