Watch Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is an episodic drama chronicling the experiences of the Crawleys, an aristocratic Edwardian family, and their legion of servants who attend them upon their estate, after which the series is titled. Filmed at Highclere Castle and created by Julian Fellowes, it stars Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, and Shirley MacLaine.

The story arc of Downtown Abbey roughly encompasses the years 1912-1921, the Edwardian and post-Edwardian era, World War I and the inauguration of the Irish Free State. The series begins with news reaching Downton Abbey of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. On board the Titanic were the heir presumptive of Downton Abbey and the Grantham peerage, James Crawley, and his son Patrick. Cousin and nephew respectively to Robert, Earl of Grantham (Bonneville), the death of the heir promptly throws the Crawley family into disarray, as the question of succession suddenly arises in the absence of viable male heirs.

Lord Grantham is otherwise penniless to boot, his wealth excluded to (and bound up in) an entail, his personal riches consisting of those brought to the marriage by his American wife, Cora (McGovern). Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), the eldest daughter, had been engaged to Patrick, but the rule of primogeniture cancels her rights to the Grantham inheritance, which includes all money and property once owned by her mother. The Dowager Countess (Smith) endeavors to break the entail, which would prevent an outside male heir from claiming house, land, and all wealth, but Lord Grantham, a traditionalist, is against this idea.

Lord Grantham engages a former army associate, a Mr. John Bates. Lame and proud, Mr. Bates immediately ruffles feathers on staff, and is deemed unsuitable to the job of valet. Lady Cora's lady's maid, O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran), and a troubled and ambitious young footman, Thomas (Rob James-Collier), scheme and plot to cast Mr. Bates in the worst light possible. Thomas has long desired to be Lord Grantham's valet; in between he has carried on an affair with the Duke of Crowborough, whom he tries unsuccessfully to blackmail. Lady Cora and the butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), convince Lord Grantham Mr. Bates must be sent away, and the Earl nearly relents. At the last minute he changes his mind, and invites Mr. Bates to remain.

The new heir, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), arrives at Downton Abbey. He is a solicitor and intends to continue working. He loathes the idea of assuming lordship at Downton Abbey, though his mother is keen on the whole affair. She insists they remain in order to disprove assumptions about their social class on the part of the Crawleys. Class warfare plays out in the tension that arises between Matthew and Lady Mary, and the Dowager Countess and Matthew's mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton). Isobel, having been assistant to her late husband, a physician, keeps busy by working at the local hospital. An old acquaintance tries to blackmail Mr. Carson with secrets about his days as a music-hall performer. When Lord Grantham gets wind of these developments, he pays off Mr. Carson's blackmailer.

Lady Edith, the middle Crawley daughter, finds Matthew handsome and offers to give him a tour of the local churches. To her chagrin he is more turned on by the architecture than her company. Lady Mary is thrilled when word reaches her Evelyn Napier, a wealthy peer and possible suitor, is coming to call. He brings with him a handsome Turkish politician, Mr. Kemal Pamuk, with whom Lady Mary is instantly smitten. Thomas escorts Mr. Pamuk to Lady Mary's bedroom after dinner, where Mr. Pamuk successfully overcomes her romantic objections. They share a night of passion; Mr. Pamuk dies in Lady Mary's bed. Mary, her lady's maid, Anna (Joanne Froggatt), and Cora remove Mr. Pamuk's body. Daisy (Sophie McShera), a scullery maid, spies upon them as they do.

Lady Sybil, the youngest Crawley daughter, assists Gwen, a housemaid, with her attempts at a secretarial career. Lady Cora becomes pregnant, but loses the baby after slipping on a bar of soap strategically placed beside her bath by O'Brien. During a garden party, the Dowager Countess thanks O'Brien for placing a want ad in a newspaper, confessing her desire to replace a lady's maid who has recently left her. O'Brien realizes the error in her previous assumptions. Minutes later, Lord Grantham announces the outbreak of the war.

6 Seasons, 52 Episodes
September 26, 2010
Drama, History
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle
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Downton Abbey Full Episode Guide

  • In the series finale, the curtain comes down for all the occupants at Downton Abbey.

  • Two romances get tangled. Molesley and Spratt try out new jobs. Thomas makes a bold move. Mrs. Patmore instigates a scandal. Isobel takes a stand.

  • A car race gives brings back bad memories for Mary. Mrs. Patmore opens for business. Mrs. Hughes manipulates Carson. Things get serious for Edith. Robert gets an unexpected gift.

  • The hospital war reaches a boiling point; Violet becomes extremely bitter; Daisy attempts to spoil a romance; love is in the air for Mary and Edith; Thomas feels stuck.

  • Thomas makes a plentiful proposition to Andy; Spratt helps out Denker; a powerful politician joins the family for dinner; Robert causes distress; Mary becomes suspicious.

  • Miss Baxter's predicament; Anna and Mary go to London; Daisy strains her case; a maid from the past visits for lunch; car conversations.

  • Mrs. Patmore orders a wedding dress to surprise Mrs. Hughes for her wedding; Edith receives assistance from a handsome volunteer; the hospital drama intensifies.

  • Obstacles arise in the wedding plans; Edith and Marigold run into pig trouble; Thomas thinks about moving on; Anna has an appointment with the doctor; and Violet and Isobel won't agree about health care.

  • In the premiere of the final season of Downton Abbey, the family is threatened by extortion and could possibly have to downsize; Mrs. Hughes poses a sensitive question; Daisy gets bold; Anna and Bates wait.

  • It's grouse-shooting season, and Rose's father-in-law, Lord Sinderby, has rented out Brancaster Castle in Northumberland and invited the Crawley family to a shooting party. Stowell, the Sinderbys' butler, has an ax to grind and a scandalous secret threatens to undermine the holiday. Surprises are in store as the families become better acquainted with each other and some new faces arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, the servants hold the fort back at Downton.

  • Mrs. Pattmore gets a surprise. Anna is in a quandary. Someone tries to sabotage Rose and Atticus's relationship.

  • Mary is finally free of one suitor, Edith's motives are revealed.

  • Violet's heart is awakened by an ancient spark. Bates finally reveals the truth to Anna. Answers to a painful mystery are finally found.

  • Rose encounters a handsome gentleman. Thomas seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Edith's link to Marigold draws attention.

  • Lord Merton stuns Isobel, while Mary delivers shocking information to Tony.

  • Mary, Lord Gillingham, and Bates face challenges, Cora makes a new friend, while Violet reconnects with an old one.

  • Rose schemes to get a radio in the house. Sarah tutors Daisy. An art historian arrives. Anna struggles with a certain purchase.

  • In the fifth season premiere, the election of a working-class prime minister brings a whole new way of thinking. Robert is given the cold shoulder by the village. Baxter tells all, and Edith takes a risk.

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Downton Abbey is currently available to watch and stream on PBS. You can also buy, rent Downton Abbey on demand at Google Play, iTunes online.

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