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Downton Abbey Movie Ending Explained: What Happens & What It Means

Downton Abbey Movie Maggie Smith

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Downton Abbey.

The Downton Abbey movie's ending promises big changes for the Crawley family and their servants. The Downton Abbey Movie is the big-screen continuation of Julian Fellowes' Downton Abbey TV series, and it reunites nearly the entire cast. The film is set in 1927, 18 months after the Downton Abbey series finale, and involves the Crawley family hosting King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) at Downton.

The drama upstairs involves several of the key members of the Crawleys: Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) is incensed that her cousin Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) plans to leave her estate to her maid Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton) instead of naming Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) her heir. Additionally, Edith, Marchioness of Hexam (Laura Carmichael) reveals that she's pregnant to her husband Bertie Pelham, Marquess of Hexam (Harry Hadden-Paton) but the King has asked him to tour Africa when their baby would be born. Meanwhile, downstairs, Downton Abbey's servants are supplanted by the Royal Household and ordered by Mr. Wilson, the Royal Butler (David Haig) to do nothing while his staff serves the King and Queen at dinner. Instead of bearing this insult, Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and her husband John Bates (Brendan Coyle) unite their fellow servants to bamboozle the Royal staff so that Downton's staff handles the dinner, which goes off (nearly) without a hitch.

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Related: Downton Abbey Movie: Returning Cast & Crew Guide

By the time the Downton Abbey Movie is over, the residents of the great house in Yorkshire are on the cusp of more major changes. The film continues the theme of Downton Abbey the series, which is about the Crawley family embracing change and progress and adjusting to the inevitable forward march of time, while still finding a way to maintain Downton's glory. Here are all of the major events of Downton Abbey Movie's ending and what they entail for a possible Downton Abbey Movie 2.

How The Servants Tricked The Royal Household And Served The Royal Family Themselves

In the Downton Abbey movie, Anna and Mr. Bates spearheaded a complex scheme to turn the tables on the Royal Household that even Mr. Carson, the Butler (Jim Carter), went along with to defend the honor of Downton. First, Anna placed a double dose of sleeping potion in the tea of Monsieur Courbet, the snooty Royal Chef - this knocked him out for the entire evening and allowed Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) to cook the meal for the Royal Family. Next, Thomas Barrow, Downton's under butler (Robert James-Collier) recruited his new friend Richard Ellis, the King's valet (Max Brown) to call Mr. Wilson and give false orders to send the Royal Footmen back to Buckingham Palace. Next, Mrs. Patmore 'mistakenly' spilled sauce on Mr. Wilson; while he was in his room to change his clothes, Andy the footman (Michael Fox) locked him in his room for the night. Finally, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) ordered the Royal Housemaid Mrs. Webb (Richenda Carey) to stand down since it was now Downton's staff serving the dinner.

With the Royal Staff out of the way, Carson led Downton's footmen, including Andy and Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) into the dining room to serve dinner. However, when the King and Queen offered their compliments to Mr. Courbet, Molesley shocked everyone by announcing that Mrs. Patmore cooked the meal and Downton's staff was serving it. Luckily for Molesley, the Queen generously gave Mrs. Patmore her compliments instead, forgiving Molesley's behavior and noting the monarchs are "used to people acting strangely" around them. The next morning at breakfast, Carson played mind games with Mr. Wilson, Mrs. Webb, and Monsieur Corbet, inviting them not to mention what happened to spare themselves embarrassment.

Anna also solved another mystery: why were precious items disappearing all over Downton Abbey? She correctly deduced that Miss Lawton, the Queen's Royal Dresser (Susan Lynch) was stealing from the house. Anna blackmailed Miss Lawton to re-size Edith's ball gown in exchange for not exposing her crimes. Finally, while the dinner was going on, Barrow was arrested visiting a gay night club called the Turton but he was bailed out by Mr. Ellis, who revealed he's also secretly gay. They promised to remain friends after Ellis returned to London. By Downton Abbey Movie's ending, Downton's staff successfully put their house's best foot forward to the Royal Family and Carson returned to retirement, accompanied by his wife Mrs. Hughes.

Related: Downton Abbey Recap: Everything You Need To Know Before The Movie

How Tom Branson and Cora Crawley Saved The King And Edith's Pregnancy

With the help of Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Tom Branson (Allen Leech) was the hero of Downton Abbey, stopping an assassination attempt on the King by Major Chetwode (Stephen Campbell Moore), an English revolutionary with Irish sympathies. Later, Branson spoke to Princess Mary (Kate Phillips), not realizing who she was, and by relating his own life story and his history with the late Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), he inspired her not to leave her husband Henry Lascelles (Andrew Havill) for the sake of her children and the crown. Branson was shocked when King George, who learned of both of Branson's good deeds, personally expressed his thanks to the Irish socialist at the Royal Ball in Harewood Castle.

Meanwhile, Edith and Bertie were stunned when the King excused him from going on tour in Africa with the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII). It turns out Cora Crawley, Countess Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) privately told the Queen that Edith was pregnant and the King's plans would take Bertie away from the birth. Once it was "explained" to the King by the Queen, the monarch gladly released Marquess Hexam from his obligation, to his and Edith's relief.

The Truth About Lucy And Lady Bagshaw - And What It Could Mean For Tom

In her self-appointed role as peacemaker, Isobel, Baroness Merton (Penelope Wilton) correctly guessed Lady Maud Bagshaw's secret: Lucy is really her illegitimate daughter posing as Lady Bagshaw's maid. This is why she insisted on leaving her estate to Lucy. Once Lady Violet understood the truth, she relented in her hostilities towards Lady Bagshaw. However, another cunning scheme was hatched by Violet: By chance, Lucy and Tom Branson met and took a romantic interest in each other - which culminated in their privately dancing together on the balcony of Harewood Castle in the Downton Abbey Movie's ending.

If Tom married Lucy, when she inherits the Brumpton estate, control of it would go to Tom as her husband - which is a roundabout but still an effective way to secure the estate for the Crawleys. If there's a Downton Abbey Movie 2, this could involve the wedding of Tom Branson and Lucy Smith.

Related: Does Downton Abbey Movie Have A Post-Credits Scene?

Daisy Finally Decides To Marry Andy

In the 15 years of the timeline since Downton Abbey began, Daisy (Sophie McShera) evolved from a naive young scullery maid to Mrs. Patmore's assistant cook and a confident young woman who knows her own mind. However, she was putting off marriage to Andy, who grew jealous when Mr. Sellick (James Cartwright), the plumber who fixed Downton's water boiler, flirted with Daisy. In his rage, Andy broke the water boiler again, but, when he confessed what he did to Daisy, she was impressed because he was willing to stand by his convictions and possibly even spoil the royal visit (because Daisy is no fan of the royal family) just for her. Now, Daisy is ready to set a date and her wedding to Andy could also happen if there's a Downton Abbey Movie 2.

Violet Crawley Is Dying And Makes Lady Mary Her Successor

At the Royal Ball, Lady Violet privately confessed to Lady Mary that she's dying; Violet mysteriously vanished to London during the Downton Abbey movie and returned with a prognosis that she doesn't have much longer to live. Violet touchingly named Mary her true successor, predicting that Mary will one day take her place as the "scary old lady". After the chaos and pressures of the royal visit, Mary had doubted whether keeping Downton Abbey open was worth all the fuss but Violet (and Anna earlier) made Mary see that Downton has to continue and it's up to Mary, her husband Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), and their children George and Caroline, to keep Downton's flame alive.

Sadly, Downton Abbey Movie's ending means that Maggie Smith will not return if there's a Downton Abbey Movie 2. The legendary actress was hesitant to resume her role, thinking she had done all she could as the Dowager Countess, but happily, Smith returned to give Lady Violet a worthy sendoff. Thankfully, Downton Abbey fans were spared having to watch our favorite razor-tongued Dowager Countess pass away and she was instead given a heartfelt sendoff. Even though Maggie Smith is leaving the Downton cast, she exits with the full knowledge that, if there's a sequel, Lady Violet's fiery spirit will always be part of Downton Abbey.

Next: What To Expect From Downton Abbey Movie 2 

Key Release Dates
  • Downton Abbey (2019) release date: Sep 20, 2019
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