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

Here's everything you need to know about Downton Abbey going into the new movie. For six seasons from 2010-2015, Downton Abbey was one of the most popular TV shows in the world when it was broadcast on ITV in the UK and on Masterpiece PBS in the United States. Created by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Downton Abbey revolved around the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, who lived in a great house and estate in Yorkshire county (the series was filmed in Highclere Castle in Hampshire, UK).

Downton Abbey's TV timeline runs from 1912-1925 and depicted the Crawley family's many crises, the romances of the three Crawley daughters Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), and the family having to cope with the gradual changing of their way of life in the post-Edwardian era as well as the drama of the servants downstairs. Downton Abbey season 1 began in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic, an event that created a new heir to the Earlship of Grantham, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a lawyer and outsider who suddenly found himself as part of the Crawleys and the ruling class. Matthew had a tumultuous love affair with Lady Mary and an initially contentious relationship with Robert Crawley, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), who resisted change to his traditional way of life. In Downton Abbey season 2, Matthew, Robert, and many of the servants were drafted to fight in World War I. Meanwhile, Sybil and the chauffeur Tom Branson (Allen Leech) sparked a romance and were married against the family's wishes while Edith continually found herself unlucky in love.

Continue scrolling to keep reading Click the button below to start this article in quick view.

Related: Downton Abbey Actors Who Became Famous After The Show

Downton Abbey season 3 saw the shocking deaths of both Lady Sybil and Matthew, which altered the series. The Granthams' cousin Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James) joined the cast as Downton Abbey transitioned to depicting the gradual decline of the British aristocracy and the sweeping changes in British society throughout seasons 4-5. Mary and Edith both had tearjerking failed romances and they now each had young children to take care of; as did Branson, now a widower and single parent of his daughter with Sybil. Meanwhile, downstairs, Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), Lord Grantham's valet, fell in love with Anna the housemaid (Joanne Froggatt) but their relationship faced many dramatic impediments, though they were eventually married. Similarly, Carson the butler (Jim Carter) and head housemaid Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) developed romantic feelings and also married.

By Downton Abbey's sixth and final season, Lady Rose married and left Downton for America, leaving Mary and Edith to face their last chances at being happily married to their respective suitors. Meanwhile, the changing times affected the health of Lord Grantham, who finally came to accept that his way of life is coming to an end, even though his irrepressible mother Violet, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) defiantly continues to embody the aristocracy of old. Downton Abbey season 6 concluded the major storylines of the Crawleys and their servants, giving everyone a well-deserved happy ending during Christmas 1925. With the Downton Abbey movie picking up where the story left off 18 months later, here is everything fans need to get caught up with the characters of Downton Abbey.

What Happened To The Crawley Family At The End Of Downton Abbey?

Downton Abbey ended happily for the Crawley family. As Lord Grantham finally ceded control and management of the Downton Abbey estate to his heir, Lady Mary, his wife Cora, Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) found herself with new responsibilities. Robert Crawley had a great deal of trouble keeping Downton profitable, but with the help of Mary and his son-in-laws Matthew and Tom's modern ideas, Downton Abbey eventually became better managed. However, the changing times still harmed Robert's health. Due to his sumptuous lifestyle, Robert developed a stomach ulcer that he didn't properly deal with. In Downton Abbey season 6, Robert's ulcer burst, threatening his life. Robert eventually recovered and stepped down so that Mary could take full control of the estate. Meanwhile, Cora found herself in a power struggle with the Dowager Countess over Downton Abbey's hospital, which ended with Lady Grantham taking over as President of the hospital from her mother-in-law to Robert's great pride. Also, Cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton), Matthew's mother, married Dickie Grey and became Baroness Merton.

Mary and Edith have always been lifelong rivals, but they both finally found themselves happily married. Lady Mary fell in love with Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), but she struggled with his being beneath her in station and with the fact that he was a race car driver (because Matthew died in a car wreck). However, with Tom interceding, Mary and Henry finally married and by the end of Downton Abbey season 6, Mary was pregnant. Meanwhile, Lady Edith, who earned hard-fought independence and became the owner of a women's magazine, fell in love with Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton). In a shocking twist, Bertie came to inherit the title of Marquess of Hexam and, though he wanted to marry Edith, she hid the fact that Marigold was her illegitimate daughter. However, Edith and Bertie reconciled and married, which made Edith the Marchioness of Hexham, a title that outranks the rest of her family, including Mary. As for Tom Branson, the ex-chauffer formed a business with Henry Talbot and opened up an automobile shop in York named Talbot and Branson Motors. Mary, Edith, and Tom are all raising children, George, Marigold, and Sybbie, respectively, as the next generation of Downton Abbey.

Related: Why Lady Sybil Was Killed Off From Downton Abbey

What Happened To The Servants At The End Of Downton Abbey?

The hardworking and loyal servants of Downton Abbey also found happiness at the end of season 6. Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes became husband and wife, but in the series finale, Carson became ill with palsy and had to retire from his position after being Downton's devoted butler for 50 years. Mrs. Hughes - now Mrs. Carson - continued as head housemaid and shared the responsibilities of running the house's servants with the new butler, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier). Barrow had long been unhappy because he was hiding that he was gay and he feared for his job security; this led him to attempt suicide in Downton Abbey season 6. But with Carson's retirement, Barrow has finally attained the status in service he desired and earned.

After all of the grief they suffered, Mr. and Mrs. Bates became parents when Anna had a healthy son. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol), the cook, opened up a bed and breakfast, which she operates while still running Downton's kitchen. Mrs. Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) remains Cora Crawley's ladies' maid while Daisy (Sophie McShera), who rose from scullery maid to Mrs. Patmore's assistant cook, gained an education and moved into the farm she inherited from her first husband, William Mason (Thomas Howes). Andy the footman (Michael Fox) also helps out on the farm and is sweet on Daisy. Finally, Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) left service and became a schoolteacher but he still returns to Downton to help out for special events - like the one that will occur in the Downton Abbey movie.

Related: Downton Abbey: Why Dan Stevens Wanted To Leave The Show

What Will Happen In The Downton Abbey Movie?

The Downton Abbey movie takes place in 1927, about 18 months after the end of the TV series. The inciting incident of the film is the announcement that King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be visiting Downton, a splendid event that causes all of the characters to return home after all of the changes that have taken place and prepare the great house for their royal guests. The unique aspect of the movie's plot is that, in the TV series, most of the drama was caused by internal strife within the Crawley family and their servants. With the royal visit, it creates a new scenario where the aristocrats upstairs and the servants downstairs must rally together to restore Downton Abbey to glory worthy of the arrival of the King and Queen.

While the cast from Downton Abbey season 6 reunites, and the film will introduce new characters like Violet Crawley's old rival Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), the Downton Abbey movie's two-hour runtime, unfortunately, means that some fan favorites won't be back, specifically Lily James as Lady Rose. Still, after four years since the TV series concluded, the Downton Abbey movie is a cause for celebration and a must-see event for the show's millions of fans.

Next: Why Lily James Left Downton Abbey (& Why She's Not In The Movie)

Key Release Dates
  • Downton Abbey (2019) release date: Sep 20, 2019
The Mandalorian George Lucas
Is The Mandalorian Disney’s Biggest Betrayal Of Lucas’ Star Wars Vision?

More in SR Originals