Downton Abbey (series 1)

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Downton Abbey
Season 1
Downton Abbey Series 1.jpg
DVD cover art
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes7
Original networkITV
Original release26 September (2010-09-26) –
7 November 2010 (2010-11-07)
Series chronology
Next →
Series 2
List of episodes

The first series of Downton Abbey comprises seven episodes,[1] was broadcast in the UK from 26 September 2010, and explored the lives of the Crawley family and their servants from the day after the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 to the outbreak of the First World War on 4 August 1914.[2] The ties between blood relations in family are an important part of the series.[3] The series looks keenly at issues relating to class and privilege in a variety of aspects, such as the compassionate treatment of homosexuality seen with depictions of the character of Thomas Barrow.[4]

Series overview[edit]

The first series is focused on the need for a male heir to the Grantham estate, and the troubled love life of Lady Mary as she attempts to find a suitable husband. The device that sets the drama in motion is the fee tail or "entail" governing the (fictional) Earldom of Grantham, endowing both title and estate exclusively to heirs male and complicated by the dire financial state of the estate, the latter only resolved when the earl—then the heir apparent—married an American heiress. As a condition of the marriage contract, her considerable fortune was contractually incorporated into the comital entail in perpetuity. The earl and countess, who have three daughters and no son, arranged for their eldest daughter to marry her cousin, son of the then-heir presumptive. The demise of both heirs in the sinking of the Titanic destroys the plans and brings into play a distant male cousin, Matthew Crawley, a solicitor from Manchester, as heir presumptive to Downton and the countess's fortune. The series begins in early 1912 with the aftermath of the Titanic disaster and ends in late 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants.


Main cast[edit]

Recurring and guest cast[edit]


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [5]
11"Episode One"Brian PercivalJulian Fellowes26 September 2010 (2010-09-26)9.25
April 1912. News arrives that threatens the future of Downton Abbey: Lord Grantham's cousin James Crawley, heir presumptive to the earldom, and his son Patrick have died in the RMS Titanic disaster. Meanwhile, Lord Grantham hires his former batman, John Bates, as his valet. The family receives the visit of the impoverished (but entitled) Duke of Crowborough. The family thought he was interested in marrying Mary; however, it is revealed that the Duke was only interested in marrying Mary because he thought she would be inheriting the whole of the Grantham fortune. In addition, the Duke once had a romantic relationship with Thomas, the footman. Matthew Crawley, a distant third cousin, learns of his good fortune as the new heir.
22"Episode Two"Ben BoltJulian Fellowes3 October 2010 (2010-10-03)9.97
September 1912. Matthew Crawley and his mother Isobel move into Crawley House in Downton village. When they visit Downton Abbey, Violet and Lady Mary are openly hostile towards them. The families experience some culture clash due to their differing backgrounds. Isobel had trained as a nurse during the Boer War, and occupies herself with the local hospital. Meanwhile, Carson is a former music-hall performer and is being blackmailed by his old show partner, Charles Grigg. Lord Grantham is amused by Carson's background and pays off Grigg. The hostility between Mrs Crawley and the Dowager Countess escalates when Isobel pressures Dr. Clarkson to perform pericardiocentesis on a patient suffering from dropsy. Violet tries to prevent this but the treatment is successful and Robert makes Mrs Crawley chairman of the hospital board. Violet begins to consider the possibility of Mary marrying Matthew, but Mary is opposed.
33"Episode Three"Ben BoltJulian Fellowes10 October 2010 (2010-10-10)8.97
March 1913. Evelyn Napier, son of a peer, visits the family with a dashing Turkish diplomat, Mr Kemal Pamuk, who is in London for the Albanian independence negotiations, and Mary is smitten with Pamuk. Thomas is also attracted to him. Mr Pamuk comes into Mary's room and seduces her, but he dies in her bed. To avert a scandal, Mary is forced to get Anna and her mother to move Pamuk's body back to his room. Cora is horrified by Mary's behaviour but promises not to tell Robert.
44"Episode Four"Brian KellyJulian Fellowes, Shelagh Stephenson17 October 2010 (2010-10-17)9.70
May 1913. A travelling fair arrives in the neighbouring village. Anna falls ill and stays in bed, visited by Mr Bates who brings her up a tray with a flower. Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper, is reunited with a former suitor, who proposes, though she later declines. Molesley suffers from an allergic reaction to rue, which Violet correctly diagnoses after Isobel assumed it was erysipelas. Carson fears there is a thief at Downton after doing an inventory of the wine cellar. Lady Sybil continues to experiment with feminism, aided and inspired by the new, politically minded Irish chauffeur, Branson. After visiting her dressmaker, she surprises the whole family by displaying an outfit consisting of harem pants.
55"Episode Five"Brian KellyJulian Fellowes24 October 2010 (2010-10-24)9.40
August 1913. Bates discovers that Thomas is stealing wine from the cellar. Worried that he will be reported, Thomas attempts to frame Bates for stealing one of Lord Grantham's antique snuffboxes, but his plans are thwarted. Anna tells Mr Bates that she loves him but he says they cannot be together. A letter from Lord Grantham's sister, Lady Rosamund Painswick, reveals that rumours are circulating in London about Lady Mary and the "handsome Turk". Daisy finds it increasingly difficult to contain what she witnessed when Pamuk died, and after some cajoling from Miss O'Brien, she tells her story to Lady Edith, who writes to the Turkish ambassador. At the annual flower show, Isobel questions the fact that Violet continually wins prizes, and instead supports Molesley's father's exhibits, much to Violet's dismay.
66"Episode Six"Brian PercivalJulian Fellowes, Tina Pepler31 October 2010 (2010-10-31)9.84
May 1914. Gossip about Lady Mary and the "handsome Turk" intensifies, reaching Carson and the Dowager Countess. Violet confronts Cora, who confesses the truth. Edith finds an admirer in Sir Anthony Strallan. Bates reveals to Carson that he was once a drunkard and was in prison for theft; Carson is unwilling to let him go, suspecting there is more to the story. Sybil makes Branson take her to Ripon under false pretences to attend the by-election count. She is injured during a brawl but Matthew, who happens to come along, and Branson, rescue her. Lord Grantham blames Branson but Sybil defends him. Later that night, Mary and Matthew confess their love for each other, but Mary feels she cannot accept his proposal without telling him her scandalous secret. Violet apologises to Cora for her earlier harsh treatment. When Lady Mary learns that second footman William's mother is seriously ill, she arranges for him to visit her. Anna tells Mr Bates that she does not want him to leave Downton, and they almost kiss.
77"Episode Seven"Brian PercivalJulian Fellowes7 November 2010 (2010-11-07)10.77
July–August 1914. Tensions abound following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The family returns from London after Sybil's debutante ball, but Mary stays with Lady Rosamund Painswick at her house in Eaton Square. Cora discovers that she is pregnant, making Matthew's inheritance of the estate more distant should the baby be a boy. Mary learns from Evelyn Napier that it was Edith, not he, who originated the rumours about her and Pamuk. Through Mrs. O'Brien, Carson discovers that when Bates was a soldier, he stole the regimental silver, but after speaking with his mother, Anna learns that it was in fact his wife who stole the silver. Matthew is angered by Mary's hesitancy now that he may not inherit Downton. Anticipating the war, Thomas finds a non-combatant role in the Army Medical Corps. Mary confronts Edith about revealing her secret, implying that she will exact revenge. Learning that Sir Anthony Strallan intends to propose at the garden party, Mary makes him think Edith finds him old and boring, so he leaves. O'Brien thinks Cora intends to replace her and leaves a bar of soap beside her bath tub; she regrets it but is unable to warn Cora before she slips, falls, and miscarries. A telephone is installed at Downton, giving Lady Sybil an opportunity to arrange a job interview for housemaid Gwen as a secretary for the phone company. Mary is prepared to marry Matthew but he doubts her motives and intends to leave Downton. During the garden party, Lord Grantham receives a telegram saying the United Kingdom is at war with Germany, marking the beginning of the First World War.

Critical reception[edit]

The first series of Downton Abbey received universal and widespread critical acclaim, including commercial success.

On 14 July 2011, Downton Abbey received eleven nominations for the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards winning six, including Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special for Brian Percival, Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special for Julian Fellowes, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Dame Maggie Smith, who won again the following year for series 2.

At the 63rd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, the series won Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special and Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie – both for "Episode One".


  1. ^ Fellowes, Julian (5 February 2013). Downton Abbey Script Book Season 1. HarperCollins. p. Content. ISBN 978-0-06-223832-0.
  2. ^ Fellowes, Julian; Sturgis, Matthew (13 November 2012). The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era. St. Martin's Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-250-02763-4.
  3. ^ Fellowes, Jessica (6 December 2011). The World of Downton Abbey. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-01620-1.
  4. ^ Bignell, Jonathan; Lacey, Stephen (13 May 2014). British Television Drama: Past, Present and Future. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-137-32758-1.
  5. ^ Weekly Top 10 Programmes Broadcasters' Audience Research Board