It is September, 1921, and the story picks up one year after the conclusion of Series 3. The Crawleys are headed for Scotland in this 2012 Christmas Special. Robert is particularly looking forward to it after a difficult year for the entire family. Their destination is Duneagle Castle, which is the residence of young Lady Rose MacClare, the girl whom we met in the final episode of series three.
Whilst most of the servants stay behind at Downton, O'Brien, Anna, Bates and Molesley join the family in Scotland. Duneagle Castle is quite grand in appearance and even has bagpipers to announce breakfast and dinner, a facet of the place greatly enjoyed by Robert.
Branson is having trouble finding his place in the world. Does he belong with the Crawley family or should he and his baby daughter be somewhere else?
Edith has more issues with the newspaper editor but Mary and Matthew seem to be on opposing sides with regard to what his (Gregson's) actual motives are towards the middle daughter of the household. Carson, meanwhile, is determined that everything will run smoothly, as disarray of any kind is more than he can stand.moreless
In the season finale as aired in the United States, the Crawleys head to the Scottish highlands, to enjoy the hospitality of Rose's family. Amid the hunting, fishing, and fine dining, tensions bubble over and a new crisis unfolds. Meanwhile the downstairs staff are left behind at Downton, where a trip to the local fair leads to trouble for Carson.moreless
In this final episode of Season 3, Matthew and Mary are obviously keeping important secrets from each other, the question is, what is each of them holding back? Carson must decide what to do with Thomas, whose future employment at Downton rests in his hands but Thomas may be surprised to find support from an unexpected quarter.
A visit from Violet's great-niece could have more behind it after things are learned concerning her in London.
Everyone is very pleased at the prospect of the upcoming village cricket match, especially Robert, who shows everyone an unexpected competitive side to his nature.moreless
There may finally be some good news at Downton after all the recent trauma. Matthew continues to insist that his way of managing the estate is the correct one, but is he going to be able to do things the way he wants to or will he continue to meet resistence?
The arrival of one of Branson's relatives isn't the only problem surrounding him at Downton, and Edith is the recipient of admiration from a wholly unexpected source. Will something finally go her way in this second last episode of the season?moreless
Has Bates finally realised that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars for Vera's murder or does he have something up his sleeve that will set him free?
Isobel's well - intentioned efforts to assist others backfire and anger and frustration are the result.
Violet finds herself having to play peacemaker as Robert and Cora have difficulties in their relationship. Meanwhile, the hot-headed Branson makes decisions which could cause him even more trouble but he finds support from an unexpected corner.moreless
The new maid is managing to get quite a bit of attention from the servants and Daisy appears to be just a bit jealous at the direction some of it is coming from. How will Edith cope with all that has happened since being jilted? Is there something in the wind which might make for a brighter future?
After quite a few unsuccessful attempts at first, can Isobel finally find a way to help the desperate Ethel Parks? And as for Bates, will Anna have success at last in her efforts to assist him with his troubles, or will it again come to nothing?
As he has from the beginning, Matthew is taking an active interest in the running of Downton, but when he mentions some things which are troubling him, nobody seems to be listening.moreless
Trouble looms for Lady Sybil and her husband, Tom Branson as his strong views on political matters get him into all sorts of trouble which means that Sybil has her strong loyalties severely tested when she feels as though she is forced to take sides.
Anna cannot understand the change is Bates's attitude and wonders what it is he is hiding from her. Meanwhile, a new young footman by the name of Jimmy Sparks is causing quite a bit of interest below stairs as Carson decides whether or not to hire him.
Poor Ethel must decide what is best for little Charlie as she tries to make vital decisions regarding his future. A very difficult proposition indeed.moreless
Edith's happiness is overshadowed by her family's opposition to her plans regarding Anthony Strallan but will their disapproval change things? Meanwhile as the mounting financial pressures threaten to engulf the estate and everyone connected with it, Mary decides that she must make an urgent move before all is lost for good.
It looks as though Miss O'Brien may be about to make a very important decision with regard to her future while Mrs. Hughes awaits news concerning her own possibilities. Has Anna finally come across something which may help Bates be freed or will it come to nothing? How will the members of the Crawley family and the staff deal with all the changes which may be taking place in their once-perfect world?moreless
The financial situation for the Crawley family becomes even more precarious and Violet and Mary decide that something must be done. They decide to pretend all is well by throwing a large, formal party for family, friends and neighbours, while Mary is hopeful that Cora's wealthy mother, Martha Levison, may be persuaded to come to the rescue.
However, it is not only the family who are facing difficulties, as houekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, has some unpleasant personal news to deal with while Cora's maid, Miss O' Brien, is determined that her nephew shall rise quickly through the ranks, somethings which does not sit well with the ever-ambitious Thomas.moreless
It is 1920 and Matthew and Mary's wedding is fast approaching. Cora's mother, Martha, arrives from America for the nuptials, much to the displeasure of Violet as the two women have never seen eye to eye. There is some doubt as to whether the wedding itself will go ahead as the young couple are dealing with many stresses. Meanwhile, Miss O' Brien's nephew, Alfred, is employed at Downton as footman while Robert must shoulder a heavy burden as severe financial problems threaten the future of the estate and all who live and work there.moreless