Link Roundup - 'Downton Abbey': Dame Maggie Smith, Highclere Castle, Season 3 Finale Spoilers

The cast of Downton Abbey

Like many of you, we are absolutely obsessed with Downton Abbey, the British period drama that follows the lives of the fictional Earl of Grantham, his family and their servants. For three seasons we’ve watched the characters go through personal events – courtship, marriage, childbirth and death – and survive and adapt to world events such as the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, and the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

Tonight, American viewers will tune into PBS for Downton Abbey's season 3 finale (Sun. Feb 17, 9 p.m. ET/PT). UK viewers and others (including us) have already watched the episode on ITV or through iTunes, so we have a mini recap with major spoilers, but not to worry – if you don’t want to see them, just don’t scroll beyond the photo of Mrs. Patmore and staff members at the table. It's at the end of this article after the links – we’ll warn you again before you get there. For the rest of you, we have non-spoiler news about Dame Maggie Smith, Joanne Froggett, Highclere Castle and more.

Our roundups normally highlight news from the past week, but this time we’re including an article published last month in The New York Times – did you know Downton Abbey was the most watched show in the world? It seems Downton Abbey is "must see" TV for everyone except Dame Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham); in an interview for 60 Minutes (airing Sunday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. ET/PT), she said she never watches. We think God may be watching Downton Abbey, though: in a report in which members of the SAG Award winning cast discuss the show’s popularity, Joanne Froggett (Anna Bates) tells how the vicar who conducted her real-life wedding ceremony said she'd go to heaven if she got him a visit to the Downton set.

Highclere Castle, the location where Downton Abbey is filmed, is the home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. The property has been in their family for centuries, and long before the TV show, their ancestors made news. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon loved Egypt, and financed the search for King Tut’s tomb. Just a few months after it was found and opened in 1923, the Earl died, and many believed he succumbed to the curse of Tutankhamun. To this day, a vast collection of Egyptian artifacts is showcased in the basement of Highclere; this Monday, Lord Carnarvon will host a reception to mark the 90th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun.

Book about Lady Almina
Lady Almina, wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, led a life similar to the fictional Lady Cora of Downton Abbey: she was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, her dowry was a “crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home”, and she opened the doors of Highclere Castle to help soldiers wounded in World War I. The current Countess of Carnarvon wrote a book about her called Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey.

Finally, PBS airs Downton Abbey in the USA months after ITV broadcasts it in the UK. Read the SNL Financial article linked below for info on whether the delay is helping or harming PBS' ratings.

  • A Bit of Britain Where the Sun Still Never Sets ‘Downton Abbey’ Reaches Around the World
    [The New York Times]
  • Maggie Smith's never seen "Downton Abbey" [CBS News]
  • What’s up with Downton Abbey? Creator and stars ponder PBS smash hit’s popularity [Calgary Herald]
  • Tutankhamun 90th Anniversary: Ancient Treasures To Be Shown At Carnarvon's Highclere Castle [Huffington Post UK]

Downton Abbey photos ©Carnival Films / Masterpiece
Book Jacket photo ©Highclere Castle Archive

To avoid spoilers, do not read on - do not read below the photo.
If you want to read the spoilers, scroll down below the photo.

Staff members at Downton Abbey



Lord Grantham, his family and their immediate staff head to Duneagle Castle in Scotland to visit relatives (Lady Rose and her parents). The late Lady Sybil's husband, Tom Branson, stays at Downton as he is now the Agent of the estate. An aggressively flirtatious maid sets her sights on him, but Mrs. Hughes is on top of the situation. The staff members who didn't go to Scotland go to a country fair - while there Thomas takes a beating meant for James, and that eases the tension between them. Also, Mrs. Patmore has a suitor with ulterior motives.

In Scotland the men hunt, the women lunch, and everyone prepares for a big party. Pregnant Lady Mary leaves Scotland early due to not feeling well after dancing, then when she gets off the train in Yorkshire, she asks Anna to get her directly to the hospital where she gives birth to a healthy baby boy. Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary share a private, happy moment at the hospital with their new baby, then, as Matthew is driving alone back to Downton to share the news of the new heir, he has a head-on collision with a truck, and he dies on the side of the road. The last scene of the episode shows Lady Mary in her hospital bed with her new son, blissfully unaware of her husband's fate. I have no idea how Lady Mary will survive the news; I know I will never recover from this cruel twist of fate.

Posted on Sunday, February 17, 2013