Matthew's popped the question. Jane's said yes. But will they get hitched without a hitch
23:34 GMT, 7 September 2012
A bell rings on the callboard in a faraway kitchen. An unseen hand tickles a feather duster around a crystal chandelier. The urgent theme music strikes up, ding, ding, diddle-de ding.
And once more we are transported back to Downton Abbey, ancestral home of the Crawley family and fulcrum of all that is fabulous in period drama.
Yes, the third series of ITV1’s wildly successful series is back on television this month – and not a moment too soon for its legions of devoted fans.
Downton Abbey is back with a bang write Jan Moir
For us, the world is carved into two distinct time zones – BC and AD. That is, Before Crawley and After Downton. How did we ever cope without the thrills of Lady Mary and Matthew’s tortured romance
Lord and Lady Grantham’s cloying goodness Or Violet and her bombshells of vintage snobbery. (‘What is a weekend’) Not to mention Carson the butler with his Minotaur shoulders, along with Bates the curiously scrumptious valet
Over two delicious series, good old Bates has managed to be sent down for murdering his first wife, while somehow marrying a second Mrs Bates, in the form of Downton’s head housemaid Anna.
One pretty little attendant dressed
in pink is ready for her close-up
Is she now doomed to wander the corridors of the great house alone, a troubled look on her face and a freshly ironed pillowslip over her arm Soon, very soon, we will find out.
Of course, the new series brings some changes. Devotees are expecting sparks with new character Martha Levinson, the Countess of Grantham’s mother. Played by Shirley MacLaine, this heralds a much-anticipated battle of the matriarchs with Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess.
My money is on Maggie. At least her face still moves. Matthew and Mary are set to marry. Can we even dream about their happy-ever-after future So much has happened to this luckless pair – who would dare to predict what happens next
It seems only yesterday that the award-winning drama series was launched in September 2010. Downton was an instant hit, becoming the most successful British costume drama since Brideshead Revisited nearly 30 years earlier.
Sumptuously filmed and briskly scripted, it has followed the fortunes of the Crawley family and their servants through thick and thicker.
Creator Julian Fellowes (now a lord himself) believes its success is partly due to each character having the same emotional depth, be they a maid or the nice-but-dim Earl of Grantham.
It’s certainly true that viewers care about these people, whose fortunes we’ve ardently followed for seven glorious years, beginning with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and ending in December 1919. We’ve come through war, pestilence, Pamuk the dastardly Turk and Matthew’s infamous trouser tingle, following a war injury that left him temporarily paralysed from the waist down. When he jumped up to catch a tea tray, the Crawley dynasty was secured.
We last visited Downton Abbey during a two-hour festive special screened on Christmas Day last year.
Matthew is prepared for his big day, but will Mary join him at the altar
Nearly 12 million people watched the drama hit new peaks of soapy brilliance as we enjoyed a pheasant shoot, a servants’ ball, a sance, Bates in the dock and even a dog-napping.
The Crawleys and their servants
celebrated their own Christmases amid a backdrop of threats, bribes,
favours granted and refused. There was a fist-fight in the library, a
con man in their midst and somehow, romance conquered all. In what was
one of the television moments of 2011, Matthew Crawley got down on one
miraculously recovered knee to ask Lady Mary to marry him. And she said
How did we get here
It seemed only five minutes ago that Matthew and Mary were engaged to
other people. However, the Spanish flu epidemic killed off Matthew’s
fiance Lavinia Swire, snobbery did for Mary’s intended Sir Richard
Carlisle and please keep up at the back.
So the stage is set for an epic third series which promises more of the same high drama and low blows.
It’s 1920, the Wall Street crash is a decade away, Mary is picking out
wedding veils and Shirley MacLaine is crunching determinedly along the
Downton drive in her jazz heels and furs.
Let the joy begin.