This past March, Downton Abbey ended its television run with the Love Actually of series finales—
a joyously light-hearted affair for most characters involved, especially the long-tortured Lady Edith,
who closed out the show by finally locking down a man, a better title than her sister, and a cushy career. (Respect.) Since the finale aired, there have been rumors that the ensemble cast might re-unite for a big-screen spin-off. (God knows at least one butler would welcome the work.) But in the event that a
spin-off film never happens, series creator Julian Fellowes has kindly looked into his Downton Abbey
crystal ball and offered fans a glimpse into several characters’ futures.
Charitably, Fellowes shares the fate of Lady Mary, the snooty protagonist who closed out the series with
a shock twist: she has a heart. The character demonstrated as much by re-uniting Lady Edith with Bertie,
and then actually refraining from plundering their wedding day with news that she is expecting a second
child. Well, in an interview with Deadline, Fellowes forecasts that Mary’s business acumen will help
keep the Crawley estate afloat, now that she’s taken over the business reins from her bumbling father.
“My own belief is that Mary, whether you like her or dislike her, is a hard worker, and she’s practical,
Fellowes explains. “I think she will employ the kind of advice that she needs [to manage the estate].
She would probably have opened the house to the public in the 1960s, as so many of them did, and
she’d have retreated to a wing, and maybe only occupied the whole house during the winters.”
(Coincidentally, this is the same strategy Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, the son of the Earl of Shaftesbury,
used to save his family’s estate—a story chronicled in a recent issue of Vanity Fair.)
As for the rest of the family and staff— Fellowes does not think they strayed far, and that future
generations would still be inhabiting the same Yorkshire pile.
“My own belief is the Crawleys would still be there [in Downton Abbey], just as the Carnarvons are
today [in the real Highclere Castle, where Downton was filmed],” says Fellowes. “George [Mary’s son]
would have gone to the Second World War, and of course the fear is that he would be killed. We know
that Mary is pregnant, so there’s going to be another child. As for the title, I don’t know where it would
go beyond George, but let’s hope he gets through the war and has children of his own.”
(If we worked at a television network, we would greenlight an entire spin-off based on the previous
paragraph and the lingering question of how George will fare as an adult, given his upbringing with Downton’s Mommie Dearest.)
Although Fellowes does not offer the fates of the other characters, he does offer up another great trivia
note by revealing the inspiration behind Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess.
“One thing I very much enjoyed about Violet was that I had, in creating her, touched on an iconic figure
of British families,” explains Fellowes. “There was a whole generation of women like Violet. My theory
is that, when the men went off to war, the women had to keep the show on the road back home, and they
did. As a result, during the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were these incredibly frightening matriarchs in all
sorts of family situations, that everyone was half terrified of and half loved.”
“I modeled her on my grandfather’s older sister,” Fellowes continues. “And the thing about those
women is that they were as tough on themselves as they were on everyone else, which is why you
forgave them. They weren’t selfish in that way; they just had these incredibly high standards that
everyone had to meet.”
Fellowes has previously said that he is keeping his fingers crossed for a film spin-off, so that
audiences can re-unite with their beloved characters.
“I hope there will be a film,” Fellowes told IndieWire several months back. “I’d structure a narrative
with lots of things happening, but we would need a kind of unity to make a feature, which is a challenge
for me. It would be a bigger canvas riot could be a real riot, the ball a real ball. I would like that, I
think it would be fun. But there’s a time and then everyone’s moved on."