Published Monday, 26 November 2012
Dan Stevens will feature as Downton's Matthew Crawley in the Christmas special. (© ITV)
The award-winning period drama saw the aristocratic pair finally wed in the third series of the show but, according to reports, Matthew's return in the fourth series will be very brief.
The Sunday Express quoted a production team source as saying: "Dan Stevens isn't returning to the series. He will probably do the first episode of the fourth series, but that will be it."
However, a spokesperson for the show would neither confirm nor deny the rumour, stating only: "We do not discuss individual cast contracts, nor do we discuss future storylines."
Downton returns to UTV on Christmas Day for a two-hour special, with fans promised both tears and laughter as Lord and Lady Grantham take the family to visit their cousins in the Scottish Highlands.
This is one episode you will want to see live with millions of others - and best have the tissues ready.
Laura Mackie, ITV Director of Drama
The annual visit to Duneagle Castle, which manages to be even grander than Downton and where the piper calls the tune for breakfast and dinner, is the highlight of Robert's year.
But while the cat's away, the mice will play and it's left to Carson to try to keep order as the servants remain back home ...
In February, filming will begin at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios for the eight episodes of the fourth series - due to be aired in the autumn - and another extended Christmas special for 2013.
"Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance," Laura Mackie, Director of Drama at ITV, said.
"We're thrilled to welcome back a drama series that has become a much anticipated part of all our lives every autumn and which has achieved success around the globe."
This year's Christmas special will be aired on UTV at 9pm on Christmas Day.