Published Thursday, 27 December 2012
Lady Mary, pictured, played by Michelle Dockery. (© ITV)
Moments after Lady Mary and her besotted husband Matthew Crawley rejoiced in the birth of their first child, a much longed for son and heir to Downton, a tragic crash robbed the newborn of his father.
It is the second sudden death in the family in recent times. Lady Sybil died in childbirth following the arrival of her daughter in dramatic scenes which devastated the programme's devoted followers.
Now, it seems that it was the decision of Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, not to renew his contract that resulted in producers having to conjure up the upsetting end after such a joyous occasion.
Stevens had acted in the series for three years during which times he appeared in two Christmas editions and all three series. However, he failed to sign on the dotted line and commit to a fourth series.
Mary and Matthew's relationship had captivated viewers as it developed, coming through a tricky love triangle, surviving a war and blossoming into marriage.
A spokesperson for ITV said: "Fans have enjoyed what has become a solid and loving marriage.
"It is for this reason that the Producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the Christmas episode."
Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, will now have to adapt to motherhood having lost her partner so soon after losing her youngest sister.
"In the next series, alongside all the usual drama, comedy and romance involving the much loved cast of characters, viewers will see Mary adjusting to her life and attempting to move on without the man she loved."
The widely anticipated series four begins production in February.
Catch up on Downton Abbey: Christmas Special on UTV Player.