Downton Abbey Christmas special 2012: A new Crawley heir and a shock death
The surprises, dramas and thrills came thick and fast
in the Downton Abbey
But no shock was bigger than the death of Matthew Crawley, especially after Lady Mary had finally given birth to the male heir they so longed for.
It was an action-packed two-hour episode of Downton, which saw the Crawley family and a number of their servants head to the Scottish Highlands to visit their relatives - the Marquess and Marchioness of Flintshire and their troublesome daughter Lady Rose.
There the Lord and Lady Grantham, along with a glowingly pregnant Lady Mary, Matthew Crawley and Lady Edith, indulged in a spot of hunting, fishing and a traditional Scottish ceilidh.
Bates, Anna, Moseley and O’Brien accompanied their employers to Duneagle Castle, while the rest of the household staff stayed behind in Yorkshire, with Tom Branson left in charge of things at home.
After the sudden death of Mary’s sister Sybil during childbirth, it’s surprising that the heavily pregnant Crawley daughter was allowed to make the arduous journey up north, but headstrong Lady Mary overruled any concerns her family voiced.
Of course, it turned out to be too much for her ladyship - who was eight months’ pregnant - and halfway through the holiday she dramatically rushes back to Downton with Anna, just in time to give birth to a bouncing baby boy.
Doting Matthew just makes it back in time for the new arrival and he bursts with pride as Mary presents him with the long-awaited male heir.
But happiness never seems to last long for the Crawley family and as he charges back to the great house to tell everyone the joyful news, the proud new dad hurtles headlong into another vehicle and is last seen crushed beneath his car with blood pouring from his ears.
While the fourth series of Downton Abbey will see the Crawleys come to terms with the birth of their new heir and the death of Matthew, it looks like young, wilful Lady Rose will become a more permanent fixture.
Due to her parents' unhappy marriage and bankruptcy, Lord and Lady Grantham agree to make Rose their new charge and so she's set to move to Yorkshire as her parents decamp for India.
While the Crawley family are having their Highland fling, the hardworking Downton servants are given the opportunity to visit a local fair - much to the distain of Carson, who would rather have them polish every bit of silver by hand.
Love is in the air for head cook Mrs Patmore, who has a romantic dalliance with one of her food suppliers, while Dr Clarkson and Isobel Crawley enjoy a sweet - but brief - flirtation.
Ivy and Daisy are friends following their rivalry over the affections of Alfred and Jimmy, while Jimmy finally forgives Thomas Barrow for the gay kiss incident after he saves him from being beaten up by some local trouble-makers.
Further drama in Downton comes courtesy of new maid Edna, who sets her sights - nd lips
- on the widowed Branson, but her attempts at seduction are quickly ended by eagled-eyed Mrs Hughes.
Meanwhile, Carson is left figuratively and literally holding the baby - in this case young Sybil - proving he's more than capable of being an affectionate surrogate grandpa when no one is around.
Back at Duneagle Castle there is also romance for Lady Edith, who's visited by her smitten newspaper editor Mr Gregson, but with the family reluctant to let her become his mistress, it looks like poor Edith will continue to be the family spinster.
But considering new dad Matthew's sudden and dramatic death, Lady Edith's complicated love life looks set to be the least of the Crawley family's problems...