Cora’s mother arrives for Matthew and Mary’s wedding. New footman Alfred strives to meet Carson’s high standards, under the watchful eye of his aunt O’Brien.
Hoping for a bailout from her American grandmother, Mary makes sure Downton puts on a bigger show than ever before. Mrs Hughes gets worrisome news. Thomas disapproves of O'Brien's attempts to boost Alfred's progress.
Edith's big day finally arrives, but will the family be convinced that Strallan's age does not matter? Mary takes matters into her own hands - but the price could be high.
Branson's political views land him in hot water and Sybil's loyalty is tested to the limit. Ethel is torn between head and heart as she makes a decision about her son's future.
An exciting offer for Edith divides opinion. Isobel throws Ethel a lifeline. New maid Ivy is attracting attention below stairs, and Alfred's interest is resented by Daisy.
Tempers fray as Isobel's kind gesture backfires. Branson's decisions are put under scrutiny. As Bates's chance of freedom slips away, he goes to extreme lengths.
Anna's patience is finally rewarded. Edith has an unexpected admirer. Matthew refuses to back down over his concerns. Branson's plans for the christening cause consternation.
There's excitement in the house and village as the annual cricket match approaches, and the event brings out Robert's competitive side. Violet's great-niece Rose shows up but a trip to London reveals there is more to her than meets the eye. Matthew and Mary look like they are keeping secrets from each other. Thomas finds out that his future lies in Carson's hands.
Set in November 1916, the episode begins with the arrival of Ethel, a new housemaid, and the first appearance of John Bates' wife. With Matthew and Thomas fighting in France, those left behind at Downton organise a benefit concert to help fund the local hospital. Lady Mary receives shocking news. Branson reveals his feelings to Sybil who wants to train as a nurse
Set in April 1917 and with many of the male staff serving in the war, Carson finds himself under pressure to make sure that duties are carried out to his exacting standard. He ends up finding himself forced to accept female staff serving in the dining room. Robert needs to hire a new valet and ends up employing Lang, who has just returned from the war. William is happy after he receives an important letter. Mrs Patmore finds out some devastating news about her soldier nephew. Thomas returns from the war and begins work alongside Lady Sybil in the local hospital. After a patient is brought in suffering with gas blindness Thomas finds himself becoming attached to the young Lieutenant. Molesley takes an interest in Anna. Matthew learns of his temporary transfer back to England for a recruitment drive in the north whilst fighting in the trenches. Carson advises Mary that if she still loves Matthew she needs to tell him before it is too late.  Meanwhile Lavinia is reunited with an unwelcome face from her past.
Set circa July 1917. The village hospital is not large enough to accommodate the large influx of wounded soldiers coming back from the front so Downton is turned into a convalescent home for many of them. O'Brien is shocked that Isobel Crawley seems to be giving most of the orders while Cora is relegated to the background and suggests that Thomas might be able to aid her from his position at the hospital. Violet strongly believes that Mary and Matthew are still very much in love and so, with the help of Rosamund, tries her best to end Matthew's engagement to Lavinia. She is also still convinced that there is much more to Lavinia's relationship with Sir Richard than meets the eye. Meanwhile, Anna runs into Mr. Bates in the village and they feel they may have a future together but, back at Downton, things are more highly charged as William asks a question of Daisy just before heading off to war and Mrs. Patmore reacts very badly to a chance remark. And what exactly is Branson up to? Whatever it is, it looks like it may cause trouble for Lord Grantham.
Set in early 1918. Ethel's flirting with Major Bryant lands her in trouble as preparations get under way for a concert at Downton. Tensions flare between Isobel and Cora, Edith receives worrying news about Matthew and William, while Branson declares his feelings for Sybil. Robert receives a letter from Carlisle, which causes him concern forcing an uncomfortable conversation with Mary. Mrs Bird's soup kitchen receives a helping hand from Daisy and Mrs Patmore. In the servants’ quarters Mrs Hughes makes a shocking discovery that ends in tears for one member of staff.
Set in mid 1918. 16 October 2011 Set in mid 1918. Robert receives some shocking news from the front. William has sustained serious damage to his lungs and is unable to recover, prompting him to ask Daisy to marry him before he dies. Meanwhile, Matthew has suffered damage to his spinal cord, causing him to lose mobility and feeling in his legs. Worse still, he subsequently learns that his injuries have made him impotent. Lavinia insists that this changes nothing and that she is not concerned about having a sexual relationship and children but only wants to care for him. However Matthew tells her to leave and forget him, while Mary attempts to nurse him back to health. Despite not truly loving William, Daisy is pushed into marrying him by Mrs Patmore, who wants William to die happy, and by William's wishes that Daisy is left with a widow's pension so that she can be looked after. They marry while William is bed-ridden, surrounded by the other staff, Edith and the Dowager Countess. William dies in his sleep, not long after, with Daisy by his side. Bates is taken aback when Vera threatens to expose old secrets about Mary and Pamuk's death. When Mary discovers this, she confesses everything to Richard Carlisle and asks him to help. While he accepts, he does so expecting her to marry him, as she is now in his debt, even going as far to announce their engagement in the newspaper without informing her, leaving Mary in a difficult position. Carlisle tricks Vera into signing a contract, preventing her from selling the story to anyone else, but on finding out she warns Bates that she will still bring him down. A new maid, Jane is hired
Set in November 1918. A Canadian officer is brought to Downton for recuperation and disrupts everything. Ethel hears distressing news, Bates makes another attempt to settle matters with Vera, while Carson receives a tempting offer. Matthew gets used to life in a wheelchair with Mary as his round-the-clock carer. The war ends with Armistice not long after.
Set in 1919. As the residents try to return to normal life following the armistice, Matthew begins to suspect that he can feel his legs. Then one day, seeing Lavinia drop a heavy tray, he suddenly gets up from his chair. Major Clarkson admits that he had been informed of this possibility by another physician but was sceptical about it himself and didn't want to raise their hopes. As a result of his recovery Matthew announces that he and Lavinia intend to be married soon. This Violet to inform him that Mary is still in love with him but Matthew feels obliged to marry Lavinia as she was prepared to sacrifice her life for him. Meanwhile, Richard Carlisle distresses Anna by asking her to spy on Mary and his behaviour leads Carson to reject his offer of employment. Bates reels from the news about Vera after it appears that she committed suicide in order to frame him. Thomas embarks on a new money-making scheme in the post-war black market. Robert is attracted to the new maid Jane and illicitly kisses her. Contemplating life after the war, Sybil makes the drastic decision to elope with Branson. However, Mary discovers her plan and, along with Edith and Anna, seeks them out and persuades Sybil to return and plead her cause openly to their parents.
As preparations are underway for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding, Lady Sybil's attempt to inform her parents of her wish to marry Branson is unsurprisingly met with shock and horror. Robert is violently opposed to the idea but his threats of social disgrace and disinheritance do not dissuade Sybil leading him to try buying off Branson but Branson's intentions are honourable and he refuses. Lady Grantham, Carson and Lavinia are taken ill by the Spanish flu. Thomas' black market venture was a spectacular failure, leaving him penniless and without a job but Carson's illness gives him a chance to become useful in the house. While Lavinia is resting upstairs, Matthew finds himself alone with Mary and tells her what Violet said to him: that he should marry her. Both of them acknowledge he could not as it would be terribly cruel to Lavinia. However, they then kiss just as Lavinia is coming down the stairs. When her illness delays the wedding, Lavinia tells Matthew that she heard and saw everything. She feels they should end their engagement but Matthew refuses. Fearing the outcome of Lavinia’s illness with regard to Matthew and Mary, Richard Carlisle comes to Downton. Daisy is distressed by William’s father’s request to visit him. Ethel is surprised to learn that Major Bryant’s parents want to see her but his father wants to take her child away permanently. Eventually she determines not to let him go as a mother's love is more important than a wealthy upbringing. Robert finds himself unable to control his desire for Jane, who willingly responds. However, their night-time encounter is interrupted and remains unconsummated; and Jane decides to leave. With the possibility of more trouble regarding Vera's death, Anna insists that she and Bates should marry that she may be able to support him through his difficulties as his wife. They marry in secret, with Lady Mary's permission and she arranges for them to spend their wedding night in a guest room. Cora becomes seriously
The story moves on to 1924, when the first ever Labour government heralds a sea change that is felt throughout the nation - nowhere more so than at Downton. A suggested plan for a war memorial unexpectedly pits Carson against Robert and Mrs Hughes. Young Jimmy the footman is the object of some unwanted female attention. Thomas gives Baxter an ultimatum. Branson's growing friendship with someone Robert considers quite unsuitable causes concern. After the tragedy she has been through, Lady Mary now seems ready to find love once more. Cracks appear in Edith and Tim Drewe's special arrangement as she struggles to keep her emotions in check - something which may have disastrous consequences for the entire household.
With the house recovering from the night’s dramatic events, Robert is faced with a very difficult decision. As Daisy continues to struggle with her studies, Mrs Patmore has an idea which might solve everything. Thomas has it in for Baxter. As Rose tries to convince Robert of the virtues of a wireless at Downton, Lord Merton continues his hot pursuit of Isobel. When Mary puts her reputation on the line, Anna is made a reluctant accomplice.
Mary's secret assignation is very nearly blown, but Violet's quick thinking saves the day. Robert is left red faced and furious when things do not go as planned. The events surrounding Green's death come under scrutiny once again. Mrs Patmore is devastated when old wounds are reopened but Carson is unsympathetic. Branson receives an interesting proposition concerning the future of the Downton estate. A figure from Violet's distant past suggests she has buried secrets of her own.
Sarah Bunting continues to cause waves above stairs, but this time she may have gone too far. On returning to Downton, Thomas suffers an inexplicable illness and Baxter suspects there’s more to it than he’s letting on. Violet reveals to Isobel the surprising truth of her past with Prince Kuragin. Mary comes to a decision concerning Lord Gillingham, but things don’t go quite as planned. When Rose’s father returns to Downton, he breaks news that will shock the whole family.
Simon Bricker returns to Downton to discuss the painting with Cora. Branson makes a difficult decision about Sarah Bunting. Rose encounters a handsome stranger. Determined to stop Isobel making the wrong decision about Lord Merton, Violet enlists the help of Doctor Clarkson. Charles Blake surprises Mary with a cunning plan to help her get exactly what she wants. Mrs Patmore seeks Carson's advice on a financial matter. Inspector Vyner returns with some ominous words of warning for Anna.
Relations between Robert and Cora continue to be strained. Blake's scheming starts to come to fruition when Mary is unexpectedly pitted against her love rival. Edith receives some terrible news and decides to take drastic action. Following a mysterious tip off, Baxter becomes embroiled in the investigation of Green's death. Thomas' condition deteriorates, prompting him to finally reveal the truth to Baxter. Love is in the air for more than one member of the Crawley family.
Rosamund shows up at Downton following Edith's surprise departure. Rose is pleased to introduce Atticus and his parents to everyone. Anna and Bates think about a fresh start, now that that their problems seem to be behind them. Molesley is worried after Daisy becoming disillusioned with her studies. Mary and Blake seize a chance to send Gillingham a strong message.
Preparations are under way for Rose's wedding, but family tensions on both sides threaten to derail proceedings. Edith's arrangement with Marigold is happily working out, but how long can she and Cora conceal the truth from Robert? Denker reveals an unexpected side to her personality, which causes trouble for more than one of the servants. With the war memorial due to be unveiled, Mrs Patmore is still upset, but Robert has something up his sleeve. Branson comes to a heart-wrenching decision, and the storm clouds that have been gathering over Anna and Bates finally burst.
Mary is finding it hard to come to terms with Matthew's death. Robert and Violet fall out over how to handle the situation. Jimmy takes an interest in Ivy, while Carson receives an unwelcome reminder from his past.
Mary starts to get over the grief she is feeling, and takes an interest in the running of the estate. Lady Rose MacClare, Lady Flintshire's daughter, ends up in a predicament at a tea dance in York. Hughes attempts to convince Carson to heal an old wound.
An extravagant house party at the Abbey gives the Crawleys a chance to reconnect with old friends. But some guests prove more welcome than others, and along with the celebrations come skulduggery and heartache.
Amid the fallout from the eventful house party, Mary faces a pressing question about her future. Carson reveals surprisingly intimate details of his former life, and a trip to the bright lights of London sees Rose put the reputation of the Crawleys in jeopardy.
Change is in the air as an exciting opportunity for Alfred creates tension between Ivy and Daisy. Isobel appeals to Violet's charitable nature, but it does not come without a fight, and Branson considers a new future for himself and baby Sybbie.
A birthday party is planned for Robert, but Rose's surprise contribution to the event ruffles feathers above and below stairs. A new farming venture on the Downton estate comes with dramatic repercussions for Mary, and Edith receives more unwelcome news.
Cora's playboy brother has got himself into a spot of bother and Robert has to make a trip to America to bail him out. Blake and Mary are forced to put aside their differences to deal with a new farming venture on the estate. When Violet is taken ill, help comes from an unlikely quarter. In spite of Mrs Hughes, Mrs Patmore and Carson's attempts to keep the peace, romantic tensions below stairs cause problems.
Rosamund comes up with a plan to help Edith deal with her problem, but Violet may be about to see right through it. Isobel is the object of someone's attention, while Mary asks Gillingham for a favour. Rose is frustrated when things do not go her way and Alfred realises too late that he may have made a mistake. Just as Bates and Anna seem to be getting over the worst, some unexpected news shakes her up.
It is now 1925, when secrets and rifts threaten the unity of the family, while those below stairs are faced with social changes.
Lady Mary's meddling gets Mr Carson into trouble with Mrs Hughes. Cora and Violet lock horns over the hospital takeover plans. Robert has a tough decision to make.
Preparations for the wedding of Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes are under way. Edith meets up with an old acquaintance. Spratt has something to hide.
As Tom and Sybbie settle back into life at Downton, the family and servants are surprised by the return of another old friend in unexpected circumstances.
Neville Chamberlain visits Downton for dinner, and is drawn into Violet's plan to save the hospital, with distressing consequences for everyone. Andy finds an unexpected confidante while helping Mr Mason move into Yew Tree Farm, Mary is uncertain if she has met her match, Edith meets Bertie Pelham in London, and Spratt comes to Denker's aid. Mrs Hughes struggles to keep Carson happy, while Mary thinks secrets are being kept from her.
The house is made open to the public to raise money for the hospital, an act that divides opinions among the family and the servants. Tensions between Violet and Cora come to a head as a decision is made about the hospital takeover, Mr Dawes has a proposition for Molesley, and Baxter is thrown into turmoil by an unexpected letter. Carson is not happy with Thomas, while Mary and Edith hope to overcome their past and find new happiness with the men in their lives.
The Crawleys watch Henry compete in a motor racing event, an occasion that leaves Mary reeling. Violet hatches a plan which surprises the family and delights Miss Denker, and learns more about Amelia's intentions in befriending Isobel. Molesley and Daisy rise to the challenges of examination day, Andy's secret is brought to light, Thomas feels isolated, and Mrs Patmore and Mrs Hughes teach Carson a lesson.
Bertie's circumstances change suddenly, leaving Edith uncertain whether to risk telling him the truth or keep her past a secret at all costs. Mary wonders if she can ever make peace with her sister as hostilities escalate, Spratt shows some hidden talents and Molesley's first day as a teacher does not go according to plan. Mrs Patmore's bed and breakfast attracts unwanted attention, leaving her in need of the Crawleys' help.
Mary endeavours to build bridges with her sister while Edith’s secret continues to pose a threat, despite having nothing left to lose. As Henry settles into the role of husband and stepfather, finding his place at Downton proves more difficult. Below stairs, Carson faces some personal challenges, which prove that even he is not invulnerable to change. The last ever episode offers all the love and loss, happiness and heartbreak of Downton Abbey, and as the family and servants prepare to welcome 1926, they celebrate an unforgettable New Year’s Eve together at the great house.