The show opens with the arrival of the news of the Titanic’s sinking, and with the “death” of that great ship the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) sees his hopes of smooth succession plans for Downton Abbey destroyed as well. Since the estate is entailed, and the Earl has only three daughters, Downton must go to the nearest male relative. Prior to the Titanic tragedy, the heir presumptive was the Earl’s cousin, whose son Patrick was slated to wed the Earl’s eldest daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery). Two choices remain for the family – attempt to break the entail and declare Mary the heiress, something the Earl is loathe to do and could likely fail, or accept the new heir, a distant third cousin, and through him attempt to salvage Downton’s future.
|Violet, Dowager Countess