Downton Abbey Season 1 Story Recap

Preparing for a New Era…

Since 2010, Downton Abbey has enthralled viewers with drama and romance set against life in the 20th-century English countryside. Downton Abbey: A New Era is now showing in the UK and releases in U.S. cinemas on May 20.

If you’re interested in the new Downton Abbey movie, you may want to brush up on everything that’s happened at Downton so far.

We’ve got you covered with our full story recap with everything you need to know if you don’t fancy plunging back in and watching six seasons of juicy drama.

Downton Abbey Season 1 Recap

The Sinking of the Titanic

It’s 1912 when the Titanic tragically sinks, and the estate of Lord and Lady Grantham (Robert and Cora Crawley) feels the impact of this event. When Lord Grantham’s cousin and heir Patrick Crawley dies on the ship, his daughter Mary is left without a fiancé. She no longer has the assurance of receiving her inheritance through her marriage to Patrick.

Matthew Crawley

As Robert and Cora have no sons, Robert’s next closest male relative will inherit Downton. Enter Matthew Crawley, a lawyer of more modest means and the lawful heir of Downton. Against Mary’s wishes, Robert invites Matthew and his widowed mother Isobel to live in a house on their estate. Mary’s grandmother Violet pushes for a match between her granddaughter and the new heir. However, Mary initially dislikes the man and maintains that she should inherit Downton–despite the laws against women inheriting. But the two can’t help but be taken with each other.

The Death of Pamuk

Mary invites a potential suitor to Downton but is more attracted to his friend, Turkish ambassador Kemal Pamuk. That night, Thomas leads Pamuk to Mary’s bedroom. He has sex with her–but proceeds to die in her bed. Anna and Cora help Mary transport Pamuk back to his room. Unbeknownst to them, Daisy witnesses them move the body. And Thomas tells O’Brien that he took Pamuk to the lady’s room the night he died.

O’Brien suspects that Daisy knows something about the incident and mentions this to Mary’s sister, Lady Edith. Daisy tells Edith everything. Ever at odds with her sister, Edith has a sinister plan in mind for this intel.

Mary later learns that Edith started rumors about her and Pamuk to ruin her reputation. In return, Mary sabotages Edith’s relationship with Sir Anthony Strallan, who was going to propose.

A New Heir

Matthew proposes to Mary, but she holds off on giving him an answer. The situation is further complicated when Cora discovers that she is pregnant. Having a boy would completely change Matthew’s status as the heir and potentially affect Mary’s consideration of his proposal.

But O’Brien–mistakenly thinking that Cora is planning to fire her–causes Cora to slip in the bathroom and subsequently have a miscarriage. Mary accepts Matthew’s proposal, but it’s too late. Now, he can’t help but think she’s only accepting him for his inheritance.

Lady Sybil and Tom Branson

Meanwhile, Sybil Crawley gets more involved with the local political scene. She persuades the new chauffeur, Tom Branson, to take her to political rallies. Branson finds himself developing feelings for her, despite the fact that she’s considered above his station.

Downstairs Drama

All the while, drama occurs downstairs at Downton. Gwen leaves Downton for a secretarial position. Thomas and O’Brien try to get Bates fired. Anna and Bates develop feelings for each other, but Bates cannot act on his own. Anna eventually learns that this is because Bates is married. He took the fall for his wife’s theft and even served time in prison.

World War I

Season 1 of Downton Abbey comes to a close with an announcement from Robert Crawley. He interrupts a party to relay the devastating information he just received in a telegram: Britain is at war with Germany.


That’s the story of Downton Abbey season 1 in a nutshell. Stay tuned for further story recaps in preparation for Downton Abbey: A New Era.

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