Downton Abbey Season 2 Story Recap

Downton Abbey Recaps

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’ll be providing Downton Abbey recaps of all seasons, plus a recap of the 2019 Downton Abbey film.

Downton Abbey Season 2 Recap

Downton Abbey’s Role in the War

It’s 1916 at Downton Abbey. England and Germany have been at war for two years. Robert yearns to be involved in the fight, but is considered too old. Sybil too wants to do her part, so she defies convention to become a nurse.

Matthew has been fighting in the war, but he returns to Downton to announce his engagement to Miss Lavinia Swire. Thomas serves as well, but he intentionally suffers a gunshot wound to his hand in order to be sent home.

Because of the shortage of hospital beds, Isobel convinces Cora to turn Downton Abbey into a convalescent ward where soldiers can recover from war injuries.

Sir Richard Carlisle and Lavinia Swire

Mary Crawley begins seeing Sir Richard Carlisle, a self-made man and owner of a prominent newspaper. Mary’s aunt Rosamund notices that Richard already knows Lavinia, and she suspects something nefarious between them.

Mary finds out from Lavinia that she once stole important papers of state for Richard so that he would forgive the money her father owed him. Despite being in love with Matthew, Mary likes Lavinia and empathizes with her. She promises not to tell anyone her secret.

Proposals and Declarations of Love

Bates comes into a sum of money after his mother’s death. Believing he can convince his wife to divorce him with a bribe, he proposes to Anna. She accepts. 

Branson also confesses his love to Sybil even though it could mean losing his job. She can’t reciprocate his sentiment yet, but she promises she won’t tell anyone of his feelings.

Richard proposes to Mary, but she initially delays on giving her answer. Still in love with Matthew, she’s unsure if it would be right to accept Richard’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Edith learns to drive a tractor in order to help some neighbors of Downton around their farm. She develops feelings for Mr. Drake. However, his wife catches them kissing, and Edith is not invited back.


Anna’s and Bates’ happiness unfortunately doesn’t last long. Bates’ wife Vera unexpectedly arrives at Downton to blackmail Bates into staying with her and threatens to go to the press with the story of Mary’s affair with Kemal Pamuk–and how Anna helped cover it up.

Bates resigns his position at Downton to go live with Vera. However, Anna later finds him working at a pub. He’s found information about Vera that could let him divorce her, so he eventually returns to Downton.

A Conditional Engagement

When Mary hears of Vera’s threat, she goes to Richard for help and confesses everything that happened between her and Pamuk. He agrees to assist her, but on one condition–she marry him. She agrees.

Richard then buys Vera’s story and forces her to sign a contract that would keep her from selling the story to another paper.

War Wounds

Downton soon receives terrible news: Matthew and William have been wounded in battle. William won’t recover from his injuries. Believing Daisy loves him, he asks the young woman to marry him before he dies. Though she doesn’t love him, Mrs. Patmore persuades her to accept the proposal, saying that she can’t hurt the man’s feelings while he’s on his deathbed. They marry, and William dies not much later.

Matthew’s injuries, on the other hand, are not life-threatening. But according to the doctor, he will never walk again, nor can he have children. Lavinia promises she will stay with him, but he sends her away. It is Mary, then, who ends up taking care of Matthew.

The Return of Patrick Crawley

A badly burned and disfigured officer arrives at Downton’s convalescent home, claiming he is related to the Crawleys. He claims he is Patrick Crawley, Robert’s heir and Mary’s former fiancé. Patrick supposedly survived the sinking of the Titanic, but amnesia prevented him from remembering who he was. Even if he truly is Patrick, his burns prevent everyone from recognizing him. No one believes the officer except for Edith, who used to be in love with him. Patrick also claims he had feelings for her.

But when Robert finds information that could discredit “Patrick’s” claims, the man suddenly departs Downton. He leaves behind only a note for Edith.

Bringing Lavinia Back

Displeased with how close Mary and Matthew are getting, Cora and Richard plan to bring back Lavinia, hoping she will come between them. When the woman returns, she pledges to stay with Matthew.

The End of the War

On November 11, the war comes to an end. Downton tries to transition back to the way things were, but everyone soon realizes that they can never go back completely.

Matthew’s Recovery

After the war, Matthew starts to get feeling back in his feet. One day, he shocks everyone by getting out of his chair. Dr. Clarkson admits this recovery was always a slight possibility, but he never wanted to get anyone’s hopes up.

Matthew and Lavinia announce they will be married. Now that Matthew is recovered, Violet again wants to see him attached to Mary. She tells Matthew that Mary still loves him. Matthew loves Mary as well, but he feels he has an obligation to Lavinia.


Sybil can’t stand the idea of going back to the way things were before the war. Branson, then, is finally able to persuade her to elope with him. When Mary and Edith find out about their plan, they persuade Sybil to wait to marry and instead try to speak with Robert and Cora about her wishes.

Robert, of course, hates the idea. He tries to dissuade Sybil and even bribe Branson, but they won’t hear of calling off their engagement.

Mary and Matthew

Lavinia becomes ill while at Downton and is put up in a room there. This leads to Matthew and Mary spending more time together. They kiss, which Lavinia witnesses. She tells Matthew they should call off the engagement, but he refuses, still feeling it would be cruel to her.

Cora falls ill as well, but soon recovers, while Lavinia dies from her illness. Wracked with guilt, Matthew tells Mary they cannot be together. Only after this tragedy does Robert give Sybil and Branson his blessing.

More Downton Drama

Throughout the season, Isobel and Cora butt heads over who should run the convalescent home at Downton. Eventually seeing she’s not needed, Isobel leaves, only to return when Matthew is wounded.

Mrs. Hughes catches the maid Ethel in bed with Major Bryant and throws her out of Downton. But she later helps Ethel and her baby son with food, as the girl is all alone. Ethel later discovers that Major Bryant died. She initially tries to seek help from her son Charlie’s grandparents. But when their offer to take in Charlie necessitates that she lose contact with her son, Ethel decides to keep the child without assistance.

After Ethel is fired, a new maid named Jane is hired at Downton. Dealing with marital issues, Robert finds himself attracted to Jane. They kiss, but Jane feels it isn’t right for them to be together and leaves. Robert is brought closer to Cora when she falls ill.

Meanwhile, Thomas loses all of his money in a scam. He tries to inch his way back into Downton by helping around the house.

After William’s death, Daisy is surprised to find that his father wants to get to know her. She doesn’t know what to do, as she didn’t really love William. She doesn’t want to lie to his father, but doesn’t want to hurt him either.

The Death of Vera Bates

Drama intensifies when Bates learns of Vera’s death. While signs point to murder, he suspects that she killed herself and tried to frame him for her death.

Bates still doesn’t want to bring Anna into this situation. Yet, he marries her in secret, at Anna’s insistence.

How Does Downton Abbey Season 2 End?

Season 2 of Downton Abbey ends with officers arresting John Bates for the murder of his late wife, Vera.

Downton Abbey 2011 Christmas Special Recap

Season 2 drama picks up in Downton’s 2011 Christmas Special. Now married to Branson, Sybil sends news to Downton of her pregnancy.

Bates stands trial, charged with the murder of his wife. After being found guilty, he’s sentenced to be hanged–but his sentence later turns into life in prison.

Cora tells Robert the truth about Mary’s scandal and the circumstances of Mary’s engagement to Richard. He tells his daughter not to marry Richard and persuades her to live with her grandmother in America until the Pamuk scandal dies out.

Mary breaks up with Richard, who causes a scene and threatens to expose all the secrets of Downton. She also tells Matthew the truth about her and Pamuk, but he doesn’t care. The Downton Abbey Christmas special ends with Matthew proposing to Mary. She accepts.

That’s the story of Downton Abbey season 2 in a nutshell. Stay tuned for further story recaps in preparation for Downton Abbey: A New Era.

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