Downton Abbey: Julian Fellowes says he knew Lady Sybil’s death would be tough to direct!

by Anna Howell


We were all left a little bit shocked and stunned at the end of the fourth episode of series 3 of Downton Abbey, and now even the show writer, Julian Fellowes, has admitted that when writing it he knew it would prove tough to direct.

Fans of the award-winning ITV period drama will know how in that particular episode we witnessed one of the show’s most beautiful moments turn into one of its most tragic as Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) died shortly after giving birth to her first born child.

No one had expected the death at all, so when the episode promised a new baby we all sat back and watched with hearts full of hope, but when it became apparent that the expectant mum was in trouble, full hearts quickly rose to the mouth.

However, it seemed like disaster had been adverted when, after being diagnoses with preeclampsia, Lady Sybil managed to deliver the baby safely and celebrate the warm and tender moment with her husband, Branson (Allen Leech), and family.


Which lead us all in to a warm and fuzzy false sense of security which was soon dashed when, in the still of the night, seemingly after all the drama had died down, she took a turn for the worst and succumbed to the fatal condition after all.

And now, with the fourth series well on its way to us, show writer Julian Fellowes has described what it was like to write such a surprising and tragic twist into the much-loved show.

Speaking to Variety, the writer discussed the Emmy-nominated episode, saying:

“The script was full of false hope. I wanted everyone to think she’s in trouble, then she’s not, then she is. There was the tremendous challenge of killing off the first of the principal characters.”


Meanwhile the director of the episode, who got the script six weeks before filming, Jeremy Webb added:

“The producers encourage the director to embellish the visual storytelling, to find images that support the words,”

Fellowes then went on to reveal that he rarely visits the set once filming for a new series has begun, explaining:

“All I do is complain because someone changed my line,”

Downton Abbey is due to return to our ITV screens this autumn, take a look at some behind the scenes footage in the clip below: