Downton Abbey: Show creator, Julian Fellowes, says he has no intention of killing off Dame Maggie Smith’s character, the Dowager Countess!

by Anna Howell

With the fourth series of the hugely popular and iconic ITV period drama, Downton Abbey still hanging in the balance, its creator Julian Fellowes finally has some good news for us, Dame Maggie Smith’s character, the Dowager Countess, will not be killed off!

Since the end of series three last months, there have many concerns over the casting structure for series four, if and when it is finally commissioned. Reports that Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley in the award-winning show, was not going to be returning for another series due to moving to America, which sent fans of the show into a state of despair, knowing that the only logical way for him to leave the series was to join Lady Sybil in the Grantham family crypt!

Then the show took another big blow as it was revealed that Dame Maggie Smith may not be returning for a fourth series due to ill health.

It was reported at the time that Dame Maggie who plays the Grantham matriarch, The Dowager Countess, in the hugely popular ITV drama, was taken to a specialist ­cardiac unit at the private Wellington Hospital in London after complaining of severe pains on Friday ­morning and underwent a series of ­emergency tests, before being discharged later that same day after her condition was monitored and stabilised by medics.

A source close to the star said at the time: “It was a big scare for Maggie and she was really worried because she was in a lot of pain.

“It was extremely distressing for her but she did the right thing and made sure she got to hospital as soon as possible.

“Maggie loves her work and her performances in Downton have helped make it a worldwide success.

“But she will have to think very carefully now about whether she stays in the show. Her health always comes first and I am sure she will take advice from the experts.”

“Maggie was in the best possible hands at the ­Wellington Hospital.

“It was ­obviously a worrying time for her but she ­underwent all the tests possible. ­She was only discharged when the ­cardiologist was completely satisfied she was OK.”

Dame Maggie, who has already fought breast cancer, was awarded the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series award at the 64th Emmy Awards in Hollywood in September for her role in Downton, but said in a 2009 interview that she contemplated giving up theatre after being “knocked sideways” by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Talking about the cancer, which was diagnosed in 2008, she said: “It leaves you so flattened.

“I’m not sure I could go back to theatre work, ­ although film work is more tiring. I feel very ­uncertain.

“It knocks you sideways. I am fearful of the amount of energy one needs to be in a film or a play.”

“The last couple of years have been a write-off, though I’m beginning to feel like a person now.”

Show creator Julian Fellowes, did not help speculation at the time by commenting: “I can’t tell you, ‘Oh, yes, she’s ­definitely contracted because she isn’t. It’s entirely up to her when she stays and when she goes.

“With Maggie, you never know. Others sign on for the next series and they sign for this and they sign for that, but she doesn’t. She stays her own person. But as far as I’m ­concerned I hope she stays with the show until ­Downton falls down.”

However, now Fellowes has come forward to say that he has no intentions of killing off Dame Maggie Smith’s character Violet, even if Dame Maggie decided to quit the show, according to the Sun newspaper.

According to the publication, Julian said: “I’m happy to say the Dowager is not going to die.”

“Violet is going to live by the sea in case Maggie changes her mind,” he joked.

Meanwhile, Allen Leech, who plays former chauffeur Tom Branson, had much praise for the British acting icon, commenting that she was not as ferocious as her character in real life:

“She’s absolutely amazing. She’s really lovely,” said the actor.

Watch Dame Maggie in action in the clip below: