Former New Tricks star Alun Armstrong is joining Downton Abbey as Stowell, the Sinderbys' butler, for the Christmas special.
Also joining Downton at Christmas is BAFTA Award nominee Jane Lapotaire, who will play the much talked about Princess Irina, wife of Prince Kuragin.
It's grouse shooting season and Rose’s father-in-law, Lord Sinderby, has rented out Brancaster Castle in Northumberland and invited the Crawley family to a shooting party. While good sport is enjoyed, Stowell has an axe to grind and a scandalous secret threatens to undermine the holiday. Surprises are in store as the families become better acquainted with each other and some new faces arrive on the scene.
Meanwhile the servants hold the fort back at Downton. As Anna faces an uncertain future behind bars, Bates takes drastic measures in a bid to clear her name. Baxter and Molesley are busy on a joint plan and Carson and Mrs Hughes consider a business venture.
Also making a return to Downton Abbey for the two-hour special are James Faulkner and Penny Downie, as Lord and Lady Sinderby, along with their son and Lady Rose’s husband, Matt Barber, as Atticus Aldridge.
The Downton Abbey Christmas special will screen on ITV on Christmas Day.
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.