The Downton Abbey 2015 Christmas special was the final episode of the sixth season and the final episode overall of the long-running UK/US period dramatic series, Downton Abbey.
The episode focused on the re-engagement and subsequent marriage of Edith Crawley and Herbert "Bertie" Pelham, the newly minted Marquis of Hexham; the off-screen marriage of Richard Grey, Lord Merton and Isobel Crawley Grey; as well as happy endings across the board for both the Crawley family and their retinue of devoted and loyal servants.
Lady Mary Crawley is walking with her new husband, Henry Talbot, whom she married in the previous episode, and they are still discussing what happened to his friend, Charlie Rogers, who died in a racing accident.
While he doesn't blame himself for his death anymore, he says that he still wants to prove himself worthy of Mary's love and her estate. It bothered him that Mary was richer than he was, because she was half-owner of the estate.
Henry would later announce to his new sister in-law, Lady Edith that he is quitting auto racing. However, his mood would lift much later on in the episode when his wife tells him that she is pregnant with their first child (Henry took to George, Mary's son by the late Matthew Crawley, with ease, and George loved him as well).
Earlier, during the picnic, Edith would also reveal that she was considering sending Marigold to school in London, considering that nobody used Governesses anymore, realizing that the world that they had known growing up was indeed gone for good.
It would prove to make more sense, as Edith would be living in her London flat that she had been willed by Michael, and having Marigold with her, as well as working with the magazine. As she told everyone, she was a spinster, and spinsters lived alone.
He made mention that he felt sorry for her as she was alone with her troublemaking lady's maid, Gladys Denker . Isobel, who had had a clear dislike for Denker ever since she had insulted her friend, Dr. Clarkson (David Robb) the head of the hospital, said that she could take care of herself and for Robert to not pity her.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Thomas Barrow, who had, over time, become less manipulative and scheming, especially after his failed suicide attempt, thanked those who were helpful to him as he was recuperating.
He would later leave Downton, with the best wishes of the family upstairs and below stairs to work for another family, Lord and Lady Stiles, with a staff of only another maid named Elsie and a housekeeper named Mrs. Jenkins.
He even got a good send off from the children, Sybbie, Marigold and especially George, who would miss his best friend and favorite servant, "Mister Barrow" (George begged Thomas not to leave, which visibly moved the usually cold Barrow to tears, but he gently told the little boy he had to go, but also reassured him that no matter where he was or what would happen, he would always be George's best friend).
He also received a hug from Sybbie, of whom he also had a close bond with, due to his friendship with her late mother, Sybil. Sybbie would also comfort her sad younger cousin, a trait she gained from Sybil. Later in the episode, the kids, and their dads would be at the Estate Office, where Tom worked, and spent time with them.
However, upon arriving at his new post, Thomas felt alone and there was nobody he could talk to, as the couple was rather boring. He felt more of an outsider than he had ever felt in his life, since his other fellow servants were just the maid and housekeeper.
He soon realized he had been better off at Downton, where he had a more diverse group of people that he knew, as well as the joy of being around the children, who adored him, especially George.
Meanwhile, Edith and her friend Laura Edmunds, the editor of her magazine, the Sketch, had discovered in the previous episode that her grandmother's somewhat stuffy butler, Septimus Spratt was the Agony Aunt columnist (called Aunt Cassandra Jones) for the magazine.
Edith, on her way of one of her many trips to London, this time being driven down by Henry, went to the Dower House to discuss with him the possibility of his column being expanded to a full page.
She had been totally impressed with his advice and his suggestions on combining comfort and elegance; plus his advice on keeping wayward husbands in line. Spratt admitted proudly that he knew all about what he wrote.
Despite the aggravation of Denker and her eavesdropping, he would accept the job.
The spiteful Denker, who had never liked Spratt (despite him being the head of the downstairs staff) and always hoping he would fail, tried to derail his good fortune by letting Violet know about his moonlighting, hoping that he would be sacked without a reference.
However, her scheme is foiled, to her dismay, by the Dowager Countess when she looks at the column, and laughs, finding Spratt's writing and thoughts witty and humorous, and she also recognized that her butler had a hidden and worthy talent.
Daisy Mason, the assistant cook, would finally move out of the Abbey house, where she had lived since joining the house staff as kitchen maid, and would move to Yew Tree Farm where her father in-law Albert Mason, (Paul Copley) lived and she would gain a suitor in Andy Parker, one of the footmen who was also a part-time laborer on the farm.
She attempts to change her hairstyle for him, but fails at first. Andy laughs at her first attempt, which makes Daisy flee in tears, and earning him a well-deserved tongue lashing from Daisy's close friend, mother figure and superior, Mrs. Beryl Patmore.
"You can laugh!" she yelled, defending Daisy, "But it was for YOU that she has made a fool of herself!" When he attempted to explain that Daisy didn't care for him, she would finish him off, "No wonder you're alone, lad! You don't know women, AT ALL!" So disgusted by him were they, even the kitchen maid stormed by him!
Later on, with the help of Mary's lady's maid, Anna, Daisy would get a becoming new hairstyle that she debuts at Lady Edith's wedding, and gains Andy's heart in the process. To solidify things, Andy takes a lock of Daisy's cut hair to keep as a keepsake.
Also, she had dropped any objections that she had towards Mrs. Patmore and her father in-law being together. She was now strong enough and sure enough of herself and finally knowing that she would be able to help out on the farm with the books and also with her cooking, both at the farm and at the Abbey where she would continue to work.
This helped her to finally realize that she would not lose either Mr. Mason or Mrs. Patmore as they both loved her very much and had always had her best interests at heart.
The new pairing also guaranteed Mrs. Patmore being in her life for many more years to come, as the two had become close friends (and shared a mother/daughter bond) through their years of service together. Daisy realized that she had come quite a long way from her beginnings in the first season as the lowly kitchen/scullery maid.
Edith would be surprised that Mary, following the advice that Violet had given her after the violent row that the two had; with the aid of their aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick had arranged for Bertie to meet her at the Ritz.
The two realize that they were still in love with one another. He again proposes to Edith and this time, she accepts. He then arranges for her parents to meet his widowed mother at Brancaster Castle.
Mirada would pronounce that Brancaster would become a moral center of the area, and declared that Bertie had to be a moral person, given that the previous Marquis was not moral enough for her liking, due to his many trips to Tangiers (it was implied, but never confirmed, that the previous Marquis was gay). Edith is slightly taken aback by this pronouncement.
Anna and her husband, John Bates, happy at last after all the trials they had endured (mainly both having been incarcerated at various times, for murders neither one committed), would, after many tragic miscarriages, which with the aid of a doctor, was a treatable condition, finally have a baby; a son, who was born in Lady Mary's room.
When Anna's water broke, during Edith's wedding reception, Mary calmly took control of the situation, and gladly helped her lady's maid/best friend and allowed her the use of her room. They would celebrate the New Year with their new son, named after his father, John, Jr., in Mary's room.
Joseph Molesley and Cora's lady's maid, Phyllis Baxter would grow closer and the former valet/butler/footman would gain more responsibility as a teacher at the Downton school and would receive a new cottage as a result.
His future finally secure and working at a job he loved, he would leave service completely, although he would also state that during school holidays, he would still be available to help out as footman at Downton for major events.
Baxter finally comes to realize that her former enemy, Peter Coyle, had no hold on her anymore. She refuses to visit him and even write him back, knowing that she got her power back from him, and wouldn't give it up for anything. She and Molesley would continue seeing one another, despite him not being in service.
Tom would become interested in Laura, enjoying her spirit and pluck (the same qualities that reminded him of his late beloved wife Sybil), telling her that she fits in well in a family of strong women. Laura also found that she was beginning to like Tom as well.
He would have Laura sit near the family during Edith's wedding, which solidified Laura into the inner circle of the family. She had already been found acceptable to the Crawleys when she accompanied Edith to the races, thereby meeting the whole family at that time, and then when she went to dinner at Rosamond's house in London.
Violet and Cora would finally reconcile, as the former finally realized that Cora was the Countess of Grantham after a very prolonged fight over the independence of Downton Cottage Hospital.
During said fight, Violet would lose her position as president to Cora and the hospital would be merged with the Royal Yorkshire Hospital in York, although things would remain the same as before the merger, which Cora made very clear.
While there, Mary's Godfather, Richard Grey, Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) was diagnosed with a form of anemia, at first thought to be the more fatal Pernicious Anemia, but was later revealed to be merely iron-deficient anemia.
Robert also relented in Cora's position as president of Downton Cottage Hospital after having Rose bring him there and he saw just how good she was at her duties, and letting her know how proud he was of her. Remembering the time during the war when Downton Abbey was being run as a convalescent home, and how she felt wonderful about her work there, Cora had finally found her calling.
Isobel would finally accept the engagement of Lord Merton even in the face of total opposition by Larry and his new wife Amelia (Phoebe Sparrow), whose "cordiality" was nothing more than a sheathe for their contempt of her.
After being rebuffed in seeing Lord Merton numerous times by the cruel and controlling Amelia, (who cut her down verbally in front of the hospital, and even went so far as to slam the front door of the family house in her face) Isobel enlisted the formidable help of Violet, who went on the notion of her late father's advice, "If reason fails, try force!".
The indomitable Violet, far from being intimidated by the young snobs, literally barged into the house, despite their protests, and she loudly demanded that Isobel be allowed to see Lord Merton. He would come down, slipping out of Larry's vigilance (which Amelia scolded him for), and despite the snobs' complaining, listened to what the women were saying.
Isobel announced that after she would talk with his valet and get what he needed, and to move him into her house, she would marry Lord Merton as soon as it could be arranged. While Larry and Amelia were disgusted, Lord Merton was delighted (he shouted "How perfectly marvelous!").
Stunned, realizing that the control she had over her father in law was slipping away, the furious Amelia yelled that Isobel was kidnapping him into marriage and that he would not have his "devoted family" (meaning her and Larry) around.
They originally saw Isobel as a necessary evil, someone who would nurse him and they wouldn't have to do anything, pawning him off onto someone else; but now that he was deathly ill, she did not fit into their scheme anymore.
They wanted Cavenham Park, the family home, for themselves and to keep any outsiders (meaning Isobel) from making a claim to the estate. So, to achieve their aims, they tried to keep Isobel and Dickie (as Isobel called him) apart deliberately.
Having had more than enough of the pair of them, especially given the trouble Larry had already given to the Crawleys before (two dinners at Downton Abbey where he had been thrown out for his boorish behavior, the first time spiking Tom's drink causing him to be drunk; the second in which he insulted Isobel by calling her a gold digger, which earned him being called a bastard by Tom), he denounced them wrathfully.
As he told Larry, "As my son, I love you, but I have tried and failed to LIKE you!"
He then left the angered young snobs with Cavenham to live out their misery and, in the words of Isobel, "to wallow in splendor, and much good may it do them!".
Lord Merton and his valet would then move into Crawley House with Isobel.
Violet, as usual, got the last word on the snobs by taunting the livid Amelia, "And who can argue with THAT?!" Amelia turned her head haughtily away from Violet.
The marriage, which Larry, Timothy and Amelia did not attend for obvious reasons (after this, they were never spoken of again), occurred off-screen and it would be revealed that by the time the holidays of 1925-1926 arrived, Isobel was now recognized within the family (and Downton at large) as the new Lady Merton.
On New Year's Eve, Edith and Bertie would finally marry and she revealed to everyone, including Mirada, that Marigold was her daughter, by the late Michael Gregson.
Earlier on, while still at Brancaster, Edith, realizing she had nothing to lose or nothing to hide, and believing that Mirada had every right to know the full story with nothing left out, had shared the whole story about Marigold and her affair with Michael Gregson to her.
At first, she was not happy with it, as she felt Edith was damaged goods, but Bertie disagreed with his mother, and stood up for his fiancée, saying that, by her revealing her story, she showed how truly honest she was. Mirada wasn't convinced of that, not at that point at least.
During dinner, she was about to say something horrid about the story that she had been told, but Robert stopped her by saying if she said what she was about to say, she would lose Bertie forever. So, she thought better of what she was going to say and toasted the couple instead.
Mirada found that she was won over by Edith's unimpeachable honesty. "Besides birth and brains," she said, "she had total and complete honesty."
For Mirada, she saw that it took a lot of bravery for Edith to reveal something that could have ruined her totally, and would have been considered scandalous otherwise. She risked everything she was working for in order to be more than forthcoming with the truth.
A fair woman at heart, Mirada admired Edith for her honesty and her sense of honor; and declares that the marriage would be a success. To the joy of Robert, Cora and Mirada, the two share a kiss.
On the day of the wedding, she even enjoyed some play time with her new step-granddaughter, Marigold, who along with her older cousin, Sybbie, served as flower girls at the wedding. She also got to meet Sybbie and found she could get on well with Marigold's cousin.
Cora would make arrangements with Mirada to see to it that Marigold would be brought to Brancaster Castle, where she would be waiting for her mother and new stepfather after their honeymoon. From that point on, Marigold would be living at Brancaster with her new family (along with a nanny), while Sybbie and George would grow up together at Downton.
Mirada told Edith that all she wants is for her to love Bertie, that she wouldn't be disappointed in that. She was sure it would be successful, because it was evident to her that her son and Edith truly loved one another.
Everyone, above and below stairs, including Lady Rosamond; Lady Rose, her husband Atticus (Matt Barber), and Rose's father, "Shrimpie" MacClare (Peter Egan), who had finally divorced Susan, were assembled for Edith and Bertie's reception.
During the reception, "Shrimpie" would read a telegram from Edith's grandmamma, "The redoubtable" Martha Levinson, which congratulated her on her marriage and for finding the happiness that had seem to elude her for so long. Robert and Cora were kind of sad that Martha hadn't attended the wedding, but were also glad as well, because of her outspokenness.
Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) is revealed to have Parkinson's disease (called the palsy), because of his hands shaking when he was pouring wine. This had seriously compromised his duties as butler. Both his father and grandfather had it and it had finished their careers as butlers as well. Thus he turns in his resignation.
While at the reception, Thomas, who himself had been trained by Carson, comes to the rescue with the serving of champagne. Robert comes up with the idea of hiring Thomas as the new butler, with Carson and his wife, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) still living in their cottage. Carson, as the elder statesman, being retained in order to oversee the major events as he always had.
He would receive a pension from the estate for his many years of service to the family. Thomas didn't want to twist Carson's arm, and Carson was open to Thomas taking over for him. This showed that Thomas had made great strides to improving himself, and, like others, saw he had come a long way from his earlier years as a scheming and nasty-natured Footman.
After Edith leaves, Robert thanks Carson for his many years of honorable service to the family and the two friends share their best wishes with one another.
Also at the reception, Violet pulls Spratt aside and she not only happily retains him as her butler, but announces within earshot of Denker, that she approves of his second career as a columnist. She also tells him that in the future, she would go to him for advice on fashion, entertaining, travel and absolutely everything else. "I didn't realize we had an expert in the basement!" she crowed in delight, as she rushed off to hear Shrimpie's speeches.
Spratt accepts the praise of his employer with pleasure, and shoots his arch-nemesis a triumphant look, while Denker is infuriated that her plotting and her troublemaking ended up backfiring on her!
The gloating Spratt's last words to the vanquished Denker were, "You made one mistake, Miss Denker, in your haste to get rid of me! Her ladyship NEVER likes to be predictable!"
During the throwing of the bouquet, it was Laura who caught it. It is presumed that while Edith would still maintain some work at the magazine, it would be Laura who would take on much more of the main work at the magazine, as Edith's second-in-command, now that she was married.
Laura's catching of the bouquet also signaled that she was just as interested in the widowed Tom as he was interested in her. Earlier in the episode, Tom, along with Henry, opened a garage and motor car dealership in York. As time grew, it would expand to new cars and even production.
Mary was astonished and absolutely proud of her husband and brother in-law. Henry would be at the dealership full time, while Tom, who would still be primarily working at the Estate office, would work there part time.
With his new business venture, as well as his work with the estate with Mary and Robert (with Henry giving his help when needed), and raising little Sybbie; along with the added pleasure of getting to know Laura, Tom was finally content, and he then truly realized that he was part of the Crawley family.
While he was open with the idea of moving on in his life, he knew that Sybil would always be cherished and nobody, not even Laura, would take her place. Like another servant, Daisy, and a former housemaid, Gwen; both of whom had moved up in their stations of life, Tom had come a long way from being the chauffeur in the first season, to being a very vital and much loved part of the family.
At the end, everyone, both upstairs and downstairs, rang in the new year. Anna and Bates ringing in the new with their newborn child in Mary's room; the rest of the Crawleys bonding as family in the Great Hall, ringing in the new year; with Violet and Lady Merton reaffirming and toasting their companionship for the rest of their lives with Lord Merton open to the idea of Violet visiting her old friend (with Violet, as usual, always getting the last word in; with Lady Merton rolling her eyes!).
Meanwhile, downstairs, the entire staff, including Mr. Mason, led by Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson would sing "Auld Lang Syne", while the snow was falling outside of the large estate and home that was Downton Abbey. And the story ends there.
- CHARLIE ANSON -- Larry Grey
- MATT BARBER -- Atticus Aldridge
- OLIVER and ZAC BARKER -- Master George Crawley, the future 8th Earl of Grantham
- ANTONIA BERNATH -- Laura Edmunds
- SAMANTHA BOND -- Lady Rosamond Crawley Painswick
- HUGH BONNEVILLE -- Robert Crawley, the 7th Earl of Grantham
- PATRICK BRENNAN -- Mr. Dawes, The head teacher at Downton Village School
- LAURA CARMICHAEL -- Lady Edith Crawley Pelham, the Marcioness of Hexham
- JIM CARTER -- Charles Carson
- RAQUEL CASSIDY -- Phyllis Baxter
- MICHAEL COCHRANE -- Reverend Albert Travis, the Downton Vicar
- PAUL COPLEY -- Albert Mason
- BRENDAN COYLE -- John Bates
- MICHELLE DOCKERY -- Lady Mary Crawley Talbot
- KEVIN DOYLE -- Joseph Molesley
- PETER EGAN -- Hugh "Shrimpie" MacClare, Lord Flintshire
- JOANNE FROGGATT -- Anna Smith Bates
- MATTHEW GOODE -- Henry Talbot
- JAMES GREENE -- Sir Mark Stiles
- FIFI HART -- Miss Sybil "Sybbie" Branson
- HARRY HADEN-PATON -- Bertie Pelham, the Marquess of Hexham
- PATRICIA HODGE -- Mrs. Mirada Pelham
- LILY JAMES -- Lady Rose MacClare Aldridge
- ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER -- Thomas Barrow
- SUE JOHNSTON -- Gladys Denker
- ALLEN LEECH -- Tom Branson
- PHYLLIS LOGAN -- Elsie Hughes Carson
- ELIZABETH MCGOVERN -- Cora Levinson Crawley, the Countess of Grantham
- SOPHIE MCSHERA -- Daisy Robinson Mason
- LESLEY NICOL -- Mrs. Beryl Patmore
- DOUGLAS REITH -- Richard Grey, Lord Merton
- DAVID ROBB -- Dr. Richard Clarkson
- EVA and KARINA SAMMS -- Miss Marigold Crawley
- MAGGIE SMITH -- Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham
- PHOEBE SPARROW -- Amelia Cruikshank Grey
- JEREMY SWIFT -- Septimus Spratt
- PENELOPE WILTON -- Isobel Turnbull Crawley Grey, Lady Merton