Downton Abbey drew an average audience of 9.5 million for the premiere of the fourth series on Sunday night – its best ever opening night figures.

Last year, the third series debuted with an average of nine million.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Downton reached a peak of 10.5 million viewers last night, and had an average of just under 40 per cent of the total watching audience.

The impressive opening audience will go some way in making up for the disappointment of not winning any awards overnight at the US Emmys, despite having 12 nominations.