Downton Abbey star Laura Carmichael says creator Julian Fellowes has banned hugging and emotions on the show – to keep the authentic stiff upper lip of the era.

The actress, who plays Lady Edith Crawley, said she and Michelle Dockery, who plays her sister Lady Mary, wanted to embrace as they acted out scenes in the wake of Matthew Crawley’s death. Mary’s husband Matthew, played by Dan Stevens, was killed in a car crash at the end of the Downton Christmas special.

But to tie in with the self-restraint of the era, they had to rein in their emotions.

Laura said: “I think there’s part of us in the modern day that we look at these characters and want them to have a cry and hug it out.

“But it’s the 1920s British upper classes so there’s not much allowed. As much as we’re longing for them to bond over it, there’s still this underlying rivalry that is incredibly difficult to break down.

“Julian’s quite firm with us – as much as Michelle and I, two very modern, emotional women, are going, ‘Can’t we just have a hug?’ But it would be wrong really – they’re very informed by their upbringing, and their class and their era.”

Laura also said that working in London in the 1920s will change the previously dowdy Edith, and ‘she becomes a bit more sophisticated’.

She added: “You’ll really see a change in Edith. She has this escape route with this London lifestyle. You’ll see her go off to London and meet with her editor, who has declared his love. But he’s married… so as always with Edith it’s never easy when it comes to love.”