Downton Abbey is hosting a lavish Christmas party, yet despite being the season of goodwill, tensions are rife and Bates’s arrest for the murder of his ex-wife has cast a shadow over the festivities.
Many are in attendance as Bates goes on trial and the evidence of Mrs Hughes, O’Brien and even Lord Grantham is twisted by the prosecution into proof of his guilt. Everyone at the abbey is convinced of his innocence, but the jury finds him guilty and he is sentenced to hang!
Meanwhile, Mary considers moving to the United States after Grantham backs her in her tumultuous decision to break off her engagement to Sir Richard Carlisle after various rows, which culminate in a fight with Matthew. Sir Richard leaves the abbey, beaten, but will he really take revenge on Mary?
Violet has concerns about Rosamund, whose new suitor – the dashing but raffish Lord Hepworth (Nigel Havers) is not all he seems. Sure enough, Hepworth proves to be a cad of the highest order – a penniless gold-digger who is more interested in Rosamund’s maid than her!
Meanwhile, at the last moment the Home Secretary commutes Bates’s death sentence to life imprisonment! And Matthew may have a proposal for Mary that changes her mind about heading to New York!