A British soap dressed up as a posh period drama, Downton Abbey became a cultural phenomenon over six acclaimed seasons. With the feature film continuation hitting home entertainment on December 11, it’s time to wander back through the decorous halls of the eponymous Crawley family estate and select some series highlights. [SPOILERS AHEAD]

ANY SCENE FEATURING MAGGIE SMITH’S DOWAGER COUNTESS
Could there have been a better casting choice for the Crawley family’s indomitable matriarch than Dame Maggie Smith? Her acid-tongued Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (a fantastic honorific), is a constant source of delight and amusement, delivering wit and wisdom and a zinger for every occasion – not least the famous quip that launched a thousand memes: “What is a weekend?”

A CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL
Downton devotees had their hearts melted like winter snow when Matthew went down on one knee to propose to Mary. The scene does begin awkwardly though, considering their history. “We carry more luggage than the porters at Kings Cross,” notes a seemingly reluctant Mary. But as the music swells and the snowflakes swirl, true love prevails.

MARY AND EDITH’S “ROW WE ALL KNEW WAS COMING”
The fractious relationship between siblings Mary and Edith Crawley reached its apogee in the penultimate episode of the final season. After six years of constant sniping and backstabbing, Edith finally abandons social etiquette and unloads both barrels on her sister. 

MR CARSON AND MRS HUGHES’ TOUCHING SEASIDE MOMENT
The mutual respect and affection that developed between the Abbey’s butler and housekeeper finally blossoms into something more during a day at the beach. Wary of getting his trousers wet during a paddle in the surf, Mrs Hughes offers a steadying hand. Are those wedding bells we hear ringing in the distance?

CASTING SHIRLEY MACLAINE
Who better to trade insults with Maggie Smith’s prim Dowager Countess than the legendary Shirley MacLaine, astutely cast as Cora’s brash American mom, Martha Levinson. Making a rare but unforgettable visit to the Abbey in season three for Matthew and Mary’s wedding, the liberal Martha does her best to rattle the aristocracy.

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