April 1912:- The heir to the title of Earl of Grantham,long time inhabitants of Downton Abbey,perishes on the 'Titanic'. Robert,the benevolent current earl,owes his wealth to his American wife Cora but they have only three daughters,who cannot inherit by law,so another heir must be found by marrying off Mary,the eldest girl. The Duke of Crowborough is a possibility but he is a closet gay who only has eyes for Thomas,the handsome but obnoxious footman,and soon departs. Robert's mother,the dowager,and Cora decide that the next best candidate is Matthew Crawley,a distant cousin,but Cora knows that the spirited Mary will not be happy with their choice. Downstairs there is also unrest as Thomas is passed over for promotion to valet in favour of Robert's batman from the Boer War,John Bates,who now limps due to a war wound. Along with Cora's maid Miss O'Brien, Thomas schemes to discredit Bates in the eyes of butler Carson and forces his resignation but Robert intervenes and keeps him on.Thomas vents his anger on second footman William but he has an ally in the sensible housekeeper Mrs. Hughes.