Warning: Downton Abbey movie spoilers ahead.
Should Downton Abbey return in four more years for another cinematic outing, the future of everyone’s favorite Dowager Countess (dare we say, the only Dowager Countess everyone knows) remains solely in the gloved hands of Maggie Smith. As revealed in the film, which was released today in the U.S., Smith’s character admits to her granddaughter Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) that she’s quite ill with little time to live, but who knows how accurate that is — a London doctor diagnosed her, after all. (Her words, not ours.) Should we ever witness the grand spectacle of a Violet Crawley funeral, though, Downton creator Julian Fellowes knows exactly how he’d like to see it unfold, and he filled Vulture in with his ideas at the film’s NYC premiere earlier this week. “There was funeral about five years ago for the Duchess of Devonshire, and they had all of the workers of the Chatsworth Estate walking along behind her coffin,” he explained. “It was all quite powerful and moving, particularly in 2014. I loved that they felt that loyalty to her to make that procession. I suppose we would do something like that.”
Fellowes also told Vulture that the idea of a Dowager Countess funeral was floated around for the current Downton film, but only if Smith chose not to reprise her role. Luckily, it was an easy yes from her, so that poignant conversation between her and Dockery’s characters was written as the focal point instead. “I don’t think we thought in terms of a death scene. When I wondered if Maggie would do the film, we thought in terms of a very grand funeral, because that would be another way of writing her out,” Fellowes added. “I was very, very pleased she said she would do it.” As are we.