Downton Abbey fans sent into meltdown following reports sequel will feature death of 'iconic' character

A heartbreaking death will feature in Downton Abbey: A New Era

Downton Abbey fans have been sent into meltdown following reports that the upcoming sequel will see a main character killed off.

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According to The Sun, Downton Abbey: A New Era will leave cinema goers fighting back the tears as creator Julian Fellowes has written a heartbreaking death into the storyline.

The details of who will meet their maker are understandably being kept firmly under wraps for now. Naturally, fans are now worried for the ageing Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Dame Maggie Smith.

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WATCH: Did you enjoy the first Downton Abbey film?

Other possible characters who could meet their end include Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), or butler Carson (Jim Carter).

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The reports come after the trailer for the new film debuted at CinemaCon earlier this week, which reportedly featured scenes of Violet Crawley - confirming that Maggie will be reprising her role for (at least some of) the sequel.

At the end of the first film, Violet's death was alluded to in an intimate scene between herself and granddaughter Lady Mary after she reveals she's suffering from an illness likely to take her life.

Could the Downton Abbey film sequel see Violet killed off?

However, in a recent interview, Julian insisted that Violet is, in fact, still alive. "We should remember that at the end of the film, Maggie was by no means dead," he said. "You imagine Violet is on her way out, but that decision hasn't been reached.

The follow-up to the hugely successful 2019 movie adaption of the ITV period drama was originally planned for Christmas - however, delays in production have forced the date to be set back by three months and the new release date is 18 March 2022.

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While fans will sadly be saying goodbye to one major character in the film, they will also be introduced to several new faces in the form of Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye and Dominic West.

Hugh is perhaps best known for his role as Will Graham in the hit series Hannibal, while Laura is known for her roles in White Lines and Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile, French actress Nathalie has appeared in Catch Me If You Can and Call My Agent, while Dominic is best known for starring in The Wire and The Affair - he is also set to play Prince Charles in The Crown.

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