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ITV Issues Statement on Stevens Departure from DOWNTON ABBEY

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Related: Downton Abbey, ITV, PBS

**SPOILER ALERT for U.S. fans of DOWNTON ABBEY who have not yet viewed the drama's third season or last night's holiday episode which aired on Britain's ITV network**

ITV recently confirmed the news that DOWNTON ABBEY star Dan Stevens would not be returning for the fourth season of the popular period drama series. While Season 3 and a special Christmas episode have not yet aired in the U.S., news of the fate of Steven's character, Matthew Crawley has quickly reached the other side of the Atlantic.

In a recently released statement, the British network defended its decision to write off Stevens' character in the manner that they did. "Over the last three years, audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew's relationship," the network said. "It is for this reason that the producers decidEd Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the Christmas episode."

The network adds that Mary would be returning for the fourth season of the show which commences production in February. "Alongside all the usual drama, comedy and romance involving the much-loved cast of characters," the statement reads, "viewers will see Mary adjusting to her life and attempting to move on without the man she loved."

In an interview with the UK's Telegraph, Stevens commented that ending his time on the series was "very difficult." "It felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment," he said. "From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things."

Season 3 of DOWNTON ABBEY will premiere Jan. 6, on PBS.

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