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Julian Fellowes Has Decided Matthew Crawley's Fate on DOWNTON ABBEY

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**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**

DOWNTON ABBEY creator Julian Fellowes has officially decided the fate of Dan Stevens' character 'Matthew Crawley,' he told the Daily Telegraph this weekend.

Crawley, following the series' Christmas special, will officially be killed off. Fellowes told the paper that he "didn't really have an option."

Rumors of Stevens' potential departure developed months ago, when he first made the move to Broadway to star in THE HEIRESS alongside Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain.

"We have always tried to persuade him to stay," Fellowes said. "He had done fantastically well for the series and his creation of Matthew was terrific.

But there was no changing Steven's mind, Fellowes said.

"But this is life. Dan felt that this was right thing for him, and the right moment to move on to different areas."

There were few options Fellowes could take with DOWNTON's Crawley, while respecting the character's relationship with Mary. There was one choice, and Fellowes, as the showrunner, knew it was the only viable one.

"So we didn't really have any option. By him dying, their love can remain in tact."

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."

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

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