Julian Fellowes said he had no choice but to kill off Matthew Crawley when Dan Stevens, who played the character in Downton Abbey, announced he was leaving the show.
As Lady Sybil had only just died in the series, it left the show’s creator and writer Fellowes with a quandary.
"We knew Jessica was leaving from quite a long time before," he said. "And so we completely decided calmly to kill her off in the fifth episode, so that would give people three episodes to recover, and then we’d have the Christmas special and everyone could move forward.
"So we had a whole episode of her dying. But having done that, when the news came through that Dan was also leaving we couldn’t very well do it again, so that was a bit testing."
Stevens announced he was leaving just as Series 3 started filming, which left the show’s makers in a tricky situation.
Executive producer Gareth Neame said: “We were all agreed that the only way we could break Mary and Matthew apart was for one to die. There really was no alternative.”
Julian Fellowes added: “We couldn’t have three years of them being in love and suddenly him taking against her and nipping off to Japan. That wasn’t a workable scenario.”
Dan Stevens said: “We didn’t see that script until the very last minute, so we didn’t know exactly how they were going to do it. I didn’t have any say in the manner in which he went. Ultimately, it was in the hands of Julian and the producers.”
"It was right that he didn’t run off and have an affair with somebody. I don’t think that would have been right for Matthew as a character."