SPOILER ALERT! Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes insists he had no choice but to kill off a main character in the season three finale - because the actor wanted to leave the show for good.
Fans of the hit period drama were stunned when new father Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) perished in a car crash at the end of the most recent episode, which aired on Sunday night, and now writer Fellowes reveals he considered many other options - but none of them worked.
He tells Britain's Telegraph newspaper, "If he (Stevens) had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away.
"Otherwise, we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between (his character's wife) Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn't feel would be believable. For them to then separate and Matthew never set eyes on his son again would not be believable either. So we didn't really have any option. By him dying, their love can remain intact."
Production on the fourth season of Downton Abbey begins later this month.