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Fellowes stated that in series three, there was going to be a storyline about Catholicism.New cast members were announce for series three; actress Shirley Mac Laine joined the series playing the role of Cora Crawley's mother, Martha Levinson.

The device that sets the drama in motion is the entail that accompanies the (fictional) Earldom of Grantham, which endows both title and estate exclusively to male heirs.

This is complicated by the fact that the estate had been near financial ruin, and was only saved when the present Earl, then the heir apparent, contracted a wealthy marriage with an extremely rich American heiress.

The series is set during the post-Edwardian era (after Edward VII's death) and depicts how major historical events such as the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the First World War and the Spanish influenza pandemic affect the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire.

Reception of the programme was predominantly positive; ratings were extremely high for what is usually considered a 'genre' show, and the first series picked up a number of awards and nominations after its initial run.

ITV confirmed the commissioning of a third series on 3 November 2011.

The cast started filming in February 2012, and the series aired in September 2012.Mary's Church and the village library, which serves as the entrance to the cottage hospital.The North Yorkshire towns of Malton, Easingwold, Kirkby, Kirkbymoorside, Middlesbrough, Ripon and Richmond have also been mentioned by characters in the series.The first series started on 26 September 2010, and explored the lives of the Crawley family and their staff from the day after the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 to the outbreak of the First World War on 4 August 1914.Much of the focus is on the need for a male heir to the Grantham estate, and the troubled love life of Lady Mary as she attempts to find herself a suitable husband.The demise of both heirs presumptive in the sinking of the Titanic destroys the family plans and brings a distant cousin, a young solicitor from Manchester, in line to inherit everything, including the personal wealth of the Countess, who will not be able to bequeath it to her daughters.