Oh Noes! Is Dame Maggie Smith Leaving 'Downton Abbey?'

Rumor has it that Dame Maggie Smith, the inestimable Dowager Countess of 'Downton Abbey,' might be leaving the show! Horrors!

Oh Noes! Is Dame Maggie Smith Leaving ‘Downton Abbey?’

Rumor has it that Dame Maggie Smith, the inestimable Dowager Countess of ‘Downton Abbey,’ might be leaving the show! Horrors!

-Lucia Peters

Maggie Smith

Could it be? Is this the end of the Dowager Countess? Horrors!

There can be no denying that Downton Abbey is a spectacular piece of television, and Dame Maggie Smith’s character, the Right Honourable Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham and Dowager Countess (and Lord Grantham’s dear old prickly mum) is one of its best creations. But what’s this? Rumor has it that the venerable actress may be leaving the show? Noooooo!

According to the UK Daily Mail, Dame Maggie has told series creator and writer Julian Fellowes that she wants the third season of the show to be her last. A source has revealed to the paper, “Maggie has asked Julian to write her character out. She is filming until August and then wants to leave, going out on a high. She thinks that three series is enough and she wants to get back to the stage and big screen.”

This? This is terribly sad. I totally understand it and I don’t blame her at all for wanting to move on to other things; but part of me is still wailing and tearing my hair and all manner of other expressions of grief. The Dowager Countess’s witty one-liners and barbs are one of the highlights of the show; even more importantly, though, is that in a world full of weird rules and societal constraints, she’s the one person who can get away with saying exactly what she thinks all the time. Is it because of her status? Her age? All of the above? “All of the above and then some” is probably the most accurate explanation; but whatever the case, her (often brutal) honest is both refreshing and desperately needed, and I’ll be rather sad indeed to see it—and her—go.

Read 12 Actresses Who Have Mastered the Art of Aging Gracefully

The Daily Mail’s source continued that Maggie “is keen to pursue other roles so Julian is preparing to write her out. He always has several endings so it won’t be too difficult for him, but losing Maggie will be a great loss.” So, hey, at least Julian Fellowes will probably be able to roll with the punches, no matter how depressing they might be. After all, British television is infamous for its ability to do a complete cast changeover and still have the show stay true to itself.

The big question, then, is how she’ll make her exit. Somehow I can’t see her just up and dying—I’m fairly convinced that she’ll live forever out of pure ornery—but given how old the character is, death may not be out of the question. I’d rather she go out in a blaze of glory, though, whether it’s running off to the far reaches of the world to go exploring or heading to Ireland to hang out with Sybil or whatever. We do know that the Dowager Countess be sticking around for the Christmas episode, so perhaps the holidays will have something to do with her manner of parting.

In closing, I leave you with my favorite Dowager Countess line. During a game a charades, sourpuss Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen, who also plays Jorah Mormont in HBO’s terrific Game of Thrones) remarks with distaste, “And do you enjoy these games, in which the player must appear ridiculous?”

“Sir Richard,” the Dowager Countess replies, “life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous.”

True that, Violet. True that.

The third season of Downton Abbey is set to air in September 2012 in the UK and January 2013 in the US. Things to look forward to include the appearance of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson, Countess Cora Crawley’s (Elizabeth McGovern) mother. Who else can’t wait to see Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine go head to head?

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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