The Dowager Countess Has Met Her Match In This New ‘Downton Abbey’ Character

Focus Features

When the Downton Abbey movie hits theaters on Sept. 20, you can expect all of your favorites characters from the series to return. Michelle Dockery's self-possessed Lady Mary, Robert James Collier's scheming footman Thomas Barrow, and Maggie Smith's incomparably witty Dowager Countess Violet will all be in the film, among the rest of the upstairs and downstairs crews. And, of course, there are some newcomers who'll be thrown into the mix to stir up tension. Imelda Staunton plays Lady Maud Bagshaw in Downton Abbey and, let's just say, she's not universally popular with the household's residents.

Though viewers bid goodbye to the hit television series almost four years ago, in the world of the movie, only a year has passed since the series finale. Set in 1927, the main plot of the film focuses on a royal visit. King George V and Queen Mary, the current Queen Elizabeth's grandparents, are planning a trip to Downton, putting both the upstairs and downstairs residents into planning mode. According to the movie's official synopsis, the royal visit "will unleash scandal, romance, and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance" —some of which may definitely have to do with Lady Bagshaw.

According to Town & Country Magazine, Staunton's Lady Bagshaw is a lady-in-waiting to the visiting Queen Mary, played by Geraldine James. In real life, Staunton is actually married to Downton regular cast member Jim Carter who plays butler Carson throughout the series and who returns to the role in the film, though not without scandal.

Staunton's marriage has given her an inside access to the world of Downton for years, and joining the cast, she says, was a "luxury." As she told the Mirror, "I'd been living with Downton for six or seven years so I did know what was going on, but it was so lovely to be there. It was just very nice to be in amongst that phenomenon."

Lady Bagshaw's role in the film is a bit of a mystery, but it has been revealed that she is related to the Crawley family. She's a cousin of Robert Crawley's (Hugh Bonneville) late father, the deceased husband of the fan favorite Dowager Countess Violet Crawley, played by Maggie Smith. "With Maggie Smith of course there are going to be loads of one-liners," Staunton told the Mirror. "Maggie and I have great stuff. There's no fisticuffs – but we don't like each other. I’ve got things to do in that story. I have issues." Indeed, judging from the clip below, their previous relationship is fraught.

Violet seems to pay particular interest to Maud's maid, Lucy Smith, played by Tuppence Middleton. Violet is keen to confirm a "little chat" with Maud later on, but Maud seems to be having none of it, asserting that, with her father and husband, gone she lives her own life now. But she and Violet, Maud says, will certainly "have it out" eventually.

So that raises the question of Lucy Smith's importance. Is she the daughter of someone important? Another relative of the Crawleys'? Perhaps even related to the royals? Either way, Lady Bagshaw and the Dowager Countess both know something, and the truth will certainly come out.