U.K. broadcaster ITV unveiled details of the annual special on Tuesday together with show producer Carnival Films. Among other things, they revealed that in the festive special, Lady Rose’s father-in-law, Lord Sinderby, rents out Brancaster Castle in the U.K. county of Northumberland for grouse-shooting season, to which he invites the Crawley family.
Guest star Alun Armstrong (Braveheart) plays the Sinderby family’s butler Stowell, who “has an ax to grind,” according to the update on the special. Meanwhile, “a scandalous secret threatens to undermine the holiday,” the companies said.
Also joining the cast for the Christmas special is BAFTA Award nominee Jane Lapotaire (Blind Justice), who plays the much-talked-about Princess Irina, wife of Prince Kuragin.
Back in Downton, where the servants are holding fort, the episode will see Bates attempt to clear the name of Anna, who is facing an uncertain future behind bars.
Shooting for the episode took place at Alnwick Castle, which was used as the location for Brancaster Castle.