After the engagement between Matthew and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) was called off in the wake of the death of the unborn heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew enlisted in the war and is fighting on the front lines in France.
“The war has presented a new set of difficulties for him,” said Stevens, the man behind Matthew. “In the first series, we saw his life turned upside down, being uprooted from his life in Manchester and brought into this new world… Aside from being horrific and stressful, one of the difficult things [about the war] is actually coming back to Downton. So we see him trying to reevaluate his life in Downton all over again.”
When Matthew returns to Downton, he has a fiancée, Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle), in tow. “The war did accelerate things romantically for a lot of men, for a lot of couples,” Stevens said. “The backstory that we vaguely put together is that he would have come back on leave, met this girl in London—the daughter of a lawyer, someone much more from his pool—and then, he probably would have come back on leave again, and maybe proposed on that second meeting.”
“He feels that she's more from his background so she'll understand, and yet, he takes her up to Downton and freaks her out a little bit,” Stevens continued. “He's just about got his head around this idea of being a future Earl and having this extraordinary life that he's been promised and then, he takes someone else through that process all over again.” As for Lady Mary? “There's quite a complex, subtle little triangle there. It's not cat fights in the corner while Matthew's going, ‘Oh God, I've made the wrong decision.’ The girls actually get along quite well and Matthew is quite civil with Mary and they look like they've made friends again.”