Downton Abbey serves up a Christmas cracker

There are more twists and turns in an episode of Downton Abbey than in some celebrities' love lives.

And ITV are hoping that their two-hour special of the period drama will keep viewers hooked on Christmas Day. So the broadcaster has released these stills to whet their appetites.

Avid followers of the goings on at the Earl of Grantham's stately pile will find out the fate of his valet, Bates. The trusty servant is accused of murdering his estranged wife.

They will also learn if the love triangle between Lady Mary and her two suitors, Matthew Crawley and Sir Richard Carlisle, is resolved.

As with any family the festive atmosphere over Christmas and New Year belies the hidden tensions and issues below the surface 

Lady Mary and her one-time suitor Matthew Crawley still have feelings for each other. But can he stop blaming her for his fiancée's death? 

As the presents are unwrapped her own fiancé Sir Richard Carlisle is none too pleased to find himself playing second fiddle 

Undercurrents caused by the love triangle spill over into a day of pheasant shooting 

But his daughter's tangled love life is not the only pressing matter on the Earl of Grantham's mind 

His valet Bates is in court accused of murdering his estranged wife 

The current Mrs Bates, Downton's head housemaid Anna, is sick with worry as she watches the proceedings 

Maggie Smith, playing the Dowager Countess, lightens the mood with her withering comments 

During the servants' ball upstairs and downstairs characters come together for a night of dancing 

Other ways to pass the time, include charades... 

...Or plotting, in the case of villains, Thomas the footman and O'Brien, Lady Grantham's maid 

The aristocrats and their faithful servants are going head to head with EastEnders and Ab Fab