The creator of Downton Abbey has said that he has no plans to kill off Maggie Smith’s character in the popular period drama.

Julian Fellowes added that even if Smith decided she wanted to leave the show that the Dowager Countess of Grantham would not die.

Speaking to the Sun he said "I'm happy to say the Dowager is not going to die. Violet is going to live by the sea in case Maggie changes her mind."

There had been speculation earlier this year that the character would die in the third series which has just aired on television but instead the family character who did die was Lady Sybil played by Jessica Brown Findlay.

Recent reports suggest that the programme-makers are coming close to signing a deal to make the fourth series with confirmation expected shortly.