Downton Abbey has unsurprisingly been renewed for a fifth series by ITV following its season four finale on Sunday evening (November 10, 2013).

Allen LeechTom Branson, Played By Allen Leech.

"We promise all the usual highs and lows, romance, drama and comedy" said Gareth Neame, director of Downton Abbey creators Carnival Films in a statement obtained by the Hollywood Reporter. Julian Fellowes will return to write the new series, which ITV are likely to churn out next year.

"With Julian writing and Gareth (Neame) and Liz (Trubridge) producing, we know it will be as warm, witty, romantic and dramatic as previous series and we can't wait to catch up with our favourite characters again," said ITV's director of drama commissioning, Steve November.

The latest series of the show has been averaging viewing figures of 11.8 million, while 12.3 million Americans tuned into the season three finale in February - breaking the viewership record for PBS.

Lily JamesLily James as Lady Rose MacClare

Despite the season four finale on Sunday, ITV still has a Christmas special to air, starring the Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti. He will play Harold, the "maverick, playboy" brother of Lady Grantham, 

Shirley MacLaine will also reprise her role as Martha Levinson - Lady Grantham's mother - for the Christmas special.

Season three of Downton Abbey sparked controversy last month over a storyline that saw popular character Anna raped by a guest's valet. ITV received 200 complaints while media watchdog Ofcom received 250.

However, the watchdog later concluded that the complaints did not require looking into. "After careful assessment... because they did not raise issues warranting investigation," read a statement.

Maggie SmithMaggie Smith as the Countess of Grantham

Despite criticism for throughout season two, season three appears to have pleased critics.  "The hardest job for a dramatist is to write something that is populist but also offers some shards of sophistication and therefore appeals to a wide demographic. It seems that, four series in and after many inconsistencies, Julian Fellowes has finally achieved that," said the Telegraph's Ben Lawrence following Sunday's finale. 

First airing in 2010, Downton Abbey - set in the Yorkshire county estate - depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era. Events such as the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the outbreak of World War I, the Spanish influenza pandemic and the Marconi sandal have been depicted throughout the show.

Laura CarmichaelLaura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley