Ratings boost for Downton opener

The first episode of the new series of Downton Abbey saw Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) struggling to cope with her grief

Downton Abbey pulled in the largest audience for an opening episode of the period drama last night.

A peak of 10.5 million watched the launch of the fourth series on ITV, up on the 9.6 million who tuned in for the opening episode of the Julian Fellowes' drama last year.

The episode, featuring Michelle Dockery as grieving widow Lady Mary, was watched by an average of 9.5 million, compared to nine million in 2012.

ITV said the launch of the fourth series was the highest rating drama of 2013 so far, across all broadcasters.

Downton's TV success came as its stars Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith and Dockery lost out on the big gongs at the 65th annual Emmy awards in Los Angeles.

The drama missed out on a series of awards despite being nominated in 11 categories and enjoying big success in previous years. It took home just one award for outstanding music composition.

ITV's Sunday evening instalment of The X Factor peaked with 10.8 million and an average of 9.8 million - 200,000 more viewers than last week.

All figures include viewers of ITV's +1 catch-up channel.

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