Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

Update (January 27, 2014):

It’s official. The premiere to Downton Abbey’s fourth season set an astoundingly high new record for PBS.

When the episode first aired, reports claimed more than 10 million viewers watched the show. Now, after weeks of number crunching, PBS confirms the final number was actually closer to 15.5 million. That’s a lot of tea!

Original story (January 6, 2014):

Did you tune in for the U.S. premiere of Downton Abbey’s fourth season? Then you were in good company. More than 10 million viewers headed to PBS on January 5 for the two-hour affair. That’s a new best for the series, reports TVLine!

With a more than 20 percent increase over Downton’s Season 3 opener (that episode had 7.3 million viewers), the numbers would suggest fans aren’t as weary about returning to Downton as might be expected.

After an emotionally trying third season that killed off two fan favorites — Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) — many fans sweared off the show entirely. Downton creator Julian Fellowes even felt the need to hire a bodyguard to protect himself after the now infamous Christmas Special that had Matthew die bloody and broken in a roadside trench.

But, as last night’s episode proved, time heals all wounds with fans making the premiere the highest-rated drama in the history of PBS. Looks like we’ve got another hit season on our hands!

What’s not so clear is if Dan was part of the millions watching Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) take her first steps forward without her beloved Matthew. After all, it was Dan’s desire to head to greener, more American pastures that led to the well-loved Crawley biting the dust at the end of Season 3.

Just a few months back, the recently ex-Abbey resident told Vulture he did plan to watch Downton once it premiered in the United States but not before. “I have to wait until January like everybody else, and watch it on PBS, because I live in America now,” he explained.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any reaction from the former leading man of the show that is if he’s not too busy Photoshopping himself into the Season 4 cast poster and crying quiet tears of regret.

Sources: PBSTVLine

Elisabeth Kramer is an Assistant Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Downton Abbey expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!