Credit: ITV

You know how Miley Cyrus killed Hannah Montana? Well, Dan Stevens killed Matthew Crawley. Sure, sure the studly actor and the blond English heir are one and the same person — except for one major difference. Dan’s alive, Matthew is not.

Unfortunately for the 31-year-old actor, in situations as emotionally difficult to face as the conclusion to Downton Abbey’s third season, people need someone to blame. And, when it comes to whom to pin Matthew’s death on, Dan’s name is at the top of the list.

Looking at the issue from Downton creator Julian Fellowes’ side of things, it was Dan’s decision to leave the show in all capacities that led to Matthew’s untimely passing.

“If [Dan] had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different,” Julian lamented to The Telegraph in the days following the U.K. premiere of the Season 3 finale (read our creative interpretation of Jules’ feelings about the matter here).

But as fans well know, Dan had no plans to stick around England and keep filming Downton, even with a smaller commitment. “So we didn’t really have any option,” Julian explains. “By him dying, [his and Lady Mary’s] love can remain intact.”

Our hearts, however, were summarily broken, an act Dan continues to apologize for to this very day.

“You have to apologize, in public...a lot,” he told The Today Show on January 9, 2014 (that’s more than a year since Matthew bit the dust). How often does Dan find himself apologizing to complete strangers for the death of a fictional character? “Almost every day.”

Bad news, bucko. Downton Abbey fans have long memories — how else could we keep all of the storylines straight? — so your apologizing days are likely just beginning.

Sources: The Telegraph, The Today Show

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