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During her first visit to Downton Abbey, Lavinia is overheard arguing with Sir Richard Carlisle by Lady Rosamund Painswick. Lady Rosamund, wondering what the argument was about, asks Lady Mary Crawley to look into it. Lavinia confesses to Mary that her father owed Sir Richard a large amount of money and was unable to repay him. When Lavinia went to Carlisle to plead on her father's behalf, he made a deal with her: he would forgive her father's debt if she would deliver to him some papers of state in the possession of her uncle, Jonathan Swire, a Liberal minister. She agreed, stole the papers from her uncle and delivered them to Sir Richard. The publication of information in the papers triggered the Marconi scandal.

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