Titanic star Kate Winslet and London-born actor Idris Elba also left clutching Golden Globe awards on the night in Beverly Hills, hosted by English comedian Ricky Gervais for a third consecutive year.

The funnyman opened the show telling the audience organisers had warned him that were he to “offend any viewers, or cause any controversy whatsoever – they will definitely invite me back next year as well”.

Downton Abbey, a hit ITV1 period saga about the aristocratic Crawley family, has been a huge success in the UK and in the US.

Accepting the best television mini series award, the mastermind behind the show, Julian Fellowes, said: “How fabulous this is. The whole Downton adventure has been an extraordinary one. Like spotting a promising child and waking up to find they’ve have won the Olympics – and that’s what we’ve lived through.”

Before the ceremony, Downton Abbey stars spoke about the show’s appeal – even across the Atlantic.

Actress Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the Countess of Grantham, said: “I think they love the drama and the intrigue, and they also love the solidity of the life, that you’re free of mobile phones and Twitter.”

Her on-screen husband, Hugh Bonneville, added: “People tend to love period dramas, but this is one where you don’t know the ending, it’s not like an adaptation of a book.”

Berkshire-born Winslet earned a Golden Globe for the best actress in a mini series for her performance in HBO’s Mildred Pierce.

Elba triumphed in the male equivalent of the category, scooping a gong for best actor for his role in BBC One’s crime drama Luther.

Elsewhere, black-and-white silent film The Artist really shone, taking gongs including best musical or comedy and best actor in a musical or comedy for Jean Dujardin.

Family drama The Descendants claimed two awards, as best drama and dramatic actor for George Clooney.

Predictably, Meryl Streep won best dramatic actress for her stunning portrayal of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the film The Iron Lady.

The awards, laid on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are seen as a barometer for success at the Oscars later in the year.

Gervais joked that the Globes “are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem. The Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing’s been proved”.

Gervais also needled winners to keep their speeches short, saying: “You don’t need to thank everyone you’ve ever met or members of your family, who have done nothing. Just the main two. Your agent and God.”
Also at the Gold Globes, a British dwarf who hit headlines when he was left badly injured after being picked up and thrown to the ground outside a pub in Wincanton, was given a mention.

During his acceptance speech for best supporting actor in a TV series, actor Peter Dinklage told people to “Google” Martin Henderson.

Aspiring actor Mr Henderson, 37, from Milborne Port in Somerset, said the October 7 attack was inspired by a “dwarf-tossing” event that was attended by some members of the England rugby team during the World Cup in New Zealand last year.