All about Tom Branson…
From chauffeur to gentleman, Tom Branson has traversed the English class system to become an integral and much loved member of the Crawley family. However, his journey has not always been a smooth one…
Having moved from Ireland at the age of 23, Tom began his journey at the great house as a chauffeur to the Crawley family. He soon became interested in Sybil Crawley, the youngest of the three sisters, recognising in her a similar thirst for change and interest in politics.
As these passions became more developed in Sybil, she began to confide in Tom, knowing that no one else in the family shared her interest in politics, let alone women’s rights. He happily discussed all manner of opinion with her, chiefly his belief that the gulf between the English aristocracy and the working classes needed to be changed. This was an awkward topic of discussion for Sybil – her father Lord Grantham is exactly the type of aristocrat Tom believed should not have so much wealth. He swiftly made amends, telling Sybil he thought her father a good man.
During Series Two, Tom and Sybil became ever closer as her political opinions began to flourish. The outbreak of the First World War prompted a desire in Sybil to train as a nurse and he looked on in admiration as she attended baking lessons with Mrs Patmore. She also wanted to attend many a political meeting, to Lord Grantham’s dismay. This culminated in a rather dramatic event, when she lied to her family and attended a political rally in secret – only telling Tom the truth once he had driven her there. Political activists became violent during the gathering and Sybil was hurt, prompting Tom – along with Matthew – to rescue her from the crowd. A furious Lord Grantham believed Tom to be the cause of the situation and he found himself almost without a job. However, Sybil convinced her family that she had tricked him and that he had no part in the protest whatsoever.
Later in the series, Tom’s feelings for Sybil were truly revealed when Sybil was just about to leave to train as a nurse. Seizing the moment, Tom told her how much he loved her. Unfortunately, though, her reaction was not what he had hoped for, as she did not return his affections, saying instead that she was flattered by them. A hurt Tom replied, “Don’t make fun of me. It’s cost me all I’ve got to say these things.”
Despite this apparent rejection, Tom continued to follow his heart, his love for Sybil never wavering throughout the time she was training as a nurse away from the great house.
Consequently, Tom was called up for service and had to decide whether or not to go to war. Sybil rushed to beg him not to leave, affirming to him that her feelings were strong. However, much to Sybil’s relief, Tom – ever steadfast in his political views – decided he didn’t want to fight for the British Army and would conscientiously object. Luckily, he didn’t have to go through with this decision and risk the shame it would bring as a heart murmur meant his call to service was repealed.
Throughout Series Two, Tom and Sybil attempted to figure out their places within society, both as individuals and as a pair. He became increasingly frustrated with the machinations of the aristocracy and at one point almost poured a container of slop over an army General who was attending a dinner at Downton Abbey, only stopping short for Sybil’s sake. His love for her was the only thing keeping him at the great house, prompting him expressly to tell her his feelings again, asking whether or not she loved him in return. Sadly, again she didn’t give him the answer he hoped for and the discussion turned into an argument, culminating in one of Tom’s most memorable lines: “Look, it comes down to whether or not you love me. That’s all. That’s it. The rest is detail.”
Tom told her he would wait forever for her. Fortunately for him, he only had to wait until the war was over before Sybil realised how strongly she felt for him. Her ‘normal’ life as a Lady bored her and she found a sense of true belonging with Tom. The pair promptly decided to run away together to marry, but were stopped in their tracks by Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Tom was now a journalist and Sybil no longer wanted the life of a Lady, so although they decided not to run away, the pair announced their relationship to the Crawley family. As expected, the reaction was not positive and Lord Grantham demanded they break off the relationship. But after waiting so long for Sybil, Tom wasn’t willing to relinquish his love so easily; Sybil’s resolute decision meant that eventually, after an amicable goodbye, the pair departed, to wed in Ireland.
Having already faced a plethora of challenges, Tom faced the most heartbreaking challenge of all during the next Series. At the beginning of Series Three, he and Sybil returned to Downton Abbey for Lady Edith’s wedding, having stayed in Ireland over Christmas. Tom struggled to accept the aristocratic life at the great house and his relationship to his former colleagues downstairs. They in turn struggled to accept his presence as Sybil’s husband and a member of the family, especially since his return was amid a flurry of drama - having been involved in the destruction of property in Ireland, he was wanted by the police.
The Crawleys were horrified to discover that he had left a pregnant Sybil in Ireland while he fled to England. However, she arrived the next day, safe and sound, much to the relief of a worried Tom. Although he was outraged, Lord Grantham agreed to help Tom and all charges were dropped against him, on the condition that he never return to Ireland. This development meant that he and Sybil remained at Downton Abbey throughout her pregnancy and he had to learn to live in an environment in which he felt most out of place.
Having said this, Tom was blissfully happy to be wedded to Sybil, and the couple grew more and more in love. Complications arose, however, when Sybil fell dreadfully ill during and after the birth of their baby. While the whole family was concerned, it was Tom whose entire world revolved around his wife, so when Sybil tragically took her final breath and passed away, she left a distraught husband in total disbelief. Grief engulfed him and he struggled desperately to understand how life could continue without her.
Now Tom had to reimagine his place within the Crawley household. He agreed to be the agent on the Downton Abbey estate, much to Matthew’s joy, but still struggled to understand how he fitted into the structure of the family as a whole. He had to stay strong, though, for the sake of Baby Sybil – whom he had painfully and poignantly named after his beloved wife.
At the beginning of Series 4, we meet Tom in a state of melancholy. Whilst he isn’t as deep in mourning as Lady Mary, he is reminded every day of what he has lost, whenever he looks at his daughter. It remains to be seen whether Branson will be able to reconcile his positions within the Crawley family, as a member of the team in charge of running the estate and as a father, son and brother-in-law. Will his political leanings raise their head and challenge his situation once again?