Sybil and Tom Branson's relationship developed slowly over a number of years. Tom came from a very different background to Sybil, being an Irish catholic who worked for her family as their chauffeur, whilst Sybil was the youngest daughter of the wealthy aristocratic Crawley family. Tom and Sybil's attraction and eventual love for each endured and was not overcome by the great difference in their class and the opposition from Sybil's family.
First meeting Edit
When Tom Branson arrived at Downton he immediately became curious about Robert Crawley's youngest daughter, Lady Sybil, when he overheard her mother, Cora Crawley, talking about her needing a new dress and implying that she had an interest in rights for women. Branson was very political, and once he discovered that Sybil was too, he set out to increase her interest.
Later, when Branson was driving Sybil to get the new dress fitted, he asked her if she would get her own way in its design. She was taken aback by the familiarity of his address but engaged in the conversation. He took the opportunity to give her some pamphlets about the vote for women that he thought might interest her. Sybil requested that he did not tell her father or grandmother, as they disapproved of reform.
- Sybil: "It seems rather unlikely: a revolutionary chauffeur."
- Tom: "Maybe. But I'm a socialist, not a revolutionary. And I won’t always be a chauffeur."
- — Episode 1.04
Connecting through politics Edit
By May 1914, Sybil had become more involved with politics and since there were no politically enthusiastic members of her family with whom she could talk openly, she turned to Tom. Sybil watched the Liberal Party candidate at a political rally with excitement and managed to ignore the commotion around her. Tom forced his way through the crowd so as to protect her from the violence and Isobel Crawley convinced her to go before anything bad happened. Tom roughly pushed people out of Sybil’s way and helped her into the car.
- Lady Sybil: "I hope you do go into politics; it’s a fine ambition."
- Tom Branson: "Ambition or dream?"
- — Episode 1.06
Tom told her that it was mainly the gap between the aristocracy and the poor that he would want to change if he did go into politics. Tom realised that her father, Robert Crawley, was part of this "oppressive class" and because he didn't want to offend her, he hastily made amends by saying "he’s a good man and a decent employer".
When John Bates accidentally informed Robert of Sybil’s involvement in the political rally with Tom, Robert was furious and confronted Sybil at the dining table. During a conversation with Mr. Bates and Anna, Tom showed his admiration of Sybil by saying that Robert "ought to be glad he’s got a daughter who cares."
- "I assume this was Branson’s scheme? I confess I was amused at the idea of an Irish radical for a chauffeur, but I see now I have been naïve."
- —Robert Crawley, Episode 1.06
Later Sybil tricked both Robert and Tom into thinking that she would be going to a meeting with the committee in Ripon, when she really intended to go to the counting of the vote. When Tom and Sybil arrived she admited that there was no meeting. Worried, he tried to convince her not to go, but she was determined and proceeded.
Political anarchists arrived in order to pick fights with Tories, but luckily for Tom who was finding it hard to get Sybil to leave, Matthew Crawley decided to investigate the riot. However, while he too was telling Sybil to leave he was targeted and punched. In this fight, Sybil was thrown sideways and hit her head on a table, and was knocked unconscious. Matthew and Tom rushed to her and found her head was bleeding, Tom lifted her up and carried her away through the crowd.
Tom then drove them to Crawley House and rushed to fetch Mary Crawley. Mary and Matthew could not understand why Tom would have taken Sybil to the counting of the vote and were certain he would lose his job as a result. Sybil told them that Tom had no part in it, as he hadn't known where she was really going. Mary told her that she would have to stick up for him because Robert would “skin him alive”.
Tom asked Mary if Sybil would be alright and was noticeably relieved when Mary said that Sybil would be fine. He seemed to blame himself and asked her to let him know how she got on.
When Robert blamed Tom for Sybil’s misbehaviour and threatened to fire him, Sybil defended him, and said that she would run away if Branson was missing in the morning. Robert backed down at this and Tom was allowed to stay.
Helping Gwen Dawson Edit
In August 1914 Gwen Dawson, a housemaid at Downton whom Sybil had helped to better herself, finally received a job offer to become a secretary. When the new telephone rang with the good news, no one dared to answer it except Tom. He rushed out to find Sybil, who was entertaining guests at a garden party. Their celebration with Gwen was interrupted by Mrs Hughes.
At this point Tom and Sybil were holding hands. This is significant because physical contact was not allowed between people upstairs and the staff. In fact, Mrs. Hughes warned him saying, "Be careful my lad, or you'll end up with no job and a broken heart." But Tom was so headstrong, that it was not much of an issue for him.
Shortly after this encounter Robert received news of Britain being at war with Germany.
Tom confesses his love Edit
In November 1916, the First World War was under way and Tom was still working at Downton. His love for Sybil was again confirmed when he attentively watched her learning to bake with Mrs Patmore and Daisy.
Sybil wanted to do more than just sit at home waiting for the war to finish so she decided to become a nurse, beginning her training at home with basic skills such as cooking. Tom admired such pursuits as evidence of her spirit and determination.
Tom decided his one chance to express his feelings for Sybil was before she left to train as a nurse. He asked her to bet on him, determined that he would make something of himself. He knew that she was too far above him, but believed that the world was changing as a result of the war. He was determined that if her family did not disown her, they would come around. Until then he would devote every waking minute to her happiness.
Sybil hesitated and replied that she was flattered, averting her gaze away from his, as she knew that this was not the reply he had been hoping for. Tom told her that 'flattered' was a word posh people used when they were about to say 'no'. Laughing, Sybil said that that sounded more like something he would say.
Robert would certainly have fired Tom had he known about this inappropriate conversation, but Sybil promised not to say anything to her family. Although Tom was visibly discouraged by this rejection, he was touched that she would not reveal his admission of feelings for her to her family. He knew that it would be hard for Sybil to forget about being a nurse and her family even if she had reciprocated his feelings.
Growing closer Edit
By April 1917, Sybil was a fully trained nurse and she felt useful for the first time in her life. The things she had seen made her realise that she could never go back to the way she had lived before the war. When she told Tom this he gained hope that, despite her earlier rejection, she may be with him eventually as his love for her remained strong. (Episode 2.02)
A few months later, Tom had been called up by the war office. Sybil rushed to see him, as she didn't want him to go. Tom did not intend to fight for the British Army, he instead planned to be a conscientious objector. Sybil expressed concern that he would go to prison for speaking publicly against the war. He responded that he didn't care if had a record for the rest of his life, for at least he would have a life.
Their fears were premature, however, because Tom was rejected by the army because of a heart murmur. Sybil was initially worried for him, but he assured her that it was only dangerous if you wanted to humiliate the British Army. She was glad that he wasn't going to be killed or to go to prison, but wondered why he had to be angry all the time. She admits that Britain was not at its best in Ireland during the Easter Rising in 1916. This was the first time Tom had been moved negatively by something Sybil had said. He told her that during the Easter Rising one of his cousins had been walking up North King Street in Dublin and an English officer had shot him dead on the assumption that he was "probably a rebel". She said she didn't know and he drove away upset.
Tom then thought of another way to get back at the army by offering to be a footman serving at a dinner party at which an important army general was a guest. Branson wrote Sybil a note asking her to forgive him for what he did to the general and put it in some of her washing to be taken to her room. Anna Bates found this note and ran to tell Mrs Hughes, as she believed Tom to be about to poison the general. Together they found Mr Carson and stopped Tom before he had the chance to serve the soup. Tom contemplated making a scene anyway, but looked over his shoulder to Sybil and decided to leave quietly with Mr Carson. As it turned out, Tom had not planned to kill the general, but to pour a mixture of oil, cow pat and sour milk over his head. Carson decided not to get the police involved and let Tom off with the promise that he would not do anything like it again.
They are discovered by Mary Edit
In 1918 Sybil was talking to Branson outside the garage, and questioned why he had promised Mr Carson not to take part in any more political protests when he wouldn't promise her. She didn't understand how he could be contented with tinkering with a car all day. He told her that she was the reason he wouldn't leave Downton Abbey and stated that she felt the same way towards him but was too scared to admit it. Sybil told him to not be ridiculous. Unaware of Mary Crawley's presence he continued to try and convince her to run away with him. Luckily they were out of earshot, but Mary had already been made aware by Violet Crawley that Sybil may have had a inappropriate beau she had to keep secret. Seeing the two of them talking alerted Mary to what was going on. Mary questioned Sybil about what she was talking to the chauffeur about she hadn't been requesting him to drive her somewhere. Sybil became defensive and abruptly stated that he was a person and could talk about other things. However, Mary said that he could't with someone of Sybil's status.
At dinner, Sybil was given advice by Violet about how to handle inappropriate relations formed during war time, unaware of the validity of her words. Sybil believed Mary had told her about Tom, but was later corrected. Sybil told Mary everything, that Tom loved her and wanted to run away with her. Mary was horrified but she promised not to tell anyone or get Tom fired, as long as Sybil didn't do anything stupid. Sybil convinced Mary not to tell their father by saying that she did not think she returned Tom's feelings and by promising to do what Mary asked.
Sybil found Tom in order to tell him that Mary knew about them. At first he was worried that he would be made to leave without a reference, but was cheered by the way Sybil referred to the two of them as 'us'. Tom tried to convince her that she loved him, otherwise she would have told her family about his feelings and intentions years ago. In turn, Sybil challenged his assumption that she must love him just because she has not given him away. This meeting turned into an argument. Sybil had thought about the the consequences of running away with him and asked if she would be accepted by his people and how she could ever leave her family. Sybil said that she hoped that she was a free spirit like he said, but he was asking her to leave behind everything she had ever known. A moment of despair resulted in Tom belittling Sybil's work, and he called it serving tea to a bunch of randy officers.a Tom finally told her that nothing else mattered but the two of them: "Look, it comes down to whether or not you love me. That’s all. That’s it. The rest is detail."
Frustration and politics Edit
When an injured Matthew Crawley was brought into Downton hospital Sybil wanted to be with Mary Crawley and Tom asked her if Mary was still in love with Matthew. Sybil replied that she didn't want to talk about it as Mary was her sister. Tom believed it was because he was the chauffeur, therefore not someone a Lady like Sybil may talk openly with, but he was corrected.
Tom was still frustrated with not having had a direct answer from Sybil to whether or not she loved him, so he used the opportunity to provoke her and talked about how the people of her class were very good at hiding their feelings, much better than the people of his were. Sybil told him not to make the mistake of thinking that they don't have feelings, because they do.
The news had been received that the Tsar and his family had all been shot dead, and Tom was saddened by this and admitted that he didn't think it would happen. He reassured himself by saying that maybe the future needed terrible sacrifices. This led to a conversation about Sybil's politics. During the war the suffragette movement was put on hold out of respect for England and for the men off fighting. Much to Sybil's annoyance Tom suggested that she had given up on her cause and should have stuck it out. Sybil tried to leave but he stopped her, holding her by the waist and she stopped abruptly, resulting in a moment of stunned silence. Knowing that this was not the done thing, he removed his hand hastily. He said her future was up to her, not meaning their politics any more. Sybil hesitated for a moment, looking between his eyes and lips and leaned in as if to kiss him, but abruptly pulled back and turned to leave. Tom was left standing alone, watching her go.
Waiting until the war is over Edit
After the above events Sybil entered the garage and light-heartedly told Tom that she wished she knew how an engine worked. He smiled and told her that he was willing to teach her, but she shyly smiled and shrugged before saying that Edith was more cut out for such lessons. His smile faded and Tom turned away from her, saying that he thought she had been avoiding him. Sybil quickly moved to where he now stood and firmly denied that she had been avoiding him. Nevertheless, she affirmed his suspicion that she had yet to decide whether to run away with him. Sybil took a deep breath and told him that she knew he wanted to get involved in the fight for Ireland's independence, but that she couldn't give his proposition adequate consideration until the war was truly over, knowing that that would be quite soon.
- Sybil: "It won't be long now. So will you wait?"
- Tom: "I'd wait forever."
- Sybil: "I'm not asking for forever. Just a few more weeks."
- — Episode 2.06
Escape and return Edit
After the war ended, in 1919 Sybil was extremely bored by her "fancy" life. The war had changed her irrevocably and she knew it, she could not and would not return to her mundane existence of waiting around for a suitable bachelor, who her parents approved of. But she still didn’t have an answer for Tom, which disappointed him, but her affection for him was increasing, showing in the way she, at one point, reached up to touch his cheek.
Sybil wanted to escape from the house and from the life and knew that there was only one way. She told Edith that she had a plan and when asked if it was drastic she could not deny that she wouldn't be able to turn back once she had done it, but she didn’t seem to care. When Matthew Crawley and Lavinia Swire announced that their engagement was back on and that they were going to get married at Downton, Sybil realised that the war was well and truly over and it was time for her to move on.
Tom had waited so long for her to say the words that he could not believe he was finally hearing them. Sybil told him he could kiss her, but that was all until everything was settled. But that didn’t matter to him as it was enough that he could kiss her.
Sybil let it be known that she was ill and therefore would not be dining with the rest of her family; little did they know that in actuality she and Tom were on their way to Gretna Green to get married. Mary grew suspicious when Sybil did not answer from inside her locked bedroom. When she entered Mary found a letter addressed ‘To My Family’, which explained everything. Mary got Edith to drive, and with Anna set off in search of them, with the idea that they couldn’t be too far away, possibly staying in a local inn. Anna spotted their car and the three of them charged into a room where Sybil was lying in the bed and Tom was in the chair.
To Mary’s relief nothing had happened. Sybil didn’t understand exactly what was meant by this, but told Mary that she was going to marry Tom regardless of what they said. Edith and Mary appealed to Sybil’s dislike of deceit by saying that their parents didn’t deserve this kind of treatment. Tom told her to go with them if she thought they would make her happier than he would. She decided to try to gain her parent’s forgiveness instead of sneaking away. Before departing, Sybil told Tom that she would stay true to him and then kissed him, after which he closed the door behind them.
Revealing their plans to Sybil's family Edit
Mary and Edith tried for some time to convince Sybil that her relationship with Tom could not continue, and were horrified to hear that she had invited Tom over in order to tell the rest of the family about their plans. Tom was now a journalist, which they hoped would sound better than chauffeur to Violet, but nevertheless her family were all stunned. Robert ordered them to break it off, but neither of them wavered in their love and determination.
Later, Robert and Violet were both trying to talk her out of leaving the aristocratic world and out of her plans to marry Tom, but Sybil explained that she didn't care less what the aristocratic world would think of her marrying Tom, and she vowed to Robert and Violet that she would "not give him up". Robert then warned her that there would be no more money, her life would be very different if she stayed with Tom, but a change in her life was exactly what Sybil wanted. Tom was staying at the Grantham Arms until Matthew and Lavinia were married and Sybil was ready to leave for Dublin. Robert tried to bribe him into leaving Downton without Sybil, but was swiftly rejected.
Branson attended Lavinia's funeral in order to pay his respects and to see Sybil. Robert realised that there was nothing he could do to stop them and agreed to part as friends giving them his permission, and said that he would give them some money. Robert gave Tom a friendly warning of the consequences if he mistreated Sybil then shook his hand and Sybil and Tom walked away, hand-in-hand. Violet rejoined Robert and asked him if he had finally given in. They planned to minimise the scandal of Sybil marrying the families chauffeur by giving Tom a made up back story.
Married and pregnant Edit
Sybil and Tom married sometime between April and December 1919 They are mentioned by the family as being married and living in Ireland. Only Mary and Edith attended her wedding as Cora was unable to attend due to still being affected by the Spanish flu and Robert and Violet chose not to, though Violet later lied and said she and Robert were "ill".
Robert later gave Cora a letter from Sybil, to which Cora gasped in shock and delight. It revealed Sybil was pregnant. She didn't want anyone to know, not even her sisters. Robert then commented that he "wondered why she didn't ask to come for Christmas." Edith remarked at the Christmas feast that Sybil's "favourite" part of it was plum pudding. Mary later told Matthew that "Sybil's the strong one" because "she really doesn't care what people think" - referring to her marriage to a former servant - unlike Mary herself, who worried what people would think of her in regards to her scandal involving Kemal Pamuk, which she just revealed to Matthew.
After the servants ball, a few days later, Cora told Robert she would not be kept away from her first grandchild. She wanted Sybil, Tom and the baby to come to Downton Abbey and visit the family, and she wanted to go and visit them in Ireland. She also admitted it wasn't the life-style that she had wanted for her daughter, but said it was what had happened and they all had to accept it.
Life after marriage EditSybil and Tom returned to Downton Abbey in 1920. Whilst in Ireland Tom had been involved in the destruction of private property (a home like Downton Abbey was burned by Irish rebels) and had gone to meetings where they planned this. Because of his involvement, the police were looking for him and he had to flee Ireland to go to Downton Abbey. He left Sybil behind to close up their flat, but he took the last ferry so she could not come to Downton before the next morning. Robert was enraged at this, because he had left Sybil, a pregnant woman, alone in a land that was not her own. Tom felt a great deal of guilt over this. When she arrived safely the next morning, Tom was incredibly relieved and they passionately kissed in the Great Hall of Downton Abbey. Sybil found out that he went to those meetings and was hurt that he had kept it from her. Her father, Robert, was able to save him from going to prison but on the condition he could never go back to Ireland. Sybil was not entirely disappointed at this; she had missed her childhood home and knew it could offer them peace and safety until the baby was born.
Sybil planned to resume her nursing career once the baby was born. She had found her place in her married life with no regrets of marrying Tom, but back at Downton she felt a sense of safety, and longed for Tom to be accepted by the world she had always known. She confided in her sister, Mary, all of this.
Before she was due to give birth, Mary went to see her, where they discussed the issue that her and Tom's child would be christened as a Catholic, and that the christening would have to take place at Downton. Mary told Sybil that she didn't need to let the baby be baptised as Catholic as it was her child too, though Sybil said that she didn't mind because she loved Tom so much. Before leaving so she could rest, Mary replied that she would help her to fight over the christening when the time came. This was the final significant conversation anyone had with Sybil.
Birth of Sybil "Sybbie" Branson Edit
Sybil entered labour and began to show early symptoms of pre-eclampsia, which was correctly diagnosed by Dr Clarkson but ignored by Robert and Sir Philip Tapsell, who believed that taking her to a public hospital would be far too much of a risk to Sybil and the baby.
Sybil gave birth to a baby girl. Everybody was relieved and delighted at this outcome except Dr Clarkson who saw what was coming. Tom told Sybil how much he loved her and left together with the rest of the family to let her get some rest. Only Cora stayed back and Sybil made her promise to help take care of Tom and the baby because she suspected that Robert may want them out of the family. Cora reassured her that she would take on this responsibility and went to bed. Exhausted, Sybil tried to go to sleep in the knowledge that she had paved the way for her husband and baby to be accepted in the family with the help of Mary and Cora.
A short while later, Sybil began to experience a series of severe fits and spasms due to the eclampsia, and was unable to breathe. Her mother and father, sisters Mary and Edith, and brother-in-law Matthew were all present at her bedside while Tom held her as she died.
Tom chose to honour and painfully remember his wife by naming their daughter Sybil, nicknamed Sybbie. A year later, Tom was still visibly in mourning for Sybil and openly broke down in front of Mrs Hughes over her death.
Tom deeply loves and cares for his daugher Sybbie and considers leaving Downton to help his cousin in Boston, taking his daughter along with him. He still loves Sybil. Series 5 ends with every indication that Tom and Sybbie are moving to America.
However, Tom returns to Downton with his daughter a few months later after realizing that Downton is his home, and that he is truly part of the family. He decides to return to the home of the Crawleys for good, the place where he met his beloved wife, Lady Sybil.
- aAccording to Allen Leech Tom later apologised to Sybil but the scene was cut.
- ↑ The wedding of Matthew and Lavinia is stated as being in April; Episode #2.8 starts in April 1919 as shown with the opening credits. It is 3 day before the wedding of Matthew and Lavinia as mention by Lady Mary in the opening scene. Shortly after Lavinia falls victim to the Spanish Flu and dies. This indicates that Lavinia died in April of 1919. This means that Sybil and Branson were married between April and December 1919