Charles "Charlie" Parks is the illegitimate child and only son of Ethel Parks and the late Major Charles Bryant. At the age of three, he went to live with his paternal grandparents, Daphne and Horace Bryant.
Charlie was conceived when his mother was a housemaid at Downton Abbey while his father stayed there to recover from his war injuries, as it was being used as a convalescence home at the time. Ethel was fired by Mrs Hughes for the affair, but received help from her after telling her she was pregnant. Both women tried to get Major Bryant to acknowledge Charlie, but he refused, and was later was killed in battle. Ethel had trouble finding work, as there were not many places she could take Charlie. She told those she met she was a war widow, even before Major Bryant's death.
Later when Major Bryant's parents stopped for luncheon at Downton Abbey on their way to Maryport, Ethel came in hopes of getting their support for their grandson. While they were eating, she burst in and told them Charlie was their grandson. Whilst Mrs Bryant was more receptive, her husband demanded proof and when Ethel was unable to do so, he demanded she leave at once. He was visibly angry, even openly accusing her of falsifying her child's paternity (because Major Bryant was an only child) in an attempt to raise her own social standing. Later Mrs Bryant wrote to Mrs Hughes to arrange a meeting between the Bryants and Ethel. The Bryants have since accepted that Charlie is their grandson. Mrs Bryant smiled on seeing him again and said she hoped he would call her Gran, and told her husband she thought Charlie looked like his father. Mr Bryant offered to raise him as his heir. He would educate Charlie at Harrow school and Oxford university. He would tell Charlie that his parents married during the war and his mother died from Spanish flu. Ethel offered to be Charlie's nurse and never tell him that she was his mother. Mrs Bryant was open to the idea, but Mr Bryant rejected it calling Ethel "a drudge" and said that she would not be able to kept her secret. Mr Bryant offered Ethel time to consider his offer and he and his wife left.
Later Ethel came to Mrs Hughes to inform her that she was keeping her son, thinking nothing was better for Charlie than his mother's love.
By 1920, two-year-old Charlie and his mother had fallen on hard times, but Isobel Crawley helped them. Charlie's grandparents soon reappeared. Mr Bryant revealed that he had been having Ethel watched, solely to keep an eye on his grandson. He was immediately loving towards Charlie, giving him a stuffed toy. Ethel had before then made the tough choice to let Charlie go and live with his grandparents, as they could at the present time provide for him better. Despite Isobel Crawley's reservations, Ethel did not change her mind.Ethel bade Charlie a loving, sad farewell. Mrs Bryant assured Ethel that Mr Bryant loved Charlie, and not just for Charlie's father's sake. Charlie looked back and waved goodbye to his mother when they took him away. Mrs Hughes assured Ethel she had done the right thing for her son.
Ethel later got a job near Cheadle, close to where Charlie was living with his grandparents, so as to be nearer to him, after rebuilding her life at Crawley House.
- In the fourth season, he would have turned three or four years old; and six years old in the fifth season. He would be seven in the sixth season, and nine in the film.
- Charlie was the first child born on the show, but like Edith's daughter (who was also born out of wedlock and whose father was also killed) he was not seen right after being born but later.
- It is likely Charlie was named after his father, but this has never been confirmed. Never once has he himself been called Charles on the show. It is also plausible that when he went to live with his grandparents they formally changed his surname to Bryant to cover up his illegitimacy (as they had previously planned to say his father was married), which would make his name Charles Bryant Jr., but this remains unconfirmed as well.
|Appearances and Mentions|
|Series 2||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5|
|Series 3||Episode 1||Episode 2|
|Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8|
- In a deleted scene where Isobel visits Ethel in Episode 3.02, Charlie is briefly heard but not seen.