Edna Braithwaite was a general maid who arrived at Downton Abbey in September 1921 and left soon after, then briefly returned as a lady's maid.
Headstrong, ambitious, and determined, Edna sets her sights on the recent widower Tom Branson. He, however, is not ready for romance because he is still in mourning for his wife, Lady Sybil Branson. Edna starts asking questions and making comments about Tom and Sybil, saying that Lady Sybil could have done better but that he is handsome, which prompts Mrs Hughes to tell her to mind her place. Unlike the other servants she shows no respect when talking with Tom and refuses to stand up when he enters the servant´s hall. He seems to be taken aback by her behavior, but responds in a polite way to her forwardness. She even skips work to go see him in the Grantham Arms, after hearing that he would be eating lunch there. She makes him feel guilty about having moved up in the world, going so far as to get him to eat downstairs again and suggest that he drive them to the Thirsk Fair, after urging him to come with them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hughes is watching her suspicously, especially after Tom begins to feel uneasy about moving upstairs. She later takes his arm at the Thirsk Fair. At one point Edna enters Tom's room whilst he is changing and impulsively kisses him, after he asks her to leave. She later tells Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson that she had made plans to meet Tom, inappropriately using his first name, when they ask her to do a job that clashes with those plans, asking them if she must do what they asked her to do. After hearing this news, both Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes immediately agree that she has to go. Mrs Hughes does not approve of the way Edna has attempted to pursue Tom and says to Tom that he let Edna make him feel ashamed of his new life. Edna doesn't think she has done anything wrong, insisting she is just as good as he and that there was nothing improper. But Mrs Hughes say that, "there are rules to this way of life and, if you don't intend to abide by them, it is not the life for you." Edna leaves soon after being fired. Tom kindly asks Mrs Hughes to give her a decent reference. She does, though she thinks Edna is not cut out to be a housemaid.
Rose for lady's maid to Cora because O'Brien had unexpectedly left. She holds her interview in Ripon, claiming she has a sick aunt to think of. She lies about why she left Downton seven months earlier, saying it was her own choice to move on. Rose encourages Cora to hire Edna, who presents the reference Mrs Hughes wrote for her. Tom, Mr Carson, and Mrs Hughes are upset that she is back, remembering her unorthodox behavior towards Tom. Unfortunately, Mrs Hughes has no choice but to hire her, since Edna did not leave Downton with a bad reference. She, Carson, and Branson resolve to keep an eye on her. Carson insists it would break Cora's heart if she learned why Edna really left, and suggests that perhaps Edna has moved on from that. Mrs Hughes on the other hand fears Edna's return. With help from Thomas, she blames Anna Bates for ruining one of Cora's garments, something she herself had done. Cora tells Robert, despite being surprised that Anna would make such a mistake. Robert then confronts Anna's husband, insisting she has been unkind to Edna. Afterwards, Edna earns Mr Bates's suspicion, especially after he sees her laughing after talking to Thomas. She shows signs of her former distaste for serving aristocrats at the beginning of a house party. When Mrs Hughes tells Edna she might have to serve as lady's maid to other women besides Lady Grantham, and Edna curtly replies she thinks she won't have the time.
Even though Tom initially tried to keep his distance from her, Edna approached him on his way to a party at Downton and asks if they can still be friends, to which Tom agrees. He later tells her how uncomfortable and idiotic he feels in the company of the Crawley's old friends. Edna comforts him, which makes him think she is the only one who understood him those two days. Edna approaches him again when she sees him sitting by himself and gives him a large whiskey, saying she thinks he needs it. After Tom goes to bed later that night, Edna sneaks up to his room and enters after asking if he was still awake. What really happened next remains unknown, although sexual relations are heavily implied.
Following that night, Edna relentlessly schemes to get Tom to pledge himself to her, by invading his privacy, such as entering his room without permission, and citing the possibility that she might now be pregnant. She plays the victim, and accuses him of using her then casting her aside and not being a man of honor. Tom is enraged when she tells him if he was good enough for his late wife then she is good enough for him. Later, Thomas Barrow finds her humming in the boot room, and she tells him he should be happy he is in good favor with her, while smirking unpleasantly. Edna also remarks to Lady Grantham that anyone would be lucky to be a member of the Crawley family.
Upon hearing about the sordid incident from Tom, Mrs Hughes summons Edna to her office, with Tom present. Edna believes Tom and Mrs Hughes are going to try to buy her off, and insists she will accept nothing they offer because she wants her child, if she is going to have one, to grow up with a father.
However, Mrs Hughes tells her there will be no offer because there is no child. When Edna insists no one can know if she is pregnant or not, Mrs Hughes asks Tom if he really thinks Edna would have let herself get pregnant before she was sure she could have him. She reveals Edna knew how to prevent a pregnancy with the help of a book she found among Edna's things. Furthermore, she reasons that once Edna had what she wanted, namely Tom's t word to marry her, she would have made sure she became pregnant by using another candidate.
Furious that Mrs Hughes went through her things, Edna tries to stand her ground, saying Mrs Hughes could not prove anything. Mrs Hughes threatens to summon a doctor to examine her if she persists with her lie. Edna says she cannot be forced, to which Mrs Hughes refutes that by warning that she would lock Edna up, hold her down, and strip her if that is what it took. Edna claims that Tom still seduced her, and Mrs Hughes reminds Edna it was she who got Tom drunk then climbed into his bed, which is not the same.
Finally, Edna says she cannot be stopped from speaking to Cora. Mrs Hughes says that is true, but that if Edna wants a reference or another job during her natural lifetime she will remain quiet. Defeated, Edna leaves the room. She runs into Thomas, and calls him sly, oily, and smug. Thomas then calls her a "manipulative little witch" and expresses delight that her schemes have come to nothing. She runs off and leaves Downton immediately.
The family learns nothing of Edna's true reason for leaving, hearing only that it had to do with family reasons. Carson later admits he never liked Edna, but is sorry for the disruption to her ladyship. Mrs Hughes tells Carson one day she'll tell him everything and then he'll be less sorry. She remarks, "We were mad as hatters to let her back in the house."
Edna has considerable charm, which she uses to her advantage. She has proven to be ambitious in moving above her social station. Even when she rises from housemaid to lady's maid, she shows signs of distaste at serving rather than being served. She has proven to be manipulative, relentless, heartless, and quite sneaky. She resorts to lies, blackmail, and playing upon others' emotions to further her own ends.
When she makes others (notably Tom Branson) feel or look bad, she senses no remorse for them or what she has done to them. Rather, she tries to make her victims feel guilty. She is also really selfish, as she objected to Mrs Hughes invading her privacy whereas she herself repeatedly did that to Tom. She only gets truly emotional when her plans are foiled. Given that her plans are always easily undone, Edna is proven to be a poor plotter who thinks herself more clever than she actually is.
|Appearances and Mentions|
|Series 3||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|Series 4||Episode 1|
|Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8||Christmas Special|
- Actress MyAnna Buring did not think she would be returning after the Series 3 Christmas Special, believing it would not be possible considering why her character left Downton, but was delighted to return when invited.
- She describes Edna as dreaming of a life above her station and being waited on rather than waiting on others. She also felt Edna might have fantasized about Tom in sort of a romantic way in the Christmas Special, but not so in Series 4.
- Downton Abbey Series 4 (Season 4), Episode 4 Recap: Staying Silent, Speaking Up at Heroes and Heartbreakers
- MyAnna Buring says “Edna Braithwaite has dreams far above her station!” (Interview) at Unreality Primetime
- ↑ DailyMail.co.uk, A racy new maid, another shock for Lady Edith and simmering tension between Matthew and Lady Mary. Hold on to your hats as Downton decamps to Scotland By Nicole Lampert, PUBLISHED: 17:31 EST, 21 December 2012 | UPDATED: 17:59 EST, 21 December 2012; excerpt: "New maid Edna takes a shine to Branson but who wouldn't?"