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 immediately starts asking questions and making comments about Tom and Sybil, such as him being handsome and that Lady Sybil could have done better, to which Mrs Hughes immediately tells her to mind her place. Unlike the other servants she does not show any respect in 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 suggests 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, having told Tom that "the work would no longer satisfy her. I've seen it before. She'd unsettled the other maids."
Rose for lady's maid for 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, claiming 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, in her words, sounds like a ticking bomb. Tensions rise between her and Anna Bates, which get the latter in trouble: with help from Thomas, she blames Anna 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. Aftewards, Edna earns Mr Bates's suspicion, especially after he sees her laughing. She later 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, Edna replies she thinks she won't have the time (to which Mrs Hughes tells her to find time).
Even though Tom tried to keep his distance from her at first, 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 he feels in the company of the Crawley's old friends, saying he feels like an idiot. Edna comforts him, which causes him to say he thinks she is the only one who had understood him those two days. Edna then 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 implied.
Following that night, Edna immediately and relentelessly schemes to get Tom to pledge himself to her, citing the possibility that she might now be pregnant, even by invading his privacy, such as entering his room without knocking or waiting for him to ask her come in. She tries to make it appear that Tom is the guilty party, and she accuses him of using her then casting her aside and, therefore, not being a man of honor. She positions herself as the victim. 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 goes through Edna's things and finds a book on how to avoid getting pregnant. Mrs Hughes then summons Edna to her office, with Tom present. Edna believes Tom and Mrs Hughes are going to try to buy her off, but she 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 whether she is pregnant, Mrs Hughes asks Tom if he really thinks Edna would have let herself get pregnant before she was sure she could have him. She then reveals Edna knew how to prevent it or why else would she have bought that particular book. Furthermore, she insists, once Edna got what she wanted, namely Tom agreeing to marry her, then she would have made sure she was pregnant. Mrs Hughes admits she does not know whom Edna would have selected as a father, but is certain she had a candidate in mind.
Edna is upset that Mrs Hughes has gone through her things. Furious, she tries to stand her ground, insisting Mrs Hughes could not prove anything by asking her if she had any proof. Mrs Hughes stands her ground equally and threatens to summon a doctor to examine her if she persists with her lie. Edna says she cannot be forced, to which Mrs Hughes replies she would lock Edna up and then hold her down and strip her if that is what it took. Edna then claims again that Tom still seduced her, to which Mrs Hughes reminds Edna it was she who got Tom dead drunk then climbed into his bed. She asks her if she calls that seduction because she does not.
Finally, Edna says she cannot be stopped from speaking to Cora. Mrs Hughes admits that is true, but if Edna wants a reference or another job during her natural lifetime she will remain quiet. Defeated, Edna leaves the room. She later 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, quickly walking away from the house.
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 still 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 guilt for 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 repeatedly did that herself 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|
|Series 6||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||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?"