Lady Sybil Cora Branson (née Crawley; born April, May or June 1895 — Between April and August 1920) was the youngest daughter of Robert and Cora Crawley, the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and the younger sister of Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Through her sister Mary, she was the sister-in-law of Matthew Crawley and the aunt of George Crawley. She would also be the maternal aunt to Marigold by her second eldest sister, Edith. Sybil was married to Tom Branson, with whom she had her one and only child, a daughter named after her, Sybil Branson.
Sybil was described by Mrs Hughes as "the sweetest spirit under this roof." Sweet tempered, caring, and politically ambitious, Sybil was liked by everyone, despite her differences in beliefs and interests. She did not believe in social expectations and treated the staff as her equals. Sybil was very compassionate, helping the servant Gwen with her dream to become a secretary. Sybil always treated others with kindness and respect, even when she was not obliged to do so.
- "My beauty and my baby."
- —Cora saying her last words to Sybil on her death bed.[src]
Sybil was very beautiful, her beauty rivaling that of her elder sister Mary. Sybil shared a few physical traits with Mary, one being their lovely dark hair, and shaped eyebrows. Sybil had pale pink full lips, and silver blue eyes.
Sybil was the youngest child of the aristocratic and wealthy Crawley family. She was the family rebel and a very politically conscious woman who considered the lives and feelings of the underprivileged. Her aristocratic heritage was less important to her than finding love and a place in the world - as the youngest daughter she would have inherited very little, anyway. When her parents made her choose between her life of privilege and her marriage to the family chauffeur Tom Branson, Sybil chose love. She was tutored in French by a governess, although she had little regard for it. As she said: "No one ever learned anything from a governess except for French, and how to curtsy."<tabber>
Unlike the rest of her conservative family, Sybil was politically liberal and believed in civil rights, especially votes for women. During the war, like a lot of other suffragettes, Lady Sybil stopped fighting for the vote, out of respect for the men off at war. Tom Branson thought this was wrong, saying that Sylvia Pankhurst was all for fighting for these rights.<tabber>
After receiving notice of the death of Tom Bellasis, one of the young men she actually enjoyed conversation with and with whom she used to dance, Sybil could no longer stand waiting around for the war to finish. After telling Isobel that she wanted to do real work instead of meaningless tasks, Isobel suggested Sybil become a nurse. Before she left, Isobel suggested that Sybil should learn some basic skills, like cooking and how to make a bed.
Sybil asked Mrs Patmore and Daisy for help. This seemed like a big task, as Sybil couldn't even properly fill up a kettle. She left for training shortly after and Cora realised that this was something she needed to do.By 1917 Sybil was fully trained and felt useful for the first time in her life, saying that she could never go back to her life as it was before the war began.
Tom and Sybil became a lot closer during the war, largely because of their political interests and when Tom was called up by the war office Sybil was worried and very relieved when he was rejected by the Army because of a heart murmur.
In 1918 Sybil talked to Tom and asked him how he could be content being a chauffeur at Downton. He told her that he was staying because of her and tried to convince her to run away with him. She later told him that she couldn't give him an answer until the war was over.
After the war, she decides to run away with Branson. Her sisters Mary and Edith and the then-housemaid Anna track her down on her way to elope at Gretna Green and she returned to Downton with them. She and Tom announced their relationship and plans to get married and move to Ireland, much to her family's shock and dismay. She swore to her family that she would not give Tom up. After threatening to disinherit her, Robert eventually gave them his blessing. Her grandmother and father planned to minimize the scandal of "the Lady and the Chauffeur" by giving Tom a made-up backstory. Lady Sybil and Tom move to Dublin, Ireland, and later married. Only Lady Sybil's sisters attended the wedding, as her mother was recovering from her illness, and her father and grandmother chose not to attend the wedding. Soon after their marriage, Lady Sybil wrote to her family that she was pregnant, much to Lady Grantham's delight and shock. In the letter, she asked her parents to keep the news a secret from her sisters. Lord Grantham then commented that he "wondered why she didn't ask to come for Christmas."
After the Servant's Ball, Lady Grantham told Lord Grantham she had written back to Lady Sybil. Lady Grantham wanted the family to visit Lady Sybil and Tom in Ireland. She also wanted Lady Sybil and Tom to come to visit Downton, and she doesn't want to be separated from her first grandchild. Lady Grantham also admitted to Lord Grantham, that this wasn't the outcome that she wanted for Lady Sybil, but it is what has happened and the whole family must accept it. Lady Sybil returned to her family home with her husband. The family learned she had found her place in her married life, and she longed for Tom to be accepted by her family. Tom developed a close friendship with Lady Sybil's cousin, Mary's husband and the family heir Matthew Crawley, and then Mary herself.<tabber>
Sybil and Branson returned to Downton Abbey in 1920 before Sybil's grandmother Martha, so they met her, and it is known this was before Sybil had given birth; however, it is unknown as to whether Martha approved of their marriage.Sybil planned to resume her nursing career once the baby was born. She had seemingly 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, Lady Mary, all of this. Sybil and Tom both went to Eryholme for a picnic before Edith's wedding. Sybil encouraged her sister Edith before her wedding and tried to comfort her when Anthony Strallan jilted her at the last minute. Edith shrugged off the comfort of Sybil and Mary, "Look at them!" She said to her mother, Cora. "Look at them. Sybil pregnant, Mary probably pregnant. Go away. I mean it, GO!"
Tom Branson 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 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.Before she was due to give birth, Mary went to see her, where they discussed the issue that her and Tom's child will be christened as a Catholic, and that the christening will have to take place at Downton. Mary told Sybil that she doesn't need to let the baby be baptized as Catholic as it is her child, too, though Sybil stated that she doesn't mind because she loves Tom so very much. Before leaving so she could rest, Mary replied that she will help her to fight over the christening when the time comes. This was the final significant conversation anyone had with Sybil. <tabber>
Sybil entered labour and began to show early symptoms of pre-eclampsia, which was correctly diagnosed by Dr Clarkson but ignored by Lord Grantham and Sir Philip Tapsell, who also believed that taking her to a public hospital would be far too much of a risk to Sybil and the baby.Lady 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 Lord Grantham may want them out of the family. Cora reassured her that she would take on this responsibility and went to bed. Exhausted, Sybil tries to go to sleep in the knowledge that she has paved the way for her husband and baby to be accepted in the family with the backing of Mary and Cora. After delivering the child, Sybil began to experience a series of severe fits and spasms due to the eclampsia, and was unable to breathe. Her mother and father, her sisters Mary and Edith, and brother-in-law, Dr Clarkson and Sir Phillip Tapsell were present at her bedside while her husband held her as she suffocated and died. Sybil's death was widely felt across the family. People such as Cora, the servants, Violet and most importantly Tom were greatly affected by her demise.
Lady Sybil was very fond of her parents; Robert and Cora. To this end she was afraid of disappointing them and took a long time in considering Tom's offer, even if she was reluctant to live like she did before the war. Tom mentions that Sybil loved her father with all her heart in order to convince Robert to attend the christening of her daughter.
Lady Sybil seems close to Mary, as she shares about her and Tom's secret. She discusses her married life with her and promises she's happy. Mary kept in touch with her after her marriage and later on accepted Tom far more easily than the others.
Lady Sybil does not seem as close to Edith as compared to Mary. However, she was the first whom Sybil told that she did not want to go back to the old world and had a plan which was what she wanted even if it was a point of no return. Sybil also encouraged Edith to move forward too, citing that she had become a much better person than she was before the war began. Edith helped search for her after her brief elopement with Tom Branson. Edith may also have been slightly jealous of Sybil because she was happily married, when she was not, but she was also grief-stricken like the rest of the family when Sybil died.
Sybil was generally of a positive opinion of Matthew. She seemed to develop a slight crush on him after he saved her from the rally. She, however, refused to elaborate on Mary and Matthew's relationship when Tom inquired.
Everyone was of a positive attitude towards Lady Sybil. Even Thomas was fond of her as shown by his grievance at her death.
Gwen’s dream is to become a secretary, she wants to come out of service and make a better life for herself. She’s breaking every rule - women didn’t want to have a profession and work in an office so she is part of the new wave of female independence coming through at that time. She is helped by Lady Sybil, who does all sorts of things that Robert would be appalled by to help Gwen get interviews and write letters. Sybil really compromises her position but they are a similar age and growing up in a time of great political change which has affected them both. Gwen’s determination to leave Downton is not just a whim. She has saved her wages in order to buy a typewriter, which she keeps hidden above her wardrobe. The desire to work in an office is very new and exciting to her and something that her friends back home probably haven’t even thought of doing yet. It isn’t all plain sailing for Gwen though and Lady Sybil but eventually they manage it and Gwen is offered a job from a man whose mother was a housemaid.
- Main article: Sybil and Tom Branson
Hired to be the Crawley family chauffeur, Tom Branson inspired Lady Sybil to get involved in political causes, and over time they developed a romantic relationship, later marrying despite the reservations of her family, and living in Dublin, Ireland where Tom gets a job as a journalist.By Christmas 1919, they were expecting their first child and in 1920 returned to Downton Abbey to visit the Crawley family and attend Mary's wedding. Months later, Tom unexpectedly arrived at Downton after fleeing Ireland without Sybil, leaving her to arrive the following day. Due to the trouble he was in, Tom had been forbidden from returning to Ireland, so he and his wife began living at Downton. Sybil later gave birth to their first and only child, a daughter, but dies shortly afterwards of eclampsia with Tom and her family at her side, leaving Tom, the Crawley family and their staff shocked and heartbroken. Tom named his daughter after his late wife, christening her Sybil, after the wife he so dearly loved and missed.
- "No one ever learned anything from a governess except for French, and how to curtsy."
- —Lady Sybil on women going to school and the inefficiency of governesses.[src]
- "I'm interested! I'm political! I have opinions!"
- —Episode 1.06
- "I don't know why we bother with corsets. Men don't wear them, and they look perfectly normal in their clothes."
- —to her sister, Mary Crawley
- "I think it's terrific that people make their own lives. Especially women."
- —to housemaid Gwen Dawson
- "I know what it is to work now. To have a full day, to be tired in a good way. I don't want to start dress fittings or paying calls or standing behind the guns."
- —to her sister, Edith Crawley
- "I can't just stand by while they give their lives."
- —to Isobel Crawley, expressing her need to do something.
- "It's doing nothing that's the enemy."
- —to her sister, Edith Crawley
- It is likely that Sybil's marriage was a Catholic one, and that she attended Catholic mass while living in Ireland with Tom (given that she describes Catholic traditions such as feast days and deadly sins to Mary in episode 3.05), but that she herself did not convert to Catholicism after marrying Tom. However, neither has been confirmed.
Behind the scenes
- Jessica Brown-Findlay, who played Sybil, made the decision not to renew her three-season contract with Downton Abbey, so Julian Fellowes decided to write Brown-Findlay's character out of the show.
- Different sources have identified Sybil's middle name as either Patricia or Cora. For a while, neither was confirmed, until her grave reading "Sybil Cora Branson" appeared in Episode 6.08.
- Daily Mail UK - 12 years on and the Lady hasn't aged a bit: Downton viewers question whether the characters have become convincingly old enough in the time since first episode was set By Sam Creighton and Christopher Stevens; Published: 18:19 EST, 21 September 2014; Updated: 07:20 EST, 22 September 2014
- Her grave confirms her middle name:
- Violet mentions that Sybil will be "presented to their Majesties in June after being arrested at a riot in May", implying that Sybil is 18 as of June; the Season 1 scripts describe Sybil as 17 in April, meaning she is born sometime in April, May or June.
- Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season One, by Julian Fellowes, states that Mary is 21 in 1912, that Edith is 20 and that Sybil is 17.
- From what is known in the Series, we can state that Sybil died at some-point within a six month period, between April and September 1920. In Episode 3.04, Robert says that "Tennessee is going to ratify the 19th Amendment." The ratifying of the aforementioned amendment happened on 18 August and Sybil has not yet given birth when Robert says this, implying she gives birth after 18 August 1920, as Robert's words are implying it is relatively near. In Episode 3.08, the local cricket game occurs: in the UK the Cricket Season of 1920 occurred between May and September, meaning Sybil cannot have given birth after September - this is backed up by the fact that the "grouse", for which the family goes to Duneagle, occurs in August, thus implying that Sybil's daughter was born and she herself died, in August 1920. As well as this, Sybil is pregnant before December of 1919, meaning that if she gave birth any later than August, she would be ten months pregnant, not nine.
However, in the Season 1 scripts, Sybil is said to be 17 in April 1912 and Violet mentions that Sybil will be "presented to their Majesties in June after being arrested at a riot in May", implying that Sybil is 18 by June 1913, which means that, for Sybil to be 24, it cannot be after June of 1920 when she gives birth.
- This link http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/78611/Downton-Abbey-Star-Praises-Amazing-Shirley-MacLaine shows that Allen Leech, who plays Branson, has at least one scene with Martha, confirming that Martha will meet Sybil and Branson
- Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes thought about killing of Matthew and Sybil in the same car crash.: By Ellie Walker-Arnott: Monday 16 November 2015 at 11:40AM.
- In Series One, when going to her dress fitting, Sybil's suitcase says S.P.C
- this link confirms the Cora.