Richard Branson Family History
Richard Charles Nicholas Branson was born on July 18th, 1950 to Ted and Eve Branson in Blackheath near London. Richard had dyslexia growing up and a poor academic performance in school. On his last day there his headmaster told him that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.
He took the latter route. Branson expressed a desire to be an entrepreneur at a very young age. At the age of twenty he started a mail order record business and then created the Virgin brand for a chain of record stores.
His Virgin brand grew rapidly in the 1980’s, expanding into airlines and railways and starting Virgin Media and Virgin Money. Always the showman, he crossed the Atlantic in a hot air balloon and in his sixties developed Virgin Galactic to promote space travel.
Richard Branson had seemed to have a Midas touch with the projects he developed. But in 2020 the COVID lockdowns played havoc with his businesses.
The forebears of this Branson family were Henry Branson and Elizabeth Wilkins who had gotten married in London on February 21st, 1733. They had three children – Harry, Elizabeth and John. Harry and John would recur as Christian names in succeeding generations. Otherwise not much is known or can be said about their lives in London.
In 1793 the twenty year old John Edward Branson, seeking new opportunities, took off for India. Later his father Harry followed him.
Bransons in India
John Edward arrived in Madras (now Chennai) from London after a long gruelling six month journey via the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean. There was no sinecure colonial job awaiting him when he arrived; neither for his father Harry. John Edward became a shopkeeper, Harry an auctioneer.
There were big opportunities for upward advancement then. Thomas Parry and John Binny had arrived at around the same time and developed large commercial businesses in Madras. The Bransons were to prosper as well, although in their own way.
John Edward seems to have been married three times, all to Englishwomen:
- the first, whom he married in England, was Sarah Myers
- then came Elizabeth Burdett who died in India in 1806. She was the mother of Harry Wilkins Branson, born four years earlier.
- and last was Martha Flood who bore him at least three children.
The next Bransons were into printing and publishing.
Harry Wilkins Branson ran a printing and publishing business in Madras. He was said like his father to have been married three times. Eager genealogists found in the DNA of his descendants in England some Indian heritage. It transpired that Harry’s third wife Eliza Reddy whom he had married in 1832 had a mother whose name did not appear in British colonial records. They discovered that her name was precluded because she was Indian. She was called Aria and she came from a neighboring town in Tamil Nadu.
Harry’s younger brother James William, a lawyer by training, was the editor of the Madras Gazette. He also spent a short time in prison for a “treasonable and seditious” article that he published in the paper in 1833.
The Bransons which followed had a legal bent. Reddy Branson, son of Harry, started his own legal company, Branson & Branson, and did well He lived at Branson Bagh and died there in 1907 His cousin James Spring Branson, son of James, was the Advocate-General of Madras in 1887 and subsequently a Member of the Legislature. Branson Gardens in Madras was named after him.
Some of their younger brothers left India. James Henry Branson, brother to Reddy, served for a time as the Senior Acting Magistrate in Calcutta, but then returned to England with his family around 1880. And Gerald Branson, brother to Spring, departed for New Zealand. His son Charles started Branson’s Hotel in Dunedin in the early 1900’s.
Back in England
James Henry Branson had married Mary Brown in Madras in 1868. She had come from a family in Norfolk and returned there three years later for the birth of her first child George. Her next four children were all born in Madras. But by 1880 or so the family was back in England and James was working as a lawyer in London.
Their son George was noted in his youth as an oarsman. He rowed for Cambridge in the 1893 Boat Race. Known professionally as G. A. H. Branson, he was an English barrister who became a judge of the High Court of Justice and was knighted in 1921. He was the grandfather of Richard Branson.
From Sir George to Richard Branson
Sir George Branson was a demanding father. His son Ted was never an academic child. His principal interest at school was natural history and when he expressed a wish to become an archaeologist, his father insisted that he prepare for a career in Law.
Ted Branson married in 1949, returning from his honeymoon to discover that he had failed his Bar exams and that his father had reduced his allowance because he had married before he had qualified. He finally was able to qualify, was called to the Bar in 1950, and spent the rest of his life working as a lawyer.
His son Richard might have followed in his father’s footsteps. His father recalled:
“There was a time when I felt Richard ought to get a qualification, so I walked him up and down our lawn at home and said I would like him to qualify as a barrister. Later, I felt awful because I had said to him just what my father had said to me. So, the next weekend, I walked him up and down the lawn once again and told him to forget everything I’d said.”
Richard had been enrolled at Stowe boarding school in Buckingham, but found the environment too restrictive. He dropped out of school and moved to London where he made his living as a publisher and later opened a retail record business.
Richard Branson’s Family Tree
- Henry Branson (b. 1709) m. Elizabeth Wilkins in London in 1733
- – Harry Branson (1734-1810)
- – John Branson (b. 1742) m. Ann Witnall
- Harry Branson m. Ann Try (b, 1732) in London in 1765
- – John Edward Branson (1773-1819)
- John Edward Branson m. Sarah Myers; rem. Elizabeth Burdett (d. in 1806) and Martha Flood in Madras
- – Ann Branson (1792-1863) m. Robert Scott
- – Harry Wilkins Branson (1802-1863)
- – John Branson (1808-1861)
- – Martha Branson (1811-1840) m. Joseph Sherman
- – James William Branson (1813-1870) m. Wilhelmina Harris
- Harry Wilkins Branson in Madras m. Eliza Reddy in 1832
- – Frederick Reddy Branson (1835-1907)
- – James Henry Branson (1839-1902)
- James Henry Branson m. Mary Brown (b. 1844) in Madras in 1868
- – George Branson (1871 -1951)
- – James Branson (b. 1873)
- – William Branson (b. 1875)
- – Mary Branson (b. 1876)
- – Frederick Branson (b. 1879)
- Sir George Branson from Great Yarmouth m. Mona Joyce nee Bailey (1890-1964) in 1915
- – Edward (Ted) Branson (1918-2011)
- Edward (Ted) Branson m. Eve Flindt (1924-2021) in Surrey in 1949
- – Sir Richard Branson (b. 1950) m. Joan Templeman in 1989
- – and two younger sisters, Lindy and Vanessa Branson.
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