They don’t come more iconic than EastEnders‘ Dot Branning, a true soap legend who has been an integral part of life in Albert Square since the show’s early days. She made her debut in July 1985, just months after the first episode.
Dear old Dot has strong links to countless people in the close-knit community she grew up in. In fact it feels like she’s related to most of the cast – and actually, she is…
RadioTimes.com has traced the much-loved veteran’s family tree to remind ourselves of her complicated genealogy, and how she’s connected to so many other characters. Join us as we explore the packed backstory of the woman born Dorothy Colwell around 90 years ago in Walford…
Does Dot have any siblings?
Yes, two half-brothers, Gerry and Tim (never seen on screen) and a half-sister, Rose, who share the same mother as Dot – Martha Taylor.
Rose was the flighty, flirty opposite to God-fearing Dot and, unsurprisingly, the sisters were never close. But they fell out spectacularly when Rose had an affair with Dot’s husband, Charlie Cotton. They didn’t speak for decades but reconnected and made amends in 2011. Awkwardly, it turned out Rose had a grown-up son by Charlie, Andrew.
Who was Dot’s first husband?
Ah yes, the aforementioned Charlie Cotton. Goodie-goodie Dot married the feckless philanderer when she was 18 some time in the 1950s. The marriage lasted a few years and he abandoned her to raise their son Nick. Almost 30 years later he came back into Dot’s life insisting he was a changed man, but he was only on the scrounge for cash and it emerged he had married again without divorcing his ex, making him a bigamist – upgraded to a polygamist when Rose revealed years later he had also got hitched to her. Cheating Charlie died off screen in a road accident in 1991. No one mourned.
How many biological children did Dot have?
Tragically, Dot was forced into having a backstreet abortion by uncaring Charlie when she fell unexpectedly pregnant in the early days of their relationship. Dr Harold Legg assisted with the termination of her daughter which haunted her for years. Dot then became pregnant again and Charlie did a runner, and was barely a part of his son Nick’s upbringing.
‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton made his father look like an altar boy: a murdering, drug-addled bully who terrorised Walford’s residents and tried to poison his own Ma for her money. Forgiving Dot stood by ‘My Nick’ for years, but eventually realised he would never change and when he took a heroin overdose in 2015 she let nature take its course and allowed him to die.
Did Dot have any grandchildren?
Nick took after his father, sowing his oats all over the place resulting in the conception of three (that we know about) kids with three different women over the course of his life.
The first love-grandchild Dot met was Ashley, whose mother Zoe rocked up and introduced her to the nine-year-old lad in 1993. Nick’s influence on his boy proved fatal when he caused Ashley’s death in 2001, cutting the brakes on a motorbike intended to take out arch-enemy Mark Fowler only for Ash to steal the vehicle and get killed when he crashed it.
In 2008 Nick made another of his unannounced ‘I’ve changed, Ma, honest!’ visits with a young daughter in tow by the name of Dotty, a product of a liaison with a woman called Sandy who the Cotton cad claimed had died. Deceitful Dotty was actually called Kirsty and was in on a plan to fleece Dot, but she rejected her devilish dad when it turned out Nick had lied and her mum was still alive. Sandy and Dotty were reunited and were last seen in 2010, but a grown-up Dotty is now living with her gran again in Walford.
Nick’s most elaborate, sickest scam yet took place in 2014 and involved Dot’s third biological grandchild. Police officer Charlie knocked on Dot’s door and told her he was her grandson, and that Nick had passed away. Months later nasty Nick came back from the dead, revealing son Charlie and his mum Yvonne were part of his latest con to fake his demise to fool Dot for dosh. Remorseful Charlie ended up siding with Dot after Nick almost killed his wife Ronnie Mitchell on their wedding day. Nick died soon after.
Who was Dot’s second husband?
This is where it gets complicated and our heroine ends up related to most of the cast – Dot found love later in life with cantankerous but lovable widow Jim Branning, who memorably proposed during their sweet courtship in a pod on the London Eye. Dot married into the Brannings on Valentine’s Day 2002, instantly becoming linked to one of EastEnders’ biggest clans and giving her a load of new relatives. Jim died in 2015, following the real-life passing of actor John Bardon the year before.
Who are Dot’s stepchildren and grandchildren?
Brace yourselves. From his first marriage to the late Reenie, Jim had six children who all became Dot’s stepkids, most of whom had children of their own making her a stepgranny many times over: the late Derek (father to Joey and Alice), April, Carol (mum to Bianca, Robbie, Sonia and the late Billie), Suzy (mum to Kevin and Rebecca), Max (dad to dead Bradley, Lauren, deceased Abi and Oscar) and Jack (dad to Penny, Amy, Ricky and the late James).
Who else is Dot related to by marriage?
Everyone. Almost. As well as all the above characters there’s also Bianca’s kids, Liam, Tiff, Morgan and stepdaughter Whitney; Sonia’s daughter Bex, with Martin Fowler – which links her to the Fowler/Beale dynasty, as does Lauren’s son Louis whose dad is Peter Beale, and Abi’s daughter baby Abi, fathered by Steven Beale.
Charlie Junior’s son Matthew’s mum was Ronnie Mitchell (RIP), effectively linking Dot to the entire Mitchell brood. What about the Carters? Shirley Carter was once married to Kevin Wicks, cousin of David Wicks, father of Bianca, half-brother to Ian Beale, cousin to Martin Fowler, dad to Bex. Kevin was also married to Denise Fox. Then there’s Robbie’s son Sami… We could go on, but hopefully you get the picture.
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