It is 1792 and the beginning of the French revolution. The beautiful actress, Marguerite St. Just has just become Lady Marguerite Blakeney. Although she was once attracted to her tall, handsome husband, she now has nothing but contempt for his dandyish ways and trivial conversation. If only he were more like the daring Scarlet Pimpernel, the dashing hero of Marguerite’s dreams who risks certain death to rescue aristocrats from the guillotine. As it is, Marguerite has nowhere to turn when the villainous Citizen Chauvelin attempts to blackmail her into spying out the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel and betraying him to the mercies of the bloody French Revolution.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic novel, part adventure story, part romance, and part spy drama. But ultimately, it is a novel about marriage.
Stop reading here and buy The Scarlet Pimpernel if you’re not familiar with the story. Otherwise, read on for what Baroness Orczy has to tell us about being better women and wives.
Romance Takes Two
When Marguerite reports a family enemy to the Revolutionary government, she doesn’t mean to send him to the guillotine. But when Sir Percy demands an explanation for what looks like her cruel vengefulness, she refuses to give him one. She counts on what she thinks is his unwavering devotion.
Relationships only work when two people are committed to each others’ happiness. It’s tempting to let a man do everything for a woman out of adoration, but a one-sided devotion only lasts so long. Marguerite, for example, asks too much of Sir Percy when she refuses to justify what looks like murderous spite. Not only has she done something her husband considers abhorrent, but she doesn’t trust Sir Percy enough confide in him. It isn’t fair to take your spouse’s fondness for granted. A woman owes a man the same trust, attachment and selflessness that he gives her. (And vise versa!)
Give Your Spouse the Benefit of the Doubt
While Marguerite shouldn’t try to test Sir Percy’s love by refusing an explanation, Sir Percy should never listen to someone else’s condemnation of his own wife. For her part, Marguerite falls for the vapid mask Sir Percy wears before the world because she is willing to believe he is a mindless fop.
Believe it or not, relationships work best when both partners are wearing rose-colored glasses. You don’t have to ignore your spouse’s major flaws, but you will both be happier if you trust that each others’ intentions are generally good.
Don’t Question Your Spouse’s Competence in Public
The Blakeney’s marriage goes from bad to worse when Marguerite starts publicly mocking his slow manners and dull wit. She even invites people to their home—Sir Percy’s family estate—and encourages them to think poorly of her husband.
It is never appropriate for a woman in a relationship to make fun of her husband in public, to his face or behind his back. There is no quicker way to undermine his masculinity and make him dissatisfied with your relationship. Most men don’t feel loved if they don’t also feel respected.
There Are No Secrets in a Happy Marriage
Marguerite accidentally betrays her husband because she keeps her problems a secret. But the conflict in their marriage is at least as much Sir Percy’s fault as Marguerite’s. Sir Percy is the man of Marguerite’s dreams, but doesn’t let her see that part of his life.
Trust is an essential part of any relationship. The greatest form of intimacy is a willingness to open yourself up completely to your partner. The consequences of keeping secrets aren’t always as dire as they are for Marguerite and Percy, but a refusal to share yourself with your spouse will eventually drive you apart.
Are there any books that have taught you your own lessons in wifery?