The Scarlet Pimpernel: Sir Percy Blakeney

Going to warn you, this is going to be a fairly epic post. With pictures and clips and magic. Why?

Because I freakin love Sir Percy

So The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy is set during the French Revolution when Robespierre was guillotining aristocrats left and right. But a mysterious figure known as The Scarlet Pimpernel and his men are saving men and women from execution and bringing them to safety in England.

In the midst of this, a young French actress named Marguerite St. Just meets Sir Percy Blakeney, a foppish English baronet who seemed to have hidden depths when they met. But soon after their marriage, Marguerite tells Percy that she is the reason a family named St Cyr was sent to the guillotine. Of course Marguerite did not mean for it to happen but for some reason she isn’t able to explain this to Percy. They grow apart as Percy becomes more and more of an idiot, only caring for his clothes.

An old friend of Marguerite named Chauvelin is sent to England to discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He enlists the aid of Marguerite who would rather not, but she has no choice. Her brother Armand is discovered to be an associate of The Scarlet Pimpernel. If she does not aid Chauvelin, Armand will be executed.

Marguerite goes to a ball with her husband where she intercepts a message from the Scarlet Pimpernel and gives it to Chauvelin. When all is done that night, she still has no assurance that Armand will be safe. She pleads with her husband who assures her he will do all he can. The next day he has left for France and Marguerite realises with horror that her husband is the Scarlet Pimpernel!

So, what makes this man a hottie? I mean besides him hiding his great intelligence and strength behind the mask of a fop? Or his broad shoulders, deep-set blue eyes and strong mouth?

Well firstly, I have a love for the characters who mask their strengths, especially behind the mask of a flirt or a fop. One of my favorite characters of all time is Zelos from Tales of Suymphonia who spends most of his time hitting on ladies. You wouldn’t realise  he was playing double agent games and had some pretty deep childhood scars.

But I think the appeal for me is how much Percy loves his wife. He wants to let down his mask but because he believes her to be a traitor, he cannot. This is most apparent after the ball where Marguerite aids Chauvelin. The Blakeneys return home and are about to go to separate bedchambers but Marguerite tries to entreat him to sit in the garden with her. Things come to a head, Marguerite explains how  she was tricked into betraying the St Cyr’s. She then spills how Armnad is in danger and she needs helps

Instinctly with sudden overmastering passion, at sight of her helplessness and of her grief, he stretched out his arms, and the next, would have seized her and held her to him, protected from every evil with his very life, his very heart’s blood…But pride had the better of it in this struggle once again; he restrained himself  with a tremendous effort of will and said coldly, though still very gently– “Will you not turn to me, Madame, and tell me in what way I may have the honour to serve you?”

They’ve both made mistakes. His pride was hurt and he didn’t listen and she didn’t explain but they still love each other. She so badly wants to unmask him. And he loves her. At the end of this chapter comes probably the squee-est part of the book.

Had she but  turned back then, and looked out once more to the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear–a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passions and his own despair. Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden. and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.

This is what you want in a man, I think. Not so much the misunderstanding but someone willing to adore you and wanting to be with you. And then there’s the sword fighting and just how clever this man is. His plans to free aristocrats from the guillotine range from pretending to have the plague to disguising himself as an old woman or as the soldiers who are “chasing the Pimpernel”.

Downsides to him? Well besides the pride that eventually gives way, there’s an ending that is always changed in play and movie additions. He escapes Chauvelin by disguising himself as  a Jew in the very stereotypical kind of way. Okay, so this was published in the early 1900’s. But its still a turn off. The only reason the ending turns out nice is because at the very end, Sir Percy, though weak and tired from their adventure, carries his wife back to their ship and they sail off into the sunset.

Adaptations

My personal favorite movie adaptation is the 1982 made for TV movie “The Scarlet Pimpernel” starring Jane Seymour as Marguerite, Ian McKellan as Chauvelin and:

Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy

This man is fantastic. He has the perfect drawl as Sir Percy. The best scene to showcase this is where he meets Chauvelin and tells him how his “limp” his cravat is. Oh, by the way, in this version there was a prior romance between Marguerite and Chauvelin. Its something a lot of adaptations have done and I like it. When done right, it adds a great deal of tension. So anyway, in this scene, Percy goes on about Chauvelin’s limp cravat and then waltzes away with Marguerite. That’s Regency Pwnage my friend.

Just when you think the drawl might drive you crazy, its dropped to this soft voice. The first time he sees Marguerite he’s going on like a fop, than he looks upon her face. His voice softens, he stares in amazement at her. Your heart goes to him.

Whenever I read the book, I envision a taller Anthony Andrews with slightly broader shoulders. I don’t have a copy of the DVD (yet!) but the internet provides it. You should be able to find it.

My other favorite adaptation of course, is the musical with Douglas Sills as Percy, Terry Mann as Chauvelin and Christine Andreas as Marguerite. It’s a Frank Wildhorn musical and if you know about Mr. Wildhorn, you know he has a lot of hits and misses. This musical went on Broadway and didn’t do so well they changed it up and re released it. I actually have no problems with the first musical. okay, I can see its flaws. But I still love it. Mostly because Douglas Sills has the perfect voice for Percy. The other two are also amazing but this man…

The soundtrack on iTunes has the original cast plus the number “I’ll Forget You” from the newer version. If you like Sir Percy or period musicals, get it.

I sort of have to admit this. Whenever I listen to it, I don’t see Sir Percy. The first song I heard from the musical was called “The Creation of Man” which is basically about how men were created to be the beautiful sex. It was set to clips from the anime Ouran High School Host Club. (The video has unfortunately been taken down). So whenever I hear Percy sing, I see this man:

Ahhh Tamaki…if this were Anime Mancandy I’d go on a rant right now. But as it is not, I will move on.

So lets break it down now:

Appearance: Tall, broad shouldered, blue eyes (probably blonde hair). I know that this isn’t for everyone. I personally love the large build on a man. And that coloring. So yes!

Personality: On the outside, he’s a dandy who only cares about his clothes and horses and his good friend the Prince Regent (who was a pretty frivolous man). But on the inside is a hero who is deeply in love with his wife, who overcomes his pride and saves the day. He was the inspiration for many superheroes and isn’t that what we want?

Not necessarily a big, blonde man (though honestly, this is what I strive for) but someone who can, like Enrique Iglesias, be our hero baby. And since Batman, Harry Potter and all other heroes are pretty emo, I’ll go for the swashbuckling fop.

I say A+. This man has ruined me for all other males. I love him.

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3 Responses to “The Scarlet Pimpernel: Sir Percy Blakeney”


  1. 1 Rhoya Selden March 14, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I quite agree, Sir Percy sets the bar sooooooo high, no other man can compare. he is not an A+, but an A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ to infinity and Anthony Andrews is the PERFECT Sir Percy, just how I’d imagined. *sigh*

    if you like Sir Percy, like his facebook page!
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sir-Percy-Blakeney/201310013212953

  2. 2 http://notariusz-czest.com.pl/ September 24, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better!

    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this
    article to him. Fairly certain he’s going to
    have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


  1. 1 Top 10 Mancandy « Literary Mancandy Trackback on February 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm

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