Baroness Orczy
A prolific novelist

The creator of the Scarlet Pimpernel was the Hungarian-born novelist Baroness Emmuska Orczy.

Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy was born on 23 September 1865 at the family estate "Tarna-Örs" in Hungary, the second daughter of Baron Felix Orczy, a composer and conductor, and his wife Emma. baron Orczy was a friend of the great composers Wagner, Liszt and Gounod, who were regular visitors to the family's estate. The baron, fearful of the consequences of a
peasant revolt in Hungary, moved himself and his family from Budapest to Brussels and then on to Paris. In Brussels and Paris young Emma was educated in convent schools and studied music without success.

The family soon thereafter moved to London where Emma was 15 when she learned to speak English. In London she studied at the West London School of Art. Later, while studying at the Heatherby School of Art, Emma Orczy met Montague Barstow, who she married in 1894. Together they wrote and illustrated books and magazine articles and together published an edition of Hungarian folk stories. The gifted young Emma was also a talented artist and her works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, London.

Hard times
As a young married couple starting life together Emma and Montague had little money. He had to work as a translator and an illustrator to supplement his meagre income. Emma started writing soon after the birth of her only child, John Montague Orczy-Barstow, in 1899. Her first novel, The Emperor's Candlesticks (1899), was a failure. She did, however, fare better with a series of
detective stories, The Old Man in the Corner, which were published in the Royal Magazine. (The stories later featured in a series of British movies from 1924 onwards.) Emma enjoyed more sucess with next novel, In Mary's Reign, which was published in 1901.

Birth of the Pimpernel
A turning point came in 1903 when Emma and Montague wrote a play based on one of Emma's short stories. The story was about an English aristocrat, Sir Percy Blakeney, who rescued his French counterparts from the bloody revolution taking place in that country. Emmy drew on her own family's plight of having to flee from the empowered working classes in penning the famous literary character. She submitted her novelization of the story under the same title to 12 publishers before it was published in 1905. An interesting aside is that while waiting for a publisher to take up her novel, Emma had her play accepted by Fred Terry and Julia Neilson for production in the West End. Initially, it drew small audiences but ended up running for four years in London. The play broke many stage records and was translated and produced in other countries. It underwent a number of revivals. Most importantly, the theatrical success of the play generated huge sales for the novel.

Other work
Baroness Orczy is best remembered for The Scarlet Pimpernel but she also wrote scores of mystery novels, adventure romances and other titles. At least a dozen of her novels were follow-ups to The Scarlet Pimpernel. These, however, were generally regarded as less successful. Still, her work was commercially successful and she was able to buy an estate in Monte Carlo, where she lived with Montague and John from 1910 onwards. They remained in Monaco during the Nazi occupation. Her husband died in 1942. After World War II, the baroness moved to England where she spent her remaining years. Orczy was a prolific writer and worked actively until her eighties. Her autobiography, "Links in the Chain of Life", was published in 1947.

Baroness Orczy died in Henley-on-Thames on November the 12th, 1947.


  • The Emperor's Candlesticks (1899)
  • In Mary's Reign, 1901
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1905
  • The Case Of Miss Elliott, 1905
  • A Son Of The People, 1906
  • I Will Repay, 1906
  • The Sin Of William Jackson, 1906 (Play, With Montagu Barstow)
  • In Mary's Reign, 1907
  • The Tangled Skein, 1907
  • Beau Brocade, 1908 (Play, With Montagu Barstow)
  • Old Man In The Corner, 1909
  • The Nest Of The Sparrowhawk, 1909
  • Lady Molly Of Scotland Yard, 1910 - Scotland Yardin Lady Molly
  • Petticoat Government, 1910
  • A True Woman, 1911
  • The Duke's Wager, 1911 (Play)
  • The Traitor, 1912
  • The Good Patriots, 1912
  • Meadowsweet, 1912
  • Fire In The Stubble, 1912
  • Eldorado, 1913
  • Unto Caesar, 1914
  • The Laughing Cavalier, 1914
  • The Bronze Eagle, 1915
  • A Bride Of The Plains, 1915
  • Leatherface: A Tale Of Old Flanders, 1916
  • Old Scarecrow, 1916
  • A Sheaf Of Bluebells, 1917
  • Lord Tony's Wife, 1917
  • The Man In Grey, 1918 - Harmaapukuinen Mies
  • The Leaque Of The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1919
  • His Majesty's Well-Beloved, 1919
  • Castles In The Air, 1921
  • Nicolette, 1922
  • The Triumph Of The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1922
  • The Honourable Jim, 1924
  • Les Beaux Et Les Dandys De Grands Siècles En Angleterre, 1924
  • Unravelled Knots, 1925
  • Pimpernel And Rosemary, 1925
  • The Miser Of Maida Vale, 1925
  • A Question Of Temptation, 1925
  • The Celestial City, 1926
  • Unraveled Knots, 1926
  • Sir Percy Hits Back, 1927
  • Skin O' My Tooth, 1928
  • Blue Eyes And Grey, 1929
  • Adventures Of The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1929
  • Marivosa, 1931
  • In Te Rue Monge, 1931
  • A Child Of The Revolution, 1932
  • A Joyous Adventure, 1932
  • The Way Of The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1933
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel Looks At The World, 1933
  • A Spy Of Napoleon, 1934
  • The Uncrowned King, 1935
  • Sir Percy Leads The Band, 1936
  • The Turbulent Duchess: H.R.H. Madame Le Duchesse De Berri, 1936
  • Divine Folly, 1937
  • No Greater Love, 1938
  • Mam'zelle Guillotine, 1940
  • Price Of Race, 1942
  • Will-O'the-Wisp, 1947


The Legion of Honour, 1918 (play, adaptation of Orczy's novel A Sheaf of Bluebells)
Leatherface, 1922 (play, with Caryl Fiennes, adaptation of Orczy's novel)

Links in the Chain of Life, 1947 (autobiography)

© words Copyright 2000-2007 All rights reserved.