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Wedding blues for two? (Elizabeth: A Love for Ross Poldark -Pt4)

"Today is my day. I do want to be happy and to feel that those about me are the same."Elizabeth Poldark

Ross and Elizabeth Poldark dance together in season 1

This is the fourth blog in the exploration of whether Elizabeth Poldark (Nee' Chynoweth) ever loved Ross Poldark. It requires this examination because in all the seven books she neither explicitly stated that she loved Ross, or thought that she loved him and the narrator never ever confirmed this either. Coupled with her questionable behaviour towards Ross, the truth of this theory is a little mysterious and can only be resolved by looking at her thoughts, words and behaviour at various points in the story. Having looked at her initial failure to keep the faith with Ross by breaking her promise of marriage to him, the discreet and easily missed revelation later in the saga that in truth she had never thought he was dead, as well as the evidence that she was not pressured by her family into a marriage to Francis that she did not want herself anyway, there does not so far appear on this close examination to be an obvious real and true love for Ross by Elizabeth. That is based on the original story as documented in the books rather than any television adaption. Here Elizabeth's second encounter with Ross since he returned to Cornwall is scrutinised and it is in this that more can be seen of what Elizabeth was seeking from Ross, more on her feelings about her choice and a sneak peek about why she did not wait for Ross.

Wedding day blues for who?

Francis and Elizabeth at their Trenwith wedding receptionThe first edition print of Ross Poldark has additional text of Elizabeth and Francis's wedding day. It is interesting to see how she presented here and therefore indications of her mindset about marrying Francis instead of Ross.

Leaving the church in their wedding carriage Francis is typically charming, cheery and in good spirits. Equally typical, Elizabeth is stiff and poised in comparison. Though she did not look to be smiling, when Francis told her that she "..should laugh. Smile and sing, my dearest...", she insists "I am smiling." Though Francis himself is not necessarily convinced it becomes apparent as she comments on the 'lovely morning' and 'sunshine' that one of the things on her mind is her fear that the clouds may bring rain to spoil her wedding dress. Incidentally she then proceeds to quiz Francis about if he likes her dress along with informing him that her shoes were from London. Despite her more poised appearance Graham as narrator still described both Francis and Elizabeth as being 'Far too much on view and far too excited to relax...'. That may somewhat explains her stance most likely as a nervous or unrelaxed bride who was fully on show to everyone but under it all was nevertheless excited by her big day and concerned about her appearance. Further we are told that in the carriage '...Francis and Elizabeth sat stiffly beside each other, her right hand clasped in his left..." They engaged in some playful banter together as Francis reminded her of her duty to 'love, honour and obey' him but cheekily highlighted that she should focus on 'obeying' him. Elizabeth takes the jest in good spirits and replies that he himself should particularly note that of the 'love, honour and obey', he should ensure he 'love her'. The flirty newly wed banter continues with Francis's witty and suggestive reply that he had every intention of doing so that very night. So the scene is indeed set as one of a nervous, poised and typically vain bride  who was worried the weather would ruin her dress and her charming husband who was very much looking forward to enjoying the physical and carnal benefits of married life later that night. As for wedding blues on account of her marrying the wrong man and still being in love with her war trodden ex boyfriend, we are not given this narrative here. At this point the narrator does not indicate that Elizabeth is feeling sadness or in fact that she is feeling  any emotion linked with regret or longing for another man. The narrative however leaves it clear both before and after the wedding that Ross who was barely sober due to his excessive drinking in those periods, was definitely feeling an unhappy man. There is no doubt that of the two he was the one with the wedding blues.

Be happy (for me)- A second encounter 

Ross and Elizabeth Poldark talking at her Trenwith wedding reception in season 1
The eagle eyed reader would be on the lookout for Elizabeth's reaction to seeing Ross on her wedding day. After all, she had asked Francis to ensure that Ross attended it. Having not seen him herself since he unknowingly gate crashed her engagement party, the anticipation might have been all the more heightened. Seemingly Ross felt the same way as we are told that as he finally approached her at the wedding reception 'He had sought this encounter and now did not know what to say.'  It clearly was a big deal to both of them, though for different reasons. So Elizabeth's 'faint flush' upon seeing him may not have been from shyness or from a romantic effect he had on her, (like butterflies in her stomach) but possibly from coming face to face for a second time with the man she had so significantly let down and whom she feared might still be upset at her. Her 'deepening flush' described when he asked her if she would be staying the night at Trenwith is understandable given the nature of this question which put an emphasis on her wedding night with Francis and the location for this. But if there is any doubt about her resolve, purpose and intention in seeing and facing Ross with this encounter, it is addressed in Ross's observation of her stance and also in her next words to him. Ross observed her as having a 'quiet poised control of herself'It is probable this was just like her stiff poise earlier in the wedding carriage while holding Francis's hand. But Elizabeth words to Ross next are straight to the point and no nonsense when she says to him "Ross you must wonder why I wanted you to come today. But you had not been to see me and I felt I must speak to you." She went on to say that "Today is my day. I do want to be happy and to feel that those about me are the same. There is no time to explain everything; perhaps I could not explain it if there were. But I do want you to try to forgive me for any unhappiness I may have caused to you."  

Good will and Admiration

Elizabeth Chynoweth of Poldark waiting for Ross in Season 1
Remembering that it was in the latest television adaption of the BBC Poldark (2015-2019) where the new scene was included of Elizabeth waiting for Ross and with it implied here that she was hoping he would come and convince her not to marry Francis, the story of the books and Elizabeth's words to Ross here actually suggest the reverse. Elizabeth's stance here at her wedding and the premeditated nature of it with her implying she was expecting to see Ross earlier and had wanted to speak to him, does not bode well for a meeting that might have taken place earlier. That is based on what she did end up telling him here. It is clear that in fact she was seeking his support and good wishes for her decision to marry Francis and that he should be happy for her. It seems that her clear goal was to secure Ross's forgiveness in relation to unhappiness she had caused to him but it did not appear to be the case that any unhappiness she might have been feeling was related to her decision to marry Francis. Instead she links her unhappiness with her need to have Ross' forgiveness and good will for herself. This actually does make sense when considering what we are told of Elizabeth's character. In book three (Jeremy) the narrator advises that for Elizabeth in respect of  'admiration' 'She knew it (admiration) was her due, and the knowledge made it all the more harder to be without.' (3). Therefore this may explain Elizabeth's motivations here and it is likely that thinking she had offended Ross so much, and that in doing so she had lost his admiration and well wishes, and earned in its place his scorn and annoyance at her, had caused her some distress and unhappiness. At this point, and as will be touched on below, Elizabeth's focus in her encounter with Ross is to meet her own emotional needs rather than Ross's.  

A certain choice for Francis
Francis and Elizabeth Poldark
Of particular relevance and as explored in previous blogs including the one looking at whether Elizabeth's decision to marry Francis was not because she did not love Ross but because of parental pressure, Elizabeth also directly addressed this issue with Ross on this occasion. In respect of her decision to marry Francis instead of him, she said to Ross at this wedding day encounter that "What I have done I have done willingly and of my own mind. If you wish to criticise anyone you must criticise me." Therefore poor Ross was getting absolutely nothing back from Elizabeth to suggest that there was any uncertainty or even regret from her in anyway about rejecting him and possibly still loving or caring greatly about him. Again if she is to be believed then this definitely contradicts the idea that there was any family bullying or pressure for her to agree to a rushed wedding. 

A loving send off?

Ross and Elizabeth Poldark talking
Generally, based on her behaviour so far it might now be a struggle to think of Elizabeth as operating with an undercurrent of a great or still burning love for Ross considering the manner that she dealt with him. There were no kid gloves. Some might say that with her poised control coupled with her words that she was fairly brutal with him when taking all into account. One must remember that on this occasion it was Ross who was the wronged person. Yet someone ease dropping this conversation might easily think the reverse. In addition, despite this being Elizabeth's first encounter with Ross since he was shocked to catch her in the act of celebrating an engagement to his cousin whilst promised to him, her tone is not particularly apologetic or soothing. Instead as stated above the heart of her stated wishes appeared to be self interested as she sought to meet her own needs from him rather than to try and sooth his own despair. She sought his forgiveness and his happiness 'for her' and explained that she wanted this in order 'for her' to feel happy. Also one would think that Ross was finally entitled to an explanation but any guilt that she may have felt from the engagement party did not push her to ensure he received one. This was not either at this point or earlier by writing him a letter. It is interesting that even though he was the jilted lover, it seemed that she still felt that the onus was on him to do the leg work and come to see her to discuss her betrayal of heart. Yet even then, now that he has come to her wedding she still offered him no explanation to potentially provide some consolation. In fact at this wedding day encounter she still dismissed this idea of offering an explanation by brushing this off and saying that there was 'no time to explain' and perhaps she could not.

Elizabeth and Ross Poldark talking at TrenwithIt might be fair to say that with Ross having clung to Elizabeth's promise of marriage through two years at war and Elizabeth having at this point taken no steps to offer him a decent explanation to soften the blow of this all, that it was a tall order to expect his happiness and forgiveness on demand so quickly. So quickly. Two weeks after the shock of her engagement and added to that having had nothing from her since then to help him actually process how she could have done this to him and to use this to acclimatise and get his head around things and his broken dreams. It is probably also fair to say that her approach was therefore rather insensitive of his feelings and this would apply the same way if it had been a man who had done the same to his girlfriend in favour of marrying another girl, such as her cousin instead, and all this without warning or explanation.

The lack of regard for Ross's feelings, respect or understanding in her approach and her bluntness in dealing with him, whilst at the same time also making her requirements of him to meet her needs, do not seem a loving approach. They do not seem like the actions of a woman who has let down a person she genuinely still loves or cares greatly for, is riddled with guilt over, worried about how he will cope with this hurt and who desperately wishes to soothe his heartache. Instead this was a woman who was seeking Ross's blessing so that she going forward in her new life would do so with  less discomfort, feelings of guilt and therefore a weight off her shoulders.

Love no longer lives at the Heartbreak hotel

Morwenna Chynoweth in Poldark is broken hearted in her split with Drake Carne Season 3Morwenna and Verity's emotional states serve as a stark contrast when considering that Graham was indeed capable and did show the reader that a break up did not necessarily extinguish the love that had been felt by a character for another. Graham made sure to do so with their break ups. When writing of Morwenna's final conversation with Reverend Ossie where she reluctantly concedes an engagement already agreed to on her behalf by her guardians, Graham lets us know her heart and love is still with Drake. He tells us that Morwenna looked at a window and visualised Drake on his last visit to her  '..walking slowly down the drive, his figure dwindling until it disappeared beyond the gates. So had gone her love and her life.' (5) That therefore leaves no doubt with the reader that Morwenna was reluctantly moving on in her life while still in love with her ex. Then for reinforcement of this, whilst married to the reverend, sometimes at night in the same bed as him she would repeatedly say aloud, "I love Drake Carne" and 'Sometimes after an hour or two this repetition lulled her into sleep.' (6) Following Verity's parting with Captain Blamey and after he wounded her brother in a duel, we are told that 'Her romance was over, She felt faint and sick, and desperately tired of being alive. If death could come quietly and peacefully she would accept it.' Further we are told that for Verity,  Captain Blamey '...had taken a place in her heart, or taken a part of her heart, and nothing would be the same again.' 

Caroline Penvenen & Dwight Enys of Poldark reunite after he is freed from prison.Believing they could not now be together with their love interests, we knew that both Morwenna and Verity were still in love with their old love interests. For Caroline too, after she abandoned Dwight to London when he failed to show up on time for their elopement she later and reluctantly admitted to Ross that "Yes, I loved Dwight, if that's any joy to you." (4)  Although when he asked her whether she 'still' loved Dwight she replied sarcastically "Extravagantly." and lamented that she found Ross's questions embarrassing, it would be clear to most readers that her sarcasm covered what was masked as a lie but was a painful truth and her love for Dwight was ongoing. It was this that enabled and fuelled their reconciliation and her willingness to wait for him to return from the war. It was this love that had her desperate for his return and almost in tears and insisting on a wedding date for them when she lovingly embraced his war and prison torn self on his return.

In contrast, with Ross and Elizabeth, Graham made it clear that Ross still felt himself in love with Elizabeth after their breakup. We are told that after the engagement party appearance '...he had just suffered the worst blow of his life.' and that riding home after his conversation with Elizabeth at her wedding '...was the darkest hour of all.' Also even his next sighting of her six months later at the Easter Monday Truro ball had him 'struck afresh by her beauty and tortured by the thought of another man (Francis) having full enjoyment of her.' But in respect of Elizabeth's response Graham does not chose to document any heartache and ongoing love for him following her encounter with Ross or before them. He did not clarify that she was a woman in distress or that the source of any distress or uncertainty was a love for Ross frustrated by circumstance rather than just a worry that the rain might ruin her wedding dress and she needed his goodwill to be happy.  

A explanation at last- Was it love or was it youth?

A young Ross and Elizabeth Poldark
In terms of an explanation for her betrayal, at this point in the story, at her wedding all Ross had had from Elizabeth was her words at her engagement party "I must explain, I wrote you, but-." She had never completed this sentence or filled Ross in later on. Still slightly shell shocked this would be incredibly frustrating for most. Now on her wedding day Elizabeth still did not seem to want to make an effort to give Ross a proper explanation. Before their terse parting after which Ross left the wedding reception she said to him "Someday, I hope you will come to forgive me. We were so young. Later....." So there we have it. Once again she did not finish the sentence or fill him in later. However this was the sneak peak into Elizabeth's explanation as to why she did not keep her promise to marry Ross. "We were so young."

Elizabeth would be forced to expand on her 'we were so young' explanation later only because Ross pushes for this. This will be explored in the next blog on this topic but the idea that her age was a reason she could not keep her promise is one which very much undermines a story suggestive of her having a heartfelt and true love for Ross as Morwenna did for Drake two years younger at seventeen. Incidentally it is also another reminder that Elizabeth once again did not seek to give another reason or blame someone else for her decision to marry Francis. It is reinforced once again that it was her decision as she certainly owns it as hers.  

Elizabeth and Ross Poldark when they were young and Ross wearing his army clothesPutting forward this 'we were so young' explanation does give the impression that Elizabeth somehow felt that her promise to Ross was invalidated because of her age or possibly that this was a reason she had got it wrong in thinking she loved and should marry him in the first place. The suggestion then is that her young age somehow prevented her from knowing any better. There is a slight mocking and ironic taunt in this for Ross. His outlook at the time was quite the contrast to Elizabeth's. Despite her own protestations of youth, when he had approached her at the wedding reception Graham shares Ross's thought that he had come ' know her as she really was; vigorous within limits, more adult than most girls of her age...' (*). Of course this does begs the question of how well he really did know this Elizabeth but that is for another blog. Certainly the Elizabeth who was now two years older than when he had courting her may have been a different and changed one. In complete contradiction to his thought her case was that she had not really made the promise as a girl older than her years and 'more adult than most girls of her age'. Instead she felt it was when they 'so young'.

The question that Elizabeth's 'so young' explanation arouses is whether it is not possible to have a real and true love for another person at seventeen and thereafter up to nineteen. Though such a passionate and real love in young people is often written about in stories and in the history of time it has been known to happen, it would seem that Elizabeth was more or less saying that this was not the case with her and she had never felt a real love but had thought it was love simply because at that time she was 'so young'. Here the answer to the question of whether Elizabeth loved Ross seems so apparent. Elizabeth had indicated that she agreed to marry Ross only because she was young. She does not bring any current or old but now dead feelings of love into it. In that case this would explain why she did not have wedding day blues or that feeling that Ross had of his darkest hour. Of course knowing the story it is clear that Elizabeth goes on to have some challenging and terrible times ahead but they are for different reasons. 

The next blog in this series (Just a boy girl attachment) looks at Ross and Elizabeth's rather less polite showdown at Trenwith six months later. This is their third encounter where Elizabeth finally loses her cool composure to Ross who loses his own with her. As an intensely emotional exchange it provides more material to explore Elizabeth's love or lack of love for Ross Poldark.
(*) First edition text
(3) Book 3 Jeremy Poldark
(4) Book 4 Warleggan
(5) Book 5 Black moon (Book 3 Chapter 12)
(6) Book 6 The Four Swans -(Book 1 Chapter 2)

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