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12 days of Christmas in the Story of Ross and Demelza Poldark (Pt1- The Early Years)


Journeying through the Poldark saga it becomes evident that Christmas and to some degree the New Year was often earmarked as a significant time period in it. Though the twelve books cover thirty three years of Ross and Demelza's married life, naturally Graham did not cover each and every one of their Christmases. However, this blog is a train journey through 8 of the 12 Christmases which he did refer to in some significant detail in the first seven books before the time jump. The remaining ones in the last five books after the jump are covered in part 2 covering the later years, here

Whether it was to mark a celebratory turning point, a time of crisis or some kind of resolution, Graham seemed to use Christmas as a point where there would be some key development in the overall love story of Ross and Demelza. 

Ross - Book 1

December 1787 -  A Triumph, A Happy Couple, A Perfect Ending 

Location: Trenwith

This Christmas in the story is right at the end of the first book. It was one of the most special in terms of showing how far Ross and Demelza had come in their lives in contrast to how they were at the start of the story. As newly weds of six months it was very celebratory and triumphant. Having faced rejection 
by his then love Elizabeth in favour of his cousin Francis Poldark, the story began with Ross as a depressed and desolate man. As if he were the wrongdoer her sharp responses to him on this and a sour confrontation with her at her wedding left him riding home feeling that 'This was the darkest hour of all.' However in speaking of his plot to a woman's magazine in 1977 Winston Graham referred to the key development as the "..engaging and vital character of Demelza, who by now was intent on altering the shape of the story." (*)  Certainly Demelza changed  Ross's life and for this Christmas event Ross debuted her at Trenwith as his wife with Graham concluding that 'It had been Demelza's evening.' Whilst he also mentioned that 'She had come through a searching test with remarkable success.', the other major test was whether Ross's love for Demelza would be shaken when face to face with his first love Elizabeth. At this point in the story and at the end of this first book Demelza had cause to be joyful as she thought that  'After a whole seven hours in Elizabeth's company he still wanted me at the end...After a talk all to themselves with her making eyes at him like a she-cat, he still came to me.' And later that night they made love. 

Indeed Graham wrote that by the end of the night of Demelza's first visit to Trenwith that Christmas that Ross felt that 'Their relationship at that moment had no flaw.' More importantly having started the story a depressed man the final scenes of the book mark the perfect turn around for them both, as Graham wrote 'And Ross again knew himself to be happy -in a new and less ephemeral way than before.' (*1) It almost made for a perfect ending to what could have been a finished story there at this Christmas time. As the titular character Ross had finally found a love that he privately thought gave him a '...lovely happiness...(that was) in some new way the greatest of all.' Since Winston Graham did confess to the Argos weekend magazine in 2001 that his intention was to write a love story with a 'happy ending', it is most likely that this narrative at the end of this very first book was perhaps a foreboding of where Ross's heart and love would lie when this was eventually challenged during the course of the remaining story to come.

Demelza - Book 2 

December 1789- Christmas calm before the stormy years ahead

Location: Nampara 

Christmas 1788 was skipped over in this book and though Christmas 1789 also seemed pretty uneventful for Ross and Demelza, it appeared to be one that was setting up for high drama to come. Graham wrote that 'Christmas passed quietly inside Nampara and out....' but as if he were forewarning the reader he also added that this was '-the calm before the storm.'  Following the gloomy aftermath of the Carnemore Copper Company collapse, it started quite positively with a letter from Verity arriving at Nampara on Christmas Eve. With an update on her progress since Demelza had brought her and Captain Blamey into contact and Verity's decision to elope with him, Verity now wrote "Well my dear I am very happy in my new life." Ross then saying to Demelza "So your experiment prospers more than mine." seemed to demonstrate a loving support of his wife despite the fallout from this elopement and Demelza's part in this. As well as this it demonstrated an almost peaceful resolution to her deceptive but well intentioned efforts in this story line. But a storm was brewing both theoretically and literally. Ross continued to struggle financially following the demise of his company and the next years would see them face hardships that would seriously test though not ultimately break their marriage or kill their love for each other. 

Goodbye Julia

Just to add more to their woes, this Christmas period really did set up for the first biggest trauma and blow to the Ross and Demelza marriage in the death of Julia due to contracting putrid throat disease which at that time was rife in Cornwall. How this came to be was an additional and key stressor in the Ross and Demelza love story. With the understanding that there was up to a two week incubation period for this disease to show symptoms Graham spent some time seed sowing as he particularly highlighted that two weeks before Julia died a Christmas choir had turned up at Nampara while Ross was out. Not keen to let them inside Demelza politely did so and served them drink and cake after their songs. However Graham also added extra detail in specifying that the choir were 'ill-clad and undernourished every one, and only eight in all, for two of the choir were ill with the ulcerous sore throat and three were sick with influenza....'  Of course with Demelza showing symptoms just days after she went to Trenwith to care for the sick Poldarks who had it there, it is unlikely this is where she picked it up and even more improbable that she would then pass it on to Julia who was not with her at Trenwith and that she too would show symptoms that quickly too. The post '9 Big Death of Poldark- Julia Poldark Pt1 (A Mystery of Blame)' explores further the idea that the common presumption of infection at Trenwith is not actually a certainty. 

Despite the likelihood of both Demelza and Julia contracting the Putrid Throat earlier in December and possibly through one of the choir members not knowing themselves to be infected, the suspicion that it was her trip to Trenwith seemed another clever twist that Graham added to apply more underlying marital pressure on the Ross and Demelza love story. This was on this idea that Demelza saved Geoffrey Charles but at the expense of Julia's life. 
Fortunately as explored in the upcoming blog 'Love in Loss', though Ross made this possibly incorrect assumption he did not hold any resentment towards Demelza. Still it was the consequences of this loss that would cast a shadow on their lives going forward. To their mounting woes and financial stresses Ross's reckless behaviour on Hendrawna beach in his grief for his loss added more gloom to their life together with a harrowing court trial. In contrast to the previously joyous Christmas celebrating a new and special love, this one set Ross and Demelza for a challenge in their love story. With increasing tension and a slight detachment between them on account of their various anxieties and upsets, Ross's love for Demelza would be pitted against the now more appealing allure of Elizabeth where Ross's idealism of her would provide the perfect escapism from his misery. 

Jeremy Poldark - Book 3

December 1790 -A Christmas Seduction, A Red Dressed Ex and a Spirit of Confusion

Location: Trenwith 

The Christmas of this book was significant as following on from Graham's set up in the Christmas before, Elizabeth's role as a threat to Ross and Demelza's love was ramped up a knotch. The lowness of spirit in Ross which stemmed mainly from the loss of Julia that last Christmas made him more susceptible and put Elizabeth in a good position to take advantage. She definitely became more 
active in her role as a temptress to renew Ross's feeling for her and to 'rebuild her ascendancy' over him. In this she was presented by Graham as being on the lookout for this as she prodded Dwight over Ross and Demelza's happiness together and created an opportunity to pursue her mission by inviting Ross and Demelza to Trenwith for Christmas a second time. 

As is documented in the blog A Touch of Red Dress seduction, Elizabeth did specifically dress to impress Ross this Christmas period. She also initiated some flirtatious talk with him in the kitchen. There she also initiated physical touch by backing in to him and which led Ross without her protest to put his arm round her in a moment of sexual tension. On a positive note Ross cut this moment short and whilst it did seem to re-opened his more pressing interest in Elizabeth and flashbacks to this moment, (which only highlights that Elizabeth's actions here were not at all trivial), he still did remain uncertain of his feelings towards her, her ability to provide him with the 'flawless love' he felt he had with Demelza and it exposed that at the least he was certain of his love for Demelza. Nevertheless this Christmas event changed the battlefield dynamics between Demelza and Elizabeth in their love triangle with Ross. It reinjected the drama and a strong element of uncertainty for the reader as to whether Ross and Demelza's love would bear the challenge Elizabeth presented and instead hold strong in the end.  

Warleggan - Book 4 

December 1792 - Seed of a Provocation by an Ex (Elizabeth Poldark)

Location: Falmouth (The Blameys)

Christmas this year was not particularly eventful for Ross and Demelza other than to sow seeds for the upcoming head to head between Ross and Elizabeth on May 9th and therefore to bring the 'Demelza-Ross-Elizabeth' triangle to a climax before its descent and its eventual end. 

Christmas was at the Blameys
 this year as Ross and Demelza decided to accept Verity's invitation to spend Christmas with her and her husband. Graham wrote that in respect of Francis, Verity '...had taken his death hard: and as Demelza pointed out, it was their duty to be with her on this first Christmas after.' Although Elizabeth agreed to attend too, cancelling this she told Ross she would instead be with her ill mother at her family home of Cusgarne. Graham later and rather ominously reported that in the end 'Elizabeth did not spend Christmas Day at Cusgarne after all.' With her mother better than she thought and an incredibly persistent George Warleggan she ended up spending Christmas at his home of the Cardew estate. Graham's writing indicated that this was the start of George seeking to court Elizabeth with a wish to marry her. Though Elizabeth was not aware of this at this date, it certainly was the beginning of her allowing him to court her and also for him to then bestow financial favours on her. Elizabeth hid this change of Christmas plan from Ross and would continue to hide and be dishonest with Ross about her involvement with George. The reason and significance of this of course was that she knew George to be Ross's greatest enemy. 

In these Christmas occurrences this christmas, the seed was sown for Ross to later feel Elizabeth's secret courtship of George and her initially covert engagement to him to be her greatest betrayal of him. It would ignite a rage in Ross that would fuel his greatest offense to Elizabeth and unfaithfulness to Demelza. Graham cleverly weaved in text which emphasised the insult to Ross from his perspective when he wrote that whilst Elizabeth was at Cardew with George, Ross was eating Christmas dinner at the Blamey's, staring out across the Falmouth Harbour consumed with guilt for Elizabeth's circumstances. He thought of how he could be of help to her. In particular ' he might discharge his own ethical debt to Elizabeth and to Geoffrey Charles.' It is this that saw him making arrangements through Pascoe straight after the New Year to make an anonymous payment to her. This would be the return of Francis's £600 invested in Wheal Grace mine. He would later disbelieve Demelza's hints that Elizabeth was taking favours offered to her by George saying "I've no doubt he would be if she would let him. But she will not." He also revealed his thinking that his £600 gift to her would "...have the effect of strengthening her hand against him." Therefore whilst this Christmas seemed uneventful, it was actually quite important in setting up the backstory for Ross's feelings of betrayal and the rage that saw the culmination of the love triangle in the Ross and Demelza love story. 

December 1793- A Declaration and Reconciliation of True and Real Love

Location: Nampara

If the two Christmases before were about Elizabeth pulling Ross to fall back in love with her, ascending over his wife in his mind, then setting up a betrayal that would provoke him to monstrously force himself on her and also to be unfaithful to Demelza, then Graham used this Christmas to bring Ross and Demelza back together. This evidently was his 'happy ending'.  

Ross and Demelza kiss and make up on a cliff finale of season 2
Making Christmas more of a treat the seven month lead up to it was dire for Ross and Demelza as it followed the fall out from Ross's night with Elizabeth on May 9th. It is later in the twelfth book 'Bella Poldark' that Ross ultimately referred to this as a rather unromantic experience as he described this in his thoughts as "....a few minutes of lust, anger and frustration." This only serves to highlight what he had almost lost in his enduring and all consuming love of Demelza for something that did not in the end quite match or exceed this. So this Christmas was a truly healing moment for them. In the month before R
oss appeared to procrastinate in declaring his feelings for Demelza whilst also against a wall she too had put up. But Ross was clearly inspired by his match making for Dwight and Caroline where he used Demelza's own philosophies about what matters in life and the things worth the having. Ross's revelation to Demelza that when things had come clear for him following his night with Elizabeth, "...the one sure feeling that stood out was that my true and real love was not for her but for you."effectively brought the the love triangle to an end and confirmed Demelza as his love and the one he chose from his heart. Graham re-emphasised this in an interview for the Daily World from Opelousas, Louisiana in 1978 where he stated that the four books "...completed a cycle; the relationship between Ross and Elizabeth." And romantically, as the evening ended with Demelza wishing she had a gift to offer Ross in return for his to her, to close the book Ross said "It's nearly twelve. Let us sit up awhile and call it Christmas tonight." That was their Christmas gift.

was evident as confirmed in the next book 'Black Moon' that this Christmas and the romance of it was far from over for them that night. Like their first Christmas in their story it was an incredibly special one. It was a full circle moment whereby their first Christmas established Demelza as Ross's great new love. However this was against the shadow of another rival for Ross's love and attention that was Elizabeth. The full circle for this Christmas was that despite Elizabeth's attempts to lure Ross away from Demelza and ascend in his mind over her, his experience with her on May 9th paved the way for him to reconfirm that Demelza was indeed his real and great love. Ross clarified in an epic and romantic reconciliation with Demelza that she was his one 'true' and only 'real' love and that his love was for her and not Elizabeth. That made it a joyous 'happy' ending as not only was this a renewal of their love for each other but finally for them both it was an end to Ross's internal conflict over loving two women and a much needed declaration for Demelza to treasure. This is even though the consequences of May 9th would not free them completely from this past or the insecurities it brought with it for good future story content. 

Black Moon - Book 5

December 1794- Fruits of a Renewed Love/Fumes of a New Enemy

Location: Nampara 

What is particularly lovely about this Christmas for Ross and Demelza is that in keeping with their last Christmas in 'Warleggan' it represents and repeated the renewal and a celebration of their love. It links to their Christmas in the last book as they were still enjoying its lasting joy and romance. In their early scenes of 'Black Moon' Graham shared that even though it was feverish 'The warmth of their reconciliation had been full of passion, had brought them closer in some ways than they had ever been before, all defences down.' 
Ross and Demelza Poldark Christen Clowance
Demelza announced that in light of all their loving since the last Christmas, she was pregnant. Contrasting from Jeremy who was born in a time of great stress in their lives, Clowance was the reverse as she was conceived when her parent's love had been renewed and revitalised. Born in early December, it seems that Graham intentionally earmarked Christmas day to celebrate the Ross and Demelza love story and therefore the fruit of it with a new baby. With a small party of friends and Caroline, Verity and Sam as God parents Clowance was actually christened on Christmas day!  

Graham also used this Christmas to emphasise the divide between Ross and his old love against the new or revamped theme of the Poldarks versus Warleggans.
Braving the slightly frosted and slippery ground and escorted by Caroline, Ross made a Christmas day visit to Agatha at Trenwith. This only reinforced the 'crowning indecency'
 to Ross in Elizabeth's decision to marry George and thereby in giving him control of  the Poldark estate. His family estate. It was this reason that he was only able to make this visit there as both Elizabeth and George were out of town. However, the new theme would impact Ross and Demelza's story and their family onwards. Especially with the intermingling of the then ill fated Drake and Morwenna love story that George and Elizabeth would seek to frustrate and that Ross in particular would get dragged into.

The Four Swans - Book 6

December 1796- A New Love Triangle - Tables Turned on Ross

Location:  Nampara 

There is no mention of what Christmas was like for Ross and Demelza in December 1795 but for 1796 it seemed a calm Christmas. Reported as a beautiful winter period, on 21st December they enjoyed a bath/swim with Jeremy and Clowance on the beach in water that was described as icy. Other than this Graham told that for Christmas there was the one break in the good weather with snowflakes and a howling easterly gale. Without adding major details of the festivities Graham still used this Christmas period to develop his love story in the new love triangle 
for this second set of books before the time jump. This was the 'Ross-Demelza-Hugh' love triangle. He wrote that Ross noticed a slight change in Demelza. He had noticed this from September to then. The reader would know this was due to Demelza being told by Jud (Prudie in the 2015 television adaption) that Ross had met up with Elizabeth. Since he had never told her of this himself this made it suspicious and worrying for her. As covered in the blog  A fall from grace in a fall for Hugh Armitage' though it was not the main reason, it would be this secret meeting that would factor in to Demelza's infidelity with Hugh and which would be  '....a corrosive eating away at her normal contentment...' and that in the moment before her indiscretion '...had come suddenly to the forefront and on the instant eroded her will.' Naturally Demelza's emotional investment with a new love interest would mean that the tables were turned in this love story and it was Ross's turn to experience insecurities about Demelza's love for him and competition for this.  This is what he was experiencing a little this Christmas. In a sense Demelza was too based on crossed wires and her own past insecurities.

The Angry Tide - Book 7

December 1798- Ross's Tide is Building

Location: Nampara 

The Nampara grounds were bustling for Christmas with many family and friends. Seven and half year old Jeremy had friends over and there was also Verity, Andrew Blamey and his son. But for this Christmas Graham got into the heart of the central theme. This was Ross's Angry Tide in this new love triangle with Demelza and the now late Hugh Armitage. Here it was building and Graham engineered for the Blameys to be witnesses to that. Having returned from his months away at parliament, though he and Demelza were continuing on in love together and trying to forgive and forget as they had previously done, Ross was still carrying a lot of hurt and anger from what he felt was Demelza's defection to Hugh Armitage. This Christmas highlighted that an anger did exist in him, bubbled under the surface and that when it rose up in spurts he directed it away from her to other outlets. 

During a walk with Ross, Captain Blamey (Dwight in the 2015 television adaption) witnessed Ross suddenly and angrily dismantle the Warleggan boundary gates and throw strips of it in the sea. Noticing that something was not quite right with him over Demelza, Verity had a heart to heart talk with Ross. It is there that he seemed to admit that he had "...thoughts and feelings surge up an angry tide. And it is hard, sometimes control the tide." Again whilst this was clearly a time of crisis in the Ross and Demelza love story Graham would ensure that this would come to ahead just in time ahead of the next Christmas where he would bring them back together in a touching reconciliation.

December 1799- A Second Happy Ending.- Living, Loving & Learning.

Location:  Nampara 

Remembering that Graham's 'happy ending' intentions for the last of his first four books 'Warleggan' was a Christmas finale reconciliation with Ross and Demelza, it is no surprise that for the last of his second set being 'The Angry Tide' he wrote another happy ending reconciliation. At that point he had done this thinking it was his last book in the saga. However rather than this reconciliation being over the key days of Christmas the reconciliation and the development of Elizabeth's death (which seemed to inspire what seemed like a further resolution in the Ross and Demelza love story), was in mid December and therefore the lead up to Christmas and the New Year. Still it is extremely worthy of a mention as it tied up Ross's unresolved issues from the Christmas before and there is a great significance and purpose of placing it in the approaching Christmas/end of year timing. Graham seemed to use Ross to emphasis this too when he wrote Ross telling Demelza after and in respect of Elizabeth's death that "We are at the end of a century, at the end of an era..." When Demelza suggested that it was just a date, he pressed "No, it isn't. Not for us. Not for anybody; but especially not for us. It's -it's a watershed...."  

For this 'The Angry Tide' finale the reconciliation and resolution to the 'Ross-Demelza-Hugh' triangle would put a gloss on Christmas 1799 as well as meaning that they could both move to the next era not really with a fresh start but certainly for Ross a fresh outlook on his love with Demelza and his recent struggles and inner upset about her indiscretion. Just beforehand and f
ollowing Monk Adderly's lusting after Demelza and trying to make a cuckold of Ross, Ross had submitted to his 'Angry tide'. In his unresolved anger Ross killed him in a duel. A disappointed and upset Demelza returned home from London without notice to Ross. Their reconciliation as referenced in more detail in the blog 'Love To Forgive And Forget' includes one of the most beautiful and touching dialogues from them, where they agreed to keep on 'living', 'learning' and most of all 'loving' each other. It's a testament to them that they could do this before Elizabeth's death had anything to do with this. But having already been told by Demelza in 'The Four Swans'  that whilst she did not exactly know her feelings for Hugh Armitage that "All I know is that I love you."Graham managed to use Elizabeth's death to help offer Ross a further resolution and attitude of mind to take into the next era.
Not only did Elizabeth's death represent the physical death of his old love and a woman he said he had once loved, but it unearthed what he called a 
'selfish grief' and to explain further that his main fear was that he would find losing Demelza "...intolerable, unthinkable, beyond bearing." This emotional outpouring and in a sense Elizabeth's death provided a resolution for Ross to settle any remaining anger he may have held when Demelza counselled him to embrace what they had together. She further advised him not to think about loss but instead to think that "We are alive-and together. We can't ask more. There isn't any more to ask."  Having previously agreed with Demelza they he would continue to 'live, learn and love' each other the additional and powerful message of gratitude in Demelza's message was a direct resolution to Ross's 'Angry Tide' and the last major issue within their love story. Essentially Elizabeth's death coupled with Demelza's words provided Ross with a message to just let go of the anger and to embrace that he had a wife who knew for sure that it was him she loved and he by then had know for years was his one true and greatest love of all. That was something to be happy about and to feel blessed for. From that perspective, in their love story this would have made the approaching Christmas 1799 have extra special meaning. If this had really been the last book of the saga it would have been and still in any case remains another satisfactory ending for them.   

For a look at the remaining 4 days of Christmas in the Poldark Saga after the time jump for the later years of the Poldark story click here

(*) Woman Magazine December 1977
(*1) Current Pan Macmillian edition Ross Poldark -Book 1

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