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The Loving And Besotted Fiancé Pt3 (The Real Francis Poldark)

The second post (being the last one in this series) that addressed 'The Real Francis Poldark' explored Francis's position in the story as a bad and unfaithful husband but essentially how this was for a time and was rooted in his disappointment of expectation in his marriage with Elizabeth. In a sense it was this disappointment that fed most of Francis's vices which surfaced in the middle of his story arc. However, it would be wrong to completely write off Francis as a bad romantic partner and husband for Elizabeth throughout his courtship and marriage with her. W
hilst the saga narrative of Francis seems to lull the reader to give him this general unfavourable label, as shown in that last post, below the surface there is more to this and there were certainly periods where he had the makings of a good husband for Elizabeth and did actually demonstrate this. Since the previous posts have focused on his failings, this post focuses on the positive indications of Francis before his marriage and as a fiancé. The next will focus on the same, but during the marriage. Therefore this would be in the early period of  the marriage and some years before his death brought the marriage to an end. 

It Started With Infatuation And Love 

There is no doubt that to begin with Winston Graham wrote Francis as a character that was initially in love with Elizabeth both before and after 
he was engaged to her. Readers can assume that despite the more functional attitude toward marriage of that day, that it is more than likely that Francis entered into marriage with Elizabeth in good faith and with the intent to be a 'good husband'. That intention therefore included to be faithful and devoted to her, and naturally he wished to have a happy married life where she would equally be loving and faithful to him too. That would include being faithful and loving to him in spirit as well as in deed. Readers eventually find that in respect of Elizabeth she failed to do this in spirit just as much as he had failed as a consequence to do this in deed. However before Elizabeth became 'the loved but the unloving, the Galatea who never woke..' (as Dwight had deduced from a suicidal Francis in the third book 'Jeremy Poldark'), in the blooms of early love Verity had testified to Ross that Francis was genuinely taken with Elizabeth when he first met her and that once he did meet her "He could talk of nothing else." Also, as Francis had been told by Elizabeth that she had been friendly with Ross, Verity commented of her own belief that neither Elizabeth or Francis had wanted to be unfair to him by getting together with each other behind his back while he was away at war. Instead her explanation that it was "..just one of those things." is important in adding to the narrative. It suggests a helplessness on their part where they found each other irresistible and as if there was a magnetic pull towards each other that they could not fight. Indeed through Verity's eyes and her report it is conveyed to the reader that Francis and Elizabeth's attraction to each other was real and that it was so strong that it was beyond their control to want to be together. So in respect of Francis, Verity told Ross “I- know Francis, and he could not help himself.” Essentially Francis was besotted! 

Of course in a day when even men married with motives which often excluded love, or did not prioritise this, Francis falling in love with the woman he believed Elizabeth would be, and that she would stay as, was a good foundation and promising of a happy marriage.

Compatible Lovers In A Sweet But Unwritten Courtship

In respect of Elizabeth and Francis's love connection, it is significant that Elizabeth herself simplified to Ross hers and Francis's instant attraction to each other whilst Ross had been away at war. She essentially verified and corroborated Verity's now proven reliable observations. Elizabeth explained to Ross that from when she first met with Francis she found that she and him had the same tastes and that they fell in love with each other. This points to early compatibility that Elizabeth felt she had with Francis. It would be fair to think that at the time of her teenage romance with Ross, that him, who was reported to be a wild character, (such that he was sent to war to escape charges for assault on excise men and smuggling while having accrued gaming debts), was on the face of it a man that was not so apparently compatible with Elizabeth. Most readers would agree with good reason that although Francis and Elizabeth's compatibility was lost along the way of their marriage, that based on how Elizabeth's character was fleshed out by Graham, that her apparent incompatibility with Ross at the beginning of the story, is a true assessment and one that actually persists throughout the saga. 

Indeed w
ith Francis described by Graham as being '...compact, slim and neat, with fresh complexion and clear features of handsome youth...' as well as being '...carefree, easy-going, self-confident.....',  the narrative of Francis described as the 'fair Poldark' and Ross as the heavy lidded 'dark Poldark' is set to help readers to understand why Elizabeth was unfaithful to Ross while he was at war and why she gravitated to Francis in his absence. He did not do so by setting Francis up as a character Elizabeth could only be interested in for his money and his estate. That was clearly done for her third suitor, George Warleggan. Francis was quite clearly set up as the 'full package' for Elizabeth, with a large estate, money (at the time), but also good looks and a personality that she was drawn to, with this being a key aspect of what Elizabeth fell for. Graham draws a clear distinction with Elizabeth's decision to marry George against her decision to marry Francis, as he wrote that she agreed to George's proposal in 'defeat' and having considered the price of marriage to him was having to deal with the 'problem of George'. That was because whilst he had money and estate in abundance, he did not have a character and personality that she fell for or felt any attraction and affection like she did with Francis. With Francis, for Elizabeth there was no feeling of defeat and most would agree that on paper Francis as a husband did make perfect sense both practically and romantically for Elizabeth over Ross. Also it is the case on reflection that had Francis not encountered money problems on account of his mine eventually providing no ore and Elizabeth becoming 'obsessed' with her first child as Graham had narrated and seemingly channelling all her love to him with little left for her husband, then this assessment would probably have held. Even if the romance died off later on as a consequence. 

So it would be wrong to pursue the idea that at the early stage in the story, that Elizabeth was lying to Ross about her attraction and compatibility with Francis over him, or to suggest that otherwise she was confused due to her instead feeling herself deep down to be more in love with Ross. This is because as further self verification in 'Black Moon', when speaking of whether she had married Francis for love, Elizabeth told Morwenna "I married for what I thought was love....". Though she went on to say that this did not last for 12 months, this comment from her confirms that at the time, and indeed for a while afterwards, regardless of any mixed or unclear feelings on Ross, Elizabeth ultimately felt herself to be in love with Francis and to have had greater feeling for him than Ross 
at this point. Therefore her comment to Morwenna accords with what she told Ross. It also accords with what Elizabeth told Ross in 'Warleggan' when she said she married Francis because she thought she love him 'better'. 

Francis The First Choice Ross The Second Best 

And so it is clear that Elizabeth had been truthful to Ross about her feeling for Francis over him and that this was according to what she felt and believed at that point in her life. This is quite significant. C
redit should be given to Francis that he had met Elizabeth's standard and made her feel loved by him and love of him. However not only that, but Francis had presented to Elizabeth in such as way that he had been able to steal Elizabeth's heart away from her childhood love and effectively made Ross second best. This 'second best' label on Ross can be argued as a position that was maintained by him for Elizabeth as she did only pursue Ross once again, only when she and Francis fell out of love with each other. This is addressed in the post 'Reaching out for Ross'. It is relevant that Graham did not narrate and Elizabeth swooning over Ross when after a year he visited Trenwith to attend Geoffrey Charles's christening. Having not seen Ross for a long time at that point Graham wrote that Elizabeth was happy with her life and thus whilst still happy in her marriage to Francis until it declined after that day, Ross was still presented as a 'second best' whose attendance for the event did not rattle and stir up any dormant love in her. Taking this and Elizabeth's early frame of mind into account and in respect of Francis as a man who shared her same tastes too, it does seem that Francis and Elizabeth had a genuine, sweet and romantic connection and courtship that followed with that energy. Perhaps if Graham had written more about their first meeting, their courtship and generally how they fell in love, then readers may then have understood more about why Elizabeth placed Ross as 'Second best' and the promise that Francis had shown but for unfortunate developments. It may also have inspired a little more investment in them as a couple and for the reader to more actively root for them to have overcome their challenges, remained together and in love. 

A Love Match-A Love Marriage To Be

Despite the unwritten story of the courtship of Elizabeth and Francis, at the point that the story begins in the book, they were at the tail end of their courtship and soon to be married. The indications from Graham's writing were that Francis adored Elizabeth and treated her well. This could be seen in little interactions that Graham shared with the reader. For instance, this was in documenting Francis's happiness with his bride to be. At their engagement dinner, when raising his glass to the room saying “I give you a toast myself. To my wife to be: Elizabeth!” Francis was presented as being clearly in very joyous and excited spirits, as well as brimming with pride. 

Equally in this engagement toast scene, Graham in the first edition of the first book wrote that 
as everyone chorused her name ‘Elizabeth smiled brilliantly up at her lover.’ Thus, Graham made it clear that this was a love match and that at this stage Francis and Elizabeth's relationship was very much one of mutual feelings of love for one another. Again as this was the case, this adds to the presumption that in their courtship Francis had impressed Elizabeth and her made fall for him. This is such that Graham wrote that he was her 'lover' and Elizabeth basked with happiness in looking at him as this. But as the concept of parental pressure to marry is addressed in the previous post 'Her Own Mind Or Her Parent's Mind?', it is these things together with the very reliable observer accounts from Verity in respect of Francis and Elizabeth's courtship, that debunk the idea of a marriage between them that was arranged. Or otherwise it certainly debunks the idea that either way Francis and Elizabeth's marriage was loveless from the outset and the idea that it was somehow forced upon them either half, or more than half against their will. It is clear that even if there was some element of bringing them together, that this resulted in a love match and a choice thereafter that they wanted to be together. Nevertheless, the account that both Elizabeth and Verity provided was of an unarranged first meeting when out in society and a mutual desire thereafter for a courtship and eventually an engagement. Again, this should have been a solid foundation for a successful marriage.

A Fiancé Full Of Adoration And Idealisation

As is the case with regards to Elizabeth and the misconstrued perception of her character, there is this theme of perfection and idealisation that surrounds Elizabeth’s character from the start. This is based on how other characters perceived her and also how she wished to be perceived. Interestingly this was not just limited to characters that were her love interests but other characters in her life as well. Still, this idealistic perception of Elizabeth was certainly one that Francis held in respect of her too. This was at least in the early stages of their marriage and before the breakdown of it after Geoffrey Charles's birth. As explored in the post 'The Untold Story of Francis Poldark (A Disappointed And Lonely Man)'  it was during Elizabeth's pregnancy with him and after his birth where Francis came to see the less loving side of Elizabeth. Thereafter as the saga progresses Francis came to see a less perfect and a colder side to Elizabeth too. It was this that was probably part of a greater thought process when not long before his death he told Demelza that whilst he did not want to speak badly of Elizabeth he thought that against Demelza's warm blood Ross should prefer her over Elizabeth and that Elizabeth was not perfect. However, before Francis's marriage to Elizabeth Graham demonstrated Francis's early idealisation and devotion of her, along with a belief that she was indeed perfect. 

Since the details of the Francis and Elizabeth marriage was not a main storyline Francis's adoration and idealisation of Elizabeth was apparent only through passing references. Again the post on 'The Untold Story of Francis Poldark (A Disappointed And Lonely Man)' also happens to address the period where Francis's idealisation of Elizabeth was being dismantled and where suddenly his references to her as an 'Angel' were being referred to in a sarcastic way together with references to her then being detached from him in an 'ivory tower'. However before then the adoration was evident and Francis believed in and defended an ideal vision of Elizabeth. For instance when at their engagement dinner Graham wrote Francis being quick to defend Elizabeth and to express his appreciation of his perceived perfection of her. There was the scene when at the dinner table and in a conversation with Elizabeth’s mother that points to this. There her mother was complaining that for the last twenty years she had been trying to make Elizabeth eat more and Charles called Elizabeth “child”. Charles went on to say “You’re thin as a wraith. Must get some blood into you.” When encouraged by Elizabeth’s mother to coax Elizabeth to eat more Francis said “I am very satisfied with her as she is.”

Indeed Elizabeth was often described in the books across the aga to be quite skinny. The impression given is that this was not necessarily in an appealing way and this might then explain why both her mother and Uncle Charles felt she needed to eat more. Certainly being described as being as 'thin as a wraith' suggests that this skinny frame did not appeal to them in an attractive way and that might then have been the same with the other characters who observed this. Clearly Francis was blind to this critical view of Elizabeth's shape and his statement in reply shows that he would defend her against perceived flaws which might even be somewhat validated as a commonly held view. It is a contrast to Ross expressing concern at times when Demelza lost weight and tactfully indicating that he preferred a little more weight on her. On the other hand Francis's dismissal of that idea supports the notion that at this time in their lives together, Francis did not see Elizabeth as having any faults where others may have. It highlights Francis's state of besottedness and showed that there was adoration by Francis of Elizabeth and that on top of that he was so comfortable and unashamed in his love of her that he did not care about conveying this. It is similar to how Mark Daniels was in respect of Keren Daniels where he proudly heaped compliments on her to his fellow man as if he held her high up on a pedestal. Whilst other male characters might have at some point declared their love, admiration and compliments of their wives to them in private, such as Ross to Demelza and Dwight to Caroline, without provocation or in a crisis they did not necessarily make gushing remarks on their near perfection in public to a crowd. 

Certainly the idea of Francis and Elizabeth having a sweet and romantic courtship where she was wooed by Francis is reinforced by his passing quips of adoration. But with the little time Graham allocated to the Francis and Elizabeth back love story, these interactions and exchanges can be brushed over in passing with the attention being on the main characters and storylines around Ross and Demelza, but with consideration they undoubtedly set their psyche at the time. Here, although this did not last, we see early devotion from Francis and that perhaps as a result of this he could see no wrong in Elizabeth. To him, at that point, Elizabeth was perfect in every way. Again this set the foundation for an ideal husband and one that had the capacity and the will to be husband material. 

A Thoughtful Loving Fiancé

At the start of the story Graham continued to show that Francis was thoughtful and caring of Elizabeth. For instance, such as when in the first and full edition of 'Ross Poldark' Francis was concerned for Elizabeth's upset at Ross's return at their engagement dinner. This highlights Francis's mindfulness of Elizabeth and that her upset, upset him. Graham gave no indication that there was a jealousy and selfishness that motivated that upset. He did not chose to give any clear indication at that point that this was related to Francis's own fears of any ongoing affection that Elizabeth might have had for Ross. Actually in the first instance, at this early stage, and contrary to the recent television adaption, there was no sharp narrative that Francis was greatly threatened by Ross's return. Graham's narrative at that point in Francis's relationship with Elizabeth and Ross on his return instead leant more towards his guilt that he had taken his cousin's love while he was at war. It was not for some years afterwards that with the decline of their marriage and observation of Elizabeth's behaviour, that Francis did begin looking at Ross as a threat.
In any case, regardless of any insecurities that Francis may have had just after their engagement, they did not come to the fore so that it was made a key point in the narrative. It was Graham a year later who narrated after Geoffrey Charles was born that Francis at that point was wrong to be jealous of Ross, who as stated here had previously been pushed to being second best by Elizabeth. Whatever Francis's feelings he clearly loved Elizabeth enough to put them to the side and prioritise her wishes over his. Therefore at Elizabeth's request, dutifully he still went to see Ross to encourage him to come to their wedding. Apart from wanting to remain on good terms with Ross and still having him close, this showed a selflessness by Francis and a willingness to face an awkward scenario in order to please Elizabeth. For this Francis should be given some recognition. In modern times he essentially honoured Elizabeth's wish to have her ex boyfriend (ex love) attend their wedding. Credit to Francis for this is just as one might give to Demelza or Ross if the other had asked for their former love to attend their wedding and on top of that made the other ask that person to attend!  

As for the early love and romance, Graham in the first full edition of 'Ross Poldark' described both Francis and Elizabeth as 'far too excited to relax,...' when they were in their wedding carriage coming back from the church on their wedding day. Nevertheless they engaged in playful banter together and Francis could not help hide his excitement in particular to show his carnal love for her. This was evidenced when immediately after they were married in church, in the first and full edition of 'Ross Poldark', Elizabeth replied to a playful comment from Francis. This was that she must now obey him in marriage. In reply she told him that he should ensure he loves her. He continued in a playful but excited spirit saying “That needs no mention. As I shall prove to you tonight, my dear.”  But as Elizabeth fished for compliments from him asking if he liked her dress, not only did he reply "I like it all. You are delicious.", but he went on to indicate his wish to shower her with beautiful gifts during the marriage saying "We will go to London. When we have more money I will buy you a dozen dresses like that. Your beauty will astonish London." As he went on to imply that the other women there did not compare to her, Graham followed through with this notion of his adoration and idealisation of her. But to add to the narrative, this was along side this indication of his intention to be a loving, appreciative and attentive husband for Elizabeth.

So all in all regardless of any belief that it was Elizabeth's mother that keenly pushed for the Francis Elizabeth marriage, and that she took great delight in giving Ross the news of their engagement, various tidbits provided by Graham and rehashed here in respect of their courting history and early interactions subtly do compound the narrative of their initial romance. As more than one thing can be true Elizabeth parents supported the marriage but Elizabeth did too. This is because this was a love marriage. Francis had caught Elizabeth but he had done so because she saw him as a catch too.  

s the book moves on it is clear that thereafter Graham would not continue to document in great detail the Francis and Elizabeth marriage by keeping a spotlight on it and providing a transparent story telling of it. However as supporting characters the important thing for the reader to know especially, was that to begin with for Francis and Elizabeth there was romance and love, and at least on Francis's part his attitude toward his wife to be, his gestures and words all offered the promise of a marriage where this romantic love of a woman he considered to be perfect should have been the bedrock of a solid marriage. This is if only it did not take two to make it work, but at this point Graham does not build a narrative of fault on Francis's part and the next post in the series called 'Francis The Good and Loving Husband' will focus on how Francis maintained the profile of a 'good husband' to Elizabeth in the first instance once they married and then after falling off this profile for reasons set out in previous posts he did well to restore this position before his death even if by then the romance and the love had been spent.

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