By Harvey J Adkins
It has been said that today it would be impossible to find an actress to play Angélique because Anne made her too perfect.
At first glance that sounds right because to me – and I think to many Angélique readers – she is a ‘perfect’ character, at least in the sense that we love her like no other.
However, I have come to a very different conclusion.
Other than in her physical appearance – which is about as good as it can get – the reason we love her so much is that she is not perfect at all.
In fact, she makes many mistakes in her life – some of which she ends up deeply regretting – and there are numerous examples of her less than ideal character traits.
There is the fact that, although she loved her son Charles-Henri, she really wasn’t a very good mother to him. The scene just before his brutal murder is especially poignant.
For probably the first time in his young life, Angélique actually plays with him during what may have been the happiest day of his life, since the boy idolized his mother in secret, while at the same time fearing her.
The problem is that up to that point, in her ambition to get ahead at court to ensure the positions of her other sons, she essentially left poor little Charles-Henri out in the cold.
When, in fact, she finally did show him what she felt for him, he hardly knew how to react – and a day later he was dead.
On the other hand, despite the fact that they had their problems, she was a very good and very human mother to Florimond and Cantor.
What she initially did with Honoring, though, was almost shocking. Fortunately, she was given a second chance with her little girl and made the best of it, but things could easily have turned out much differently.
Some of Angélique’s character traits work in her favour in some circumstances, but get her into a great deal of trouble at other times. Her headstrong impetuosity, for instance, both allowed her a diplomatic triumph in the case of Bahktiary Bey, and landed her in a harem in the Mediterranean.
She often used men to her advantage, not caring how much she might hurt them. Witness the Duc de Vivonne and Nicholas de Bardagne. And it was her desire for vengeance – though not unjustified – for the death of Linot that cost the Gutter Poet his head in a noose.
During her period of revolt, Angélique went through a long period in which she became a vengeful, hate-ridden woman, who admitted to Brother John that she didn’t even know her own self anymore. I could go on, as many who have read the books probably could.
But what makes Angélique so easy for us to love is that she is a basically good human being, constantly fighting for the best of what humanity is about. Her struggles and her victories, often against all odds, are inspiring.
She makes mistakes, yes, but she always picks herself up and moves forward. In other words, she grows – and it is that growth that is missing from many of the greatest characters in literature. If Angélique is the ‘perfect’ heroine, it is her imperfections that make her that way.
Harvey J Adkins is a microbiologist with the US Navy, currently stationed in Sicily, and was elected the first president of Friends of Angélique in 1999.