02 July 2014

The Making of a Lady

Upon becoming engaged to Lord James Walderhurst (played by Linus Roache in the 2012 film The Making of a Lady), Miss Emily Fox Setton (Lydia Wilson) settles at Palstrey, an estate 10 miles from the nearest village. Its new mistress is thrust into an unfamiliar lifestyle marked by seclusion and leisure to which she was not accustomed in her previous occupation as a servant. At their wedding breakfast, many guests shower Lord and Lady Walderhurst with congratulations, but it is Alec (James D'Arcy) and Hester Osborn (Hasina Haque) who occupy her mind long after the celebration ends. She acquires much knowledge about her husband's cousin and every bit is unfavorable. She witnesses the way her husband receives Alec with disdain and his aunt describes him as "spoiled". Moreover, she learns the land and accompanying title will pass to Alec if she fails to produce an heir to her estate. Nevertheless, Emily is foolishly compelled to favor him.

"I liked your cousin and his wife," Lady Walderhurst says to her husband after the guests depart.

"Indeed," Lord Walderhurst replies.

"And I feel for them," she adds referring to the Osborn's financial instability. "Their circumstances are difficult." 

"Alec has brought much of it upon himself," he explains. "Don't concern yourself with it, please." 

Shortly afterwards, Lord Walderhurst resolves to go to India in military service. "In the meantime, let the Littons guide you. He knows me and the house. He's loyal," he says of his butler and housekeeper (Malcolm Storry and Claire Hackett). In her husband's absence, Lady Walderhurst has ample opportunity to put the knowledge she has obtained about the Osborns to good use in her judgment of them.

Alec and Hester visit the estate unannounced. They bear a letter allegedly from Lord Walderhurst asking Alec to watch over Palstrey's new mistress. She invites the pair to stay for lunch. Alec purposefully drops his napkin and humiliates the butler by forcing him to retrieve it. Not only does the host accept this behavior, she rewards it by inviting her guests to live with her. 

Alec finds an opportunity to get his host alone in the mud room. “When you hold a gun, people treat you with respect,” he says reminiscing of his career in the military prior to his complications with malaria. He urges Lady Walderhurst to take up a gun. He draws close to her as he positions it in her hands and unexpectedly loads it. “Put the cartridges in the cylinders. Look between the barrels. That's how you aim,” he says in this simulation of a shooting lesson. “Now all you have to do is press the trigger.” He presses himself against the firing end of the gun and lingers there for a moment. Lady Walderhurst breathes a heavy sigh of relief when Alec abruptly removes the gun from her hands and returns it to the case.

Lady Walderhurst finally acts on her suspicions about the authenticity of the letter allegedly penned by her husband. She checks the letter against a sample of Lord Walderhurst's handwriting, confirming that it is unauthentic. 

One morning she is awakened by the sound of hooves against the stone pavement. She emerges in her dressing gown to witness Alec boldly astride her husband's horse. "You don't mind if I borrow one of your horses, do you?" he asks without giving her opportunity to respond. He disappears down the long path as Mr. Litton appears to witness the act. 

"No one rides that horse but His Lordship," says Mr. Litton. "If he's well enough to ride, he's well enough to leave. Lord Walderhurst asked me to look after you. They must leave. They must go."   

Lady Walderhurst confronts Hester with the forged letter. During their conversation, she learns that Alec is also abusive to his wife. This is the tipping point, the moment when Lady Walderhurst should have reached within herself and found the confidence to dispel the Osborns from the estate for its protection. Instead, she unwisely sets off by herself in search of her husband's cousin. She greets him with her resolution that he and his wife may extend their stay. He feels at liberty to deny her authority and forces her to endure the ride back to the house on horseback. She begs him to stop, confessing that she is pregnant. He does not heed. Upon their return, he lies to the others in claiming he was not aware of the pregnancy. It becomes evident that Alec plans to stay at Palstrey, not as a guest but as its owner.

Lady Walderhurst is forced to negotiate, deceive, and physically fight the enemies she has invited through her own door. At the end of her struggle she had grown to be enduring, enlightened, assertive, and perceptive - all qualities achieved on her ascension to womanhood.


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