Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orci, or more familiarly known as Baroness Emmuska Orczy, was born on September 23rd, 1865, in Tarnaörs, Heves County, Hungary.
The family lived in their ancestral home; a great, rambling farmhouse on the river Tarna. Emmuska’s memories of the time were of sophisticated parties, sparkling conversation, joyful dancing and gypsy music. But soon fear of a peasant uprising meant their moving to Budapest and then 12 years of semi-nomadic travels across Europe.
Arriving in London in 1880 Emmuska, aged 15, was studying painting and, a few years later, had them chosen for exhibition at the Royal Academy.
London, she felt, was home, her spiritual birthplace.
Art school also provided a husband. It was here she met a young illustrator, Montague Barstow, the son of an English clergyman.
Fearful of mediocrity she plunged headlong into a writing career. And in the weeks after the birth of her son wrote the adventure classic for which she is so famed: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Originally rejected, after being re-worked as a successful play it was published as a book in 1905 and was an instant best-seller.
In the coming years they lived on an estate in Kent, a busy and tasteful London home and an extravagant villa in Monte Carlo. All the while Emmuska’s pen continued to write adventures for that elusive hero; Sir Percy Blakeney.
In 1934, the famed movie producer Alexander Korda turned it into a film starring Leslie Howard. The quintessential Pimpernel of everyone’s imagination now made visual reality.
Baroness Orczy at the age of 82, died on November 12th, 1947 at Henley-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire.