Biography of Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Baroness Orczy was born Emmuska Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy, an aristocrat in Hungary to a baron and former countess. Initially she lived a life of luxury and prestige, as her father occupied a place in the court of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Her father, Baron Felix Orczy, was a minor composer. He presided over the family estate 'Tarna Ors,' where great composers like Wagner, Liszt and Gounod used to visit.

However, when the Baroness' father attempted to modernize his tenants' farming methods, a peasant revolt broke out and the family fled -- first to Brussels, then Paris, and ultimately to London. There, the Baroness studied at the West London School of Art, where she fell in love with Montague Barstow. The two married in 1894, and ended up being creative collaborators. They produced a translation of Hungarian folktales which went on to great success, allowing Orczy to continue writing.

Orczy's first novel, The Emperor's Candlesticks, was rejected for being too short, so she went back to smaller scale work like magazine stories to gain the experience and confidence to return to novels. In 1902, she published The Emperor's Candlesticks in longer form.

Soon after, she wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel, which was also rejected. Orczy recast the tale in play form; it was a smash hit, allowing for the novel's successful publication in 1905. Orczy would go on to produce more than twenty Pimpernel sequels over the next thirty-five years, which came to define her legacy. But Orczy wrote a number of other stories, mostly involving espionage, police work, and upper-class heroes -- all recurrent themes in her work.

After 1910, Orczy and her husband moved to Monaco where they lived until World War II. Her husband died in 1942, and Orczy moved to England where she wrote into her 80s.

Study Guides on Works by Baroness Emmuska Orczy