Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress Summary and Analysis of Part 3

In the wake of the Jeweller's death, Roxana is now considered a wealthy widow in Paris (nicknamed "the Widow of Poictou"), and various French aristocrats come to call upon her. A Prince comes to visit her to offer his condolences; he feels especially bad about the death of the Jeweller because he was the client that the Jeweller was travelling to visit on the day that he died. The Prince gives Roxana some money, and a small pension, and she thanks him profusely. She also hints that her financial position is still insecure, and that she may have to leave Paris to go to England, or back to Poictou. The Prince urges her to stay in Paris, praising her beauty, and hinting that a wealthy benefactor could help her out. The next day, one of the Prince's servants comes to see Roxana, and brings her documentation that she will receive an annual payment from the Prince so long as she stays in Paris. Roxana learns from the servant that the Prince is planning to come and visit her again, and pays the servant to tell her in advance when the Prince is going to come.

About two months later, Roxana gets word that the Prince is coming, so she gets everything is ready, and makes sure that there is no one in the house except for her and Amy. Roxana greets the Prince with exaggerated thanks. He praises her beauty, which flatters her, and then has a lavish meal served to the two of them, refusing Roxana's attempts at waiting on him. The Prince lingers after dinner, and asks if he can spend the night; Roxana coyly agrees, and the Prince has his servant make the arrangements. That night, the Prince and Roxana become lovers. She reflects that she was tempted in to this second sinful relationship because the Prince's power, status, and wealth appealed to her vanity, even though by this time, she is a wealthy woman in her own right.

The Prince has a number of ideas about how to make his relationship with Roxana easier and safer: he tells her that her house is ideal, because it has a discreet entrance accessed by an alley, and that she should make sure not to move to another location. He also urges her not to set herself up too lavishly, because otherwise she will attract public attention, and it will become harder for him to visit her discreetly. Roxana is very agreeable, and takes the suggestion one step further: she offers to put word out that she has gone back to England, and meanwhile live secretly in the house, not going out in to society at all. Roxana has Amy spread the word that her mistress has departed for England, and then the Prince is able to visit her frequently. Roxana reflects on how she morally justified the relationship to herself, even though, looking back, she can see that the relationship was sinful. Although Roxana does not go anywhere or see anyone, the Prince lavishes her with expensive clothes and jewelry, including a diamond necklace. He is also awe-struck by Roxana's beauty; when she realizes that he thinks she uses cosmetics to enhance her beauty, she makes a great show of washing her face in front of him. Amy and the Prince's servant also begin a relationship; Roxana is initially annoyed by this, particularly by the prospect that Amy might get pregnant, but she is eventually resigned, and reflects that since Amy has also fallen into a sinful life by sleeping with the Jeweller, it doesn't matter much what she does now.

After about a year and a half, Roxana realizes that she is pregnant. She brings up the subject cautiously with the Prince, but he is happy about this news, and promises that he will provide for the child. He also insists that Roxana go to the countryside for her pregnancy and childbirth, and arranges for her to stay at a house he owns in the countryside just outside of Paris. Roxana is pleased with this set up, but she dislikes the elderly Frenchwoman who is hired to live with her and act as her midwife. Roxana is able to persuade the Prince to dismiss this woman lest she reveal his identity, and she has Amy go to Calais and hire an English midwife who comes to stay with them. The Prince visits Roxana frequently during her pregnancy and even joins her during labor, and shortly after she gives birth to a son. Roxana reveals that while she and the Prince would later go on to part ways, the Prince had made financial provisions for his son, to ensure he would always be taken care of. Roxana also reveals that this son will later go on to have distinguished military career, serving in both France and Italy.

After Roxana has recovered from childbirth, she returns to Paris, and the Prince takes her to see the royal court. While she is there, some of the Gens D'Armes (a military unit of horseguards) are present at court, and Roxana is astonished to realize that one of them is her first husband, the Brewer. She quickly ensures he doesn't catch sight of her, and then asks some questions, learning that his regiment will be on display in a few days. Roxana arranges to watch this display with Amy, who confirms that the man is indeed the Brewer. Amy asks a few men in the crowd how she would go about tracking down more information about a man in the regiment, since she thinks she sees someone that she knows. Amy is able to get the information easily, since the Brewer is still using the same name, and she goes to meet him at his lodging. The Brewer is astonished to see Amy, and tries to defend his behavior of abandoning his family. He also wants to know what happened to them. Amy emphasizes all the suffering Roxana and the children experienced after he abandoned them. She also lies and says that she stopped working for Roxana, and is not sure what happened to her, but that she seems to have fallen in to dire poverty. Amy further lies and says that she made a bad marriage, and her husband has now brought her to France, where she is impoverished and unhappy. The Brewer is saddened by all of this, and explains that he had hoped his relatives would adopt the children, and that Roxana would remarry. He purposefully wanted people to think he was dead so that Roxana could be free to remarry.

Roxana initially thinks about giving the Brewer some money, or even possibly reuniting with him, but as Amy meets with him repeatedly and investigates, she learns that he is still struggling, spends recklessly, and lies in order to borrow money which he never repays. Roxana decides that her husband is as foolish as ever. Since she doesn't want anything to do with him, her main goal is to make sure he never runs into her and recognizes her. Amy suggests they keep track of where his regiment is stationed at all times, but Roxana isn't satisfied, and hires a man to spy on him, and keep her updated. From this spy, she hears only damning information about the Brewer being a lazy and incompetent man.


After the death of the Landlord/Jeweller, Roxana seems to be set for life; she is a wealthy woman, she has comfortable social status being perceived as a widow (essentially the only social category in which a woman could live autonomously, manage her own money, and make her own decisions), and she can essentially live as she likes. However, almost as soon as she realizes that Prince is interested in her, Roxana intentionally starts preparing to pursue a relationship with him. Roxana is now considerably more crafty and able to pick up on the clues that the Prince is interested in wooing her, whereas when the Landlord had first shown interest years ago, she was naively unaware. As Roxana openly admits to the reader, she is in a very different set of circumstances when she begins this second illicit relationship. Roxana had a fairly reasonable ethical defense for sleeping with the Landlord because of the economic crisis she was experiencing at the time. By the time the Prince begins pursuing her, Roxana does not need any money, but she is still tempted by the lifestyle he can offer her. She also seems to feel desire for him, which hints at another way Roxana has been transformed and empowered by her increased agency. She can now recognize and pursue her own desire, whether those desires are for sex, money or both. Once Roxana has had that opportunity, it is hard for her to go back to the more self-restrained identity that would be expected of her.

Amy and Roxana once again become intertwined through their experience of Roxana's relationship with the Prince; rather than Amy sleeping with the Prince himself, she begins a relationship with the Prince's Gentleman. This is a more socially appropriate parallel between the two couples, but also deepens the connection between the fates of the two women. Roxana also has the experience of having a child fathered by her new lover; while her and the Prince's son will have an ambiguous identity due to being illegitimate, he seems to be deeply loved, and will also always be financially protected. Roxana feels a specific tenderness for this child, perhaps because of how much love the Prince shows towards his illegitimate son, and also because of the happy relationship she enjoyed with the child's father. Throughout the novel, a range of unconventional family structures are represented, and Roxana shows a range of different emotional responses to the children she bears under different circumstances.

While Roxana's life seems to be moving forward and taking her ever further away from her past in England, the encounter with her first husband shows that she still has ties that can crop up abruptly. The coincidental encounter with the Brewer under unexpected circumstances foreshadows how Susan will later reappear and cause stress and tension for Roxana and Amy. Roxana is cautious about ensuring she doesn't want to give too much away, so she enlists Amy as her intermediary. In this, as in many other contexts, Amy has a different level of mobility and fluidity. Even while she enjoys a much more elevated lifestyle alongside Roxana, Amy is still a servant, and therefore can be much more anonymous and ask more questions. While Roxana provides for Amy financially, Amy effectively enables Roxana to have the life she wants by performing this type of labor for her. Amy also further protects herself and Roxana by presenting a fake story about what has happened to her and to Roxana since the Brewer disappeared The account of what Amy says happened to Roxana (that she went mad and ended up begging in the streets) is completely at odds with Roxana's actual status as the pampered mistress of a Prince, but given the circumstances that the Brewer left her in, this lie is actually more plausible than the reality. This juxtaposition between what could have happened to Roxana, and what did happen, heightens the wondrous quality of her story, and the resilience and good fortune she displays.

At this point in her life, Roxana is also still somewhat forgiving and compassionate. She is somewhat opening to getting back together with her first husband, but she is cautious enough to check first on how he is living his life. It becomes clear that, unlike Roxana, the Brewer has not matured at all, and is still living as recklessly and foolishly as ever. Given this information, Roxana makes an intentional decision to make sure that he never finds her; she wants to protect all of the assets she has acquired, since as her husband the Brewer could make a legal claim to them. Roxana is now capable of evaluating relationships in order to decide what is in her best interest, and she is also unorthodox enough to make the decision that even though her husband is alive, she doesn't feel obligated to honor that relationship. With both partners and children, Roxana does not automatically privilege ties and perform the obligations of that relationship; instead, she chooses what is in her own best interest.