Noblemen as Romantic Heroes
There is something highly romantic about a man wearing a cravat and long coat. Readers and viewers adore noblemen in fiction. Although the dashing nobleman has been around for centuries in literature, I place the blame on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy swimming in the pond and surprising Elizabeth. I think that scene sealed the deal for romantics everywhere. Many noblemen are also Byronic heroes, but they come in all varieties in fiction. No matter what their personalities, they are one of the most popular types of romantic heroes. Period drama fans flock to the screen to watch these elegant gentlemen on screen.
Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Photo: BBC.
Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters, and thousands of romantic novelists across the world give us the rakish, lovable noblemen. I think for some readers, they enjoy the noblemen offering the female characters a fairytale experience. They are not princes, but there is still a level of fantasy involved. Many women in the stories are impoverished (or. at least, poorer) and they catch the eye of the nobleman. Another element to these stories is that many of the noblemen have devastating pasts and secrets (think more Byronic Heroes than Romantic). The heroines in the story break past their icy facades and find true love. Or, the noblemen in the story live a dashing double life, like Sir Percival Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Sir Percival Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Photo: London Films/CBS
There is a certain elegance about the romantic nobleman that isn’t just about their wealth. It’s the courtly manners they express and the way their silence speaks louder than words. Just think of that moment when Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley finally express their love. Perhaps we romanticize old fashioned figures even more in this modern era of online dating and texting. There is just something appealing about a handwritten letter of love or someone kneeling down with flowers. There are plenty of evil or untrustworthy noblemen in stories too (almost every Jane Austen novel), but overall, they are men with good hearts and gentlemanly sensibilities. As long as we fall in love with them, their popularity will never wane.
Here are some of my favorite noblemen in literature, TV miniseries, and films to check out:
- Pride and Prejudice
- Jane Eyre
- The Scarlet Pimpernel
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- War and Peace
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