Margaret Lennox and love

I’m just emerging from a bout of flu and in my disturbed sleep patterns have been trying to catch up with the Game of Kings discussion group on their Lymond re-read. One thing came up in the discussions that gave me pause for thought. Someone suggested that the reason that Margaret Lennox was so determined to wreak revenge on Lymond was that she had fallen in love with him during the period when she had seduced him as a teenager a few years prior to the point we come into the action. That she hadn’t been able to accept that he had held something back and hadn’t fallen for her undoubted charms.

It’s not unusual for Dunnett readers to interpret things completely differently, and this is the exact opposite of what I’d always assumed.

I’d always felt that his journey through life and love was in many ways a coming to terms with love. That he can’t learn to love completely until he’s sorted out his feelings on something that has scarred his emotional psyche. If we look at his relationships through the series there is always something in the way.

Did he love Christian Stewart? I think perhaps as much as he was able at the time. He was as careful as he could be for her safety – it was she who wanted to take risks on his behalf. Her tragic death wasn’t his fault but weighed heavily on him. He cared greatly – we tend to forget that his suicide attempt at the dell comes not just after his shooting but also after Christian’s death, and I suspect that it was partly as a result of it. But not love; he wasn’t really capable of love at that time.

Oonagh is a challenge as part of the plot against the young Queen, and becomes essentially a political conquest. He feels responsible for her and for her child and would have done everything he could to save her had not Jerott’s rock and Gabriel’s treachery prevented him. Her death causes an agonised reaction which demonstrates his anguish and suggests emotional involvement but again there is something lacking.

Guzel provides a political partnership and a cultured companion but when they eventually share a bed there is emotional detachment on both sides.

So what was the reason for all this inability to love? I always felt that it was what Margaret did to him when he was at his most vulnerable – both physically as a prisoner of war, and emotionally as a teenager with a wonderful brain but perhaps an immature and perfectionist outlook.

Margaret was highly attractive, highly articulate, highly cultured, highly placed…. and highly sexed! What would any teenager have done when faced with a woman of this kind seducing him? He’d have fallen in love.

And of course having used him for personal and political ends she then betrayed him and threw him to the galleys. He’d have been emotionally devastated as well as being in peril of his life. And with Lymond’s introspective character (and two years in the galleys to mull it over) it would eat away at his ability to trust anyone else enough to give himself to them. Look at his approach to sex through the series – he never sleeps in the bed or the company of anyone he’s had sex with. Maybe because inwardly he fears betrayal as he sleeps. Only with Philippa at the end can he sleep in security and trust.

And the reason for Margaret’s bitter wrath. Simple. Like any controlling egotist she can’t accept that he is now immune to her seducements. (Of course maybe she found his lovemaking pretty good too and would like to be able to experience it again!) It’s like a blow direct to her self esteem. That is why the small triumph that the ill and assaulted Lymond is able to inflict on her at the end of Checkmate – showing her as no longer beautiful and powerful – is so telling.


Margaret Lennox and love — 4 Comments

  1. Have to say I agree completely, Bill. I think Philippa was the first. That’s why Francis doesn’t recognise that that’s what he feels for her – love is a strange new experience for him with no precedent. And I think that’s why his realisation about his feelings for Philippa in RC is such an emotional highpoint for the reader – this IS a first.

    Don’t you think too that Margaret operates at the pretty base level of “If I can’t have Francis, nobody else will”? I don’t think Margaret Lennox knows how to spell love. S-E-X is shorter. 😉


    Linda Gillard

  2. Yes indeed. Margaret and love are two concepts hardly to be mentioned in the same sentence. She wants to possess, to use. But sex is only to be enjoyed on her terms, and can be used at will in a greater game – that game is spelled P-O-W-E-R. She knows that Lymond has rare qualities that she could harness for her goal of taking a throne, or maybe even two, and would ditch her husband without a moments thought.

    And yet, I think it takes all Lymond’s self-possession not to feel attracted to her peculiar talents. She *is* an exciting woman. In an age of men she is a rare commodity. A partner who is in many ways an equal to any man and a relationship with her would be heady brew.

    As the GoK re-read progresss I suspect I’ll return to the subject of Meg Douglas!

  3. I am coming to this post late, as a newly-addicted DD fan, or as my family would say obsessed fanatic. I breezed through the books in 2 months, and signed up for the AGM on a whim. I just re-read Kings in prepartion for the AGM and found so much info there that I had missed the first time through. One thing was 2 mentions (by Richard and I think Margaret) to the fact that Lymond saves his passion for ideas rather than for women. Another thing I found very revealing about his character was the fact that from an early age he used his intelligence and caustic tongue in a battle with Gavin. It occurred to me that this might have affected all of his relationships since he became used to never letting down his guard with anyone (Sybilla being the exception). He was also used to the idea from an early age that he was much smarter than most people and grew accustomed to revealing only what he wanted to reveal, and using his insights about others to manipulate them into doing what he wanted them to do. So these traits, developed from an early age, might have hurt his ability to let down his guard sufficiently to form a love relationship.

    I had the impression from my first read that Lymond stopped the affair with Margaret, rather than vice versa. Couldn’t find anything supporting that the second time. But I think he must have had women admirers from an early age, and somehow I can’t picture him smitten with Margaret. I think he would have seen through her, even at 16. I think their relationship fits well with the chess theme of the series, a back and forth between 2 opponents who are in many ways well-matched in skills and who play for the kill.

    It seems to me that both the relationships with Christian and Oonagh might have led to something deeper, had they not been thwarted so early. I haven’t re-read Knights yet, but Lymond followed Oonagh to Malta, and tried repeatedly to rescue her, without ever knowing that she was pregnant, so I think his feeling for her was more than just one of responsibility. But there was never any opportunity for that relationship to develop further because of her death.

    Bill, your comments about Lymond’s inability to form relationships were very helpful. But as much as I love Checkmate and the end of the series, that ties in to one thing that continues to puzzle me. Since Francis continued right up to the last 10 pages or so to insist he would not live with Phillipa, what caused him to change at the end? I can see Phillipa changing her mind and deciding to embrace him, but why did he accept at the end all of a sudden? When she made the first physical gesture, he was able to let go and let his emotions take control of his intellect, but why then? I feel like I am missing something; Phillipa’s motivations are explained pretty clearly by her relief that he had not been killed, but I don’t see what caused Lymond to change, other than perhaps just having been stripped down by all of the other events up to that point.

  4. Oh, yeah, I agree totally, La Lennox was not in love with Francis, but with power; that meant that once he was past his usefulness, or rather once he was more useful out of the way, there was nothing for it but to betray him to France, hoping he would never rise again. But Francis might have been in first-sex-love with her, which made her casual betrayal of him so much more acute.

    And the irritant of Margaret’s life is that he didn’t disappear below the waves; he not only survived, but did so outwith her clutches. Damn the man!

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