Diana Villiers

Diana Villiers
First appearance

Post Captain
Created by

Patrick O'Brian
Information
Gender Female
Spouse(s) Stephen Maturin
Children Brigid Maturin

Diana Villiers is a fictional character in the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian. Described as beautiful, mercurial, and entirely unreliable, she is the great love and great sorrow of Stephen Maturin's life.

Character history

Diana enters the series in the novel Post Captain, which begins with Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin living ashore during the Peace of Amiens. They first see her in a fox hunting field near their leased country house, and are impressed by her beauty and bold spirit.

In Post Captain, Diana is living with the Williams family, as a poor relation. Previously a resident of India, where her father was a general and her husband was an official of the East India Company, she returned to England after both men were killed in the same battle with the forces of "Tippoo Sahib". Both Aubrey and Maturin are intrigued by the fiery Diana, although Aubrey also forms a conflicted attachment to Diana's more placid cousin Sophia. Despite Maturin's social disadvantages of being unattractive, illegitimate, and Catholic, Diana enjoys his company and even admits him to her bedroom. However, she does not seem to reciprocate his infatuation and carries on simultaneous affairs with other men, including Aubrey.

In HMS Surprise, Maturin meets Diana in India. She accepts his proposal of marriage after Stephen kills one of her other lovers in a duel. However, before the marriage can take place, she goes to the United States with Johnson, an American she met in Calcutta. When Maturin and Aubrey arrive in Boston as prisoners of war, they meet Diana again as Johnson prepares to reject her for a new mistress. Maturin repeats his offer of marriage, and she accepts. They leave the United States with a diamond necklace that Johnson had given her — a necklace of immense value with a center stone called "The Blue Peter." Once safely away, Diana is reluctant to go through with the ceremony because she knows she is pregnant by Johnson. She asks Maturin to give her an abortion, but he refuses. He takes her to Paris, where she can complete her confinement and give birth without the ignominy of being snubbed by British society. There she miscarries.

When Maturin is imprisoned in Paris, Diana uses the Blue Peter as a form of ransom to secure his release. On the boat back to England, they are finally married by Babbington, with the bride given away by Aubrey, now her cousin by marriage.

Maturin buys Diana a fashionable town house in London but they continue to live separately. Maturin stays at the Grapes, in the Liberties of the Savoy, as his personal habits, including bringing dissected corpses and animals into the house, and carelessness with personal hygiene, make him disagreeable to Diana's fashionable lifestyle.

While Diana enjoys London society, Maturin and Aubrey are posted to the Mediterranean in The Ionian Mission. In Treason's Harbour, rumours of Maturin having an affair in Malta are spread by enemies of Maturin. Hearing these, Diana runs to Sweden under the protection of Jagiello, a Lithuanian count in The Far Side of the World. She later claims relationship with Jagiello is neither romantic nor sexual. Maturin eventually travels to Sweden in The Letter of Marque where they are reconciled again after Maturin suffers a severe accident under the influence of laudanum.

While Maturin is on another voyage to the Far East, Diana gives birth to a daughter, Brigid, who appears to suffer from a form of autism. In despair, Diana leaves Brigid and disappears. However, in The Commodore, Maturin tracks her down again in Ireland. They are reconciled again as Brigid makes a full recovery.

Diana and Brigid spend a lot of time with Aubrey's family. Diana enjoys driving a carriage and team of horses. In The Hundred Days, this leads to an accident in which she and her aunt, Sophie's mother, are killed when the carriage runs off a bridge at a dangerous corner.

References


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