Lord Grenville’s ball is considered “the most brilliant function of the year” in London, and even the Prince of Wales is expected to attend. In the foyer of the massive city estate, Lord Grenville stands ready to greet his distinguished guests, and Chauvelin lurks nearby, scanning the crowd for Lady Blakeney. It is not long before the Prince of Wales arrives with Lady Blakeney on his arm and Sir Percy not far behind.
Lady Blakeney and Sir Percy’s friendship with the Prince of Wales establishes them as the very top of British society and reflects Orczy’s belief in the importance of the aristocracy. The Prince is not just any rich socialite, he is the heir to the British crown.
“Will Your Highness permit me to introduce M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of the French Government?” Lord Grenville asks the Prince of Wales. He graciously agrees and welcomes the Frenchman to his country. “We will try to forget the government that sent you, and look upon you merely as our guest,” the Prince of Wales says. Lady Blakeney regards the French agent as an “old friend,” and the Prince of Wales claims Chauvelin is then “doubly welcome.”
The Prince of Wales is perfectly composed as he welcomes Chauvelin, a man whose country has imprisoned a king and killed countless aristocrats, and this reflects the Prince’s perfect English restraint. Undoubtedly, the Prince resents Chauvelin deeply, but he is perfectly polite without a hint of emotion.
“There is someone else I would crave permission to present to Your Royal Highness,” Lord Grenville says, leading the Prince of Wales to the Comtesse de Tournay. “This is a pleasure, Madame,” the Prince says to the Comtesse, “my father, as you know, is ever glad to welcome those of your compatriots whom France has driven from her shores.” He turns to Lady Blakeney and proceeds to introduce her to the Comtesse. “Every compatriot of Lady Blakeney’s is doubly welcome for her sake,” he says. “Her friends are our friends…her enemies, the enemies of England.”
Presumably, the Prince is aware that the Comtesse despises Marguerite. As Sir Percy’s friend, the Prince likely knows all about Marguerite’s history in France, which makes his comment suspicious. Orczy seems to be highlighting the fact that if British society accepts Lady Blakeney’s past and enemies without question, they are actually condemning the aristocrats, whom many of them wish to save.
The Comtesse, whose “respect of royalty amounts almost to a religion,” bows “ceremoniously.” Lady Blakeney does the same, and the Vicomte approaches. The Prince of Wales remembers meeting the Vicomte’s father, the Comte de Tournay, many years ago. “Ah, Monseigneur!” the Vicomte replies. “I was a leetle boy then…I now I owe the honour of this meeting to our protector, the Scarlet Pimpernel.” The Prince immediately silences him, looking in the direction of Chauvelin. “Nay, Monseigneur,” Chauvelin says to the Prince, “pray do not check this gentleman’s display of gratitude; the name of that interesting red flower is well known to me—and to France.”
When the Prince “hushes” the Vicomte, it suggests that the Prince himself is in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel, or at least that he knows Chauvelin is in England to gather information about the Pimpernel and his men. Regardless, Chauvelin’s purpose of apprehending the Pimpernel is more than obvious. The “red flower” is “well known” to Chauvelin and France because the Scarlet Pimpernel sends a notice each time he makes a rescue, and he has sent many notices lately.
“Faith, then,” the Prince replies, “perhaps you know more about our national hero than we do ourselves…Perchance you know who he is…See!” The Prince turns and motions to the distinguished crowd. “Ah, Monseigneur,” Chauvelin says, “rumor has it in France that Your Highness could—and you would—give the truest account of the enigmatical wayside flower.” The Prince tells Chauvelin that his “lips are sealed,” and that those who know the Scarlet Pimpernel are sworn to absolute secrecy. Outside of these trusted men, no one knows anything about the mysterious hero—except that “he is the bravest gentleman in all the world,” and every English citizen is “proud [..] that [the Scarlet Pimpernel] is an Englishman.”
Chauvelin is obviously being snide and believes that the Prince knows who the Scarlet Pimpernel is. This implies that the Prince is not only sympathetic to the Scarlet Pimpernel’s cause, but likely involved in some other, more direct way as well. The Scarlet Pimpernel’s men have been sworn to secrecy, and when the Prince says that his “lips are sealed,” he implies that he has taken this oath as well, which would make him a member of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. This further suggests that the British, particularly British royals, are inherently brave and heroic.