0 6 mins 12 yrs

ITV has commissioned a single film (1 x 120”) ‘The Making of a Lady‘; an adaptation of a the classic suspenseful romantic novel The Making of a Marchioness by celebrated playwright and author Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden, A Little Princess).

Acclaimed writer Kate Brooke (Mr Selfridge, The Forsyte Saga) will adapt the novel which will be produced by Runaway Fridge.

The classic tale tells the story of the well born, educated but penniless Emily who grew up hoping she would marry for love, but has come to realise that her priority must be survival.  Opening in late Victorian London, initially in a shabby part of town, The Making of a Lady depicts genteel Emily struggling to make a living.

Fine featured but at pains never to look pretty or attract attention, Emily works for Lady Maria Byrne, a domineering, acerbic older woman who lives in a very smart house on the other side of town. During her daily duties as a lady’s companion, Emily comes into contact with her employer’s wealthy widower nephew, Lord James Walderhurst. Weary of Lady Maria’s relentless match making, Walderhurst cuts a rather distant figure, but he treats Emily with a great deal more respect and kindness than his aunt.

When Walderhurst realises that a favour he asked of her has lost Emily her position he is mortified. It occurs to him that the two of them could come to a practical if unromantic agreement – marriage.  He admires the fact she is dedicated and hard-working and appreciates her undemanding nature which he imagines would not impact too much on the life he has chosen.  He realises that he can offer her a secure home and a true independence born out of his wealth.  He and Emily aren’t in love, but he clearly hopes that one day affection may blossom.  Emily is shocked and sad to give up her hopes of marrying for love but without other means of support her situation is such that she has little option and she finds herself accepting.

His family disapprove of the marriage, but undaunted Walderhurst marries his Cinderella and they move to his castle estate, the beautiful, isolated and eerie Palstrey Manor.

With a ruby ring glowing on her finger, Emily is the new lady of the manor but while her relationship with her new husband very slowly starts to blossom the staff, especially the butler Litton and his housekeeper wife are less than welcoming and eye her suspiciously.

The only friendly faces in her life are Walderhurst’s handsome nephew, Captain Alec Osborn and his beautiful Indian wife, Hester. They seem very much in love, which is the antithesis of Emily and Walderhurst’s still unformed relationship, and she is fascinated by their passion. Significantly, Walderhurst intensely dislikes his nephew and his frequent requests for money.  Osborn is Walderhurst’s sole heir as long as he and Emily remain childless and Emily realises belatedly that Walderhurst’s sudden proposal was hastened by the family’s concerns about Alec’s marriage to Hester.

Emily and Hester quickly develop a friendship and when Walderhurst decides to rejoin his regiment in India in response to an emergency, Emily is grateful for the company that she and Alec offer.  Sad and insecure, with her husband having abandoned their home just as they were growing in warmth towards each other, Emily is delighted when Alec and Hester arrive to stay with her, but butler Litton is obvious in his disapproval and very suspicious of their motives.

All is not what it seems as an increasingly contented Emily has no inkling her life is actually in danger.  Whilst Walderhurst risks his life overseas, his wife is in peril and she seems powerless to avoid the threat that begins to encircle her.  The arrival of Hester’s servant, the mysterious Ameerah only serves to heighten the jeopardy surrounding Emily.

“We’re thrilled that Runaway Fridge TV is making this film for ITV and lucky to have such a wonderful script from Kate Brooke,” said executive producer for Runaway Fridge TV, Stevie Lee.  “It’s an engaging and clever story with tension and jeopardy every step of the way but also it’s fresh, a period story that very few people know. Emily is such a good, relatable and morally strong heroine and we really don’t want anything to happen to her.  She has no one to turn to in her hour of need, but hopefully help will come from an unexpected quarter,” she added.

The Making of A Lady is produced by Jo Willett (Coming Up, Bertie and Elizabeth) and directed by Richard Curson Smith (Consenting Adults, Wire in the Blood).

Filming begins on location in Manchester and Stoke from 27th August for four weeks. Cast for the adaption is yet to be announced.