Must I write about this woman? I suppose since she was a main character in Season 1. The entire audience around the world had to endure her arrival back into Sidney Parker’s life. Creation of the writers and not of Jane Austen, Eliza serves a purpose in the storyline. It’s not one that we relish, but it is one that deserves examination (along with her misaligned buttons).
Played by Ruth Kearney, the actual wife of Theo James, Eliza is the other spoke in the wheel of opposition to Sidney and Charlotte’s happiness. We all know how this plays out in the end, but let’s take a look at the woman to ascertain her character and motives.
If we are to believe Tom’s insight, which frankly I don’t, he tells Charlotte, “They were very much in love,” meaning Sidney and Eliza, “But at the last moment, she passed him over in favor of an older, and wealthier man.” The term, “at the last moment,” makes you wonder if Sidney and Eliza were engaged and she ditched him before the wedding. Frankly, to declare that Eliza was very much in love, is sort of a stretch in this context, as her actions speak that she really didn’t love Sidney as much as Tom thought.
There are two possible reasons for Eliza’s actions. The first that comes to mind is that she had a legitimate reason. Marrying Sidney did not provide the financial stability she required. Perhaps her parents and siblings were in great need, and she needed to marry for money to help them. We all know that scenario plays out often, that people marry for money rather than for love.
The second possibility, of course, could be that Eliza, as what we would term today, was just a gold-digger, who never loved Sidney. When the older and richer option came along with a marriage proposal, she decided it far more to her liking. Sidney, in the end, was duped and probably very much in love, but she did not reciprocate her affections to the same extent.
We are blind to Eliza’s family background and know little about who Eliza married. She’s still “Mrs. Campion,” and not a titled lady. How those riches were obtained by her husband we can only speculate. What we do discover upon her return into Sidney’s life is that as Lady Susan states, “She must be the wealthiest widow in the country, not to mention the most elegant.” Now that Sidney has money due to his pursuits in Angiqua, is he suddenly more appealing to her than before? Perhaps her decision to marry an older man made her unhappy, and Eliza held a torch for Sidney, so to speak, waiting for her older husband to die and freedom to return.
Of course, we will never know unless we write the fan fiction behind the scenes whether this was merely a chance meeting or Eliza intended all along to find Sidney and try again to gain his affections. She’s no fool, however, and instantly recognizes that Charlotte has a hold on his heart. As soon as it comes apparent, she enters the race to win.
Eliza has no qualms about putting Charlotte in her place in front of Lady Susan, Sidney, and those standing around them, overhearing the conversation. She cuts quickly to the core with words that are meant to hurt but in Eliza’s mind are quite logical since she’s far above Charlotte in wealth and status.
- Charlotte is not woman enough to have a man. “There must be a boy in your village that’s caught your eye?“
- Charlotte has nothing in common with the elite. “Miss Heywood is hardly likely to find a kindred spirit in this company. I just imagine she must find all our London talk unspeakably tedious.”
Her laughter and condescending looks bring about the disgusted glance from Lady Susan, to which we all silently yelled, “Bravo!”
As the regatta comes to a close, Eliza makes her bid for Sidney.
You know, I never lost hope that we would stand beside each other once more. Here we are. Fate has gifted us a second chance.
What a line! She never lost hope even though she dumped him and married another man for his money? Thankfully, for a moment in time, Sidney saw through her character, realizing he wasn’t the better man alongside Eliza Campion. But then came the fire . . . (Let’s throw eggs at Tom.)
Well, we all know what happens next. Tom has eggs on his face. Sidney tries to save him. Eliza’s money is the only way. Once again, Mrs. Campion wields the power of money and gets what she wants. Sidney, of course, gets the funds he needs to save Tom. Eliza gets Sidney, but the old saying money can’t buy you love will no doubt play out in their marriage. The woman is despicable. She had the ability to help Tom without marrying Sidney, but she used it as leverage to her advantage. Our minds can go a thousand places on how that conversation played out behind the scenes.
The GIF below pretty much sums it up. Eliza lords over Charlotte once again her superiority. She gloats over her possession of Sidney and brags about planning their wedding, which Sidney termed “elaborate.” To add salt to the injury, she declares with a smirk:
Perhaps we should have a simple country affair like this one, dear. Though I don’t think it would be quite our sort of thing, do you?
Yes, Eliza Campion is the character we are least fond of in the world of Sanditon. Nevertheless, the reason we dislike her so much is because of the writing and interesting characters. When the series ended, it did so with the hope of Season 2 and Theo James returning. No doubt the writers had this thought in mind, leaving us with the cliffside scenario:
“My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire.” (Jane Austen)
They probably just meant to give audiences “a little trouble” through Eliza Campion and never meant to leave Sidney in her clutches for Season 2. It’s funny how “fate” had other plans.