Born: September 23, 1865, in Tarna-Írs, Hungary
Died: November 12, 1947, in Henley-on- Thames, England
Born into the Hungarian landed aristocracy, Emma was the daughter of a talented amateur composer. Her father had very gifted friends such as Liszt, Wagner, and Gounod. She was named Emma after her mother, Countess Wass.
In 1868 the threat of a peasant revolution forced the family to leave Hungary. They lived in Budapest, Brussels, and Paris before finally settling in London. During this period Emma studied music unsuccessfully. Once in London, she attended the West London School of Art and then Heatherley's. It was there that she met John Montague.
The two were married in 1894, and in 1899, they had a son, John Montague Orczy Barstow. Emma started work as a translator and an illustrator to assist in supporting her poor family. Soon after, she started writing. The Emporor's Candlesticks, her first novel, was a failure.
The Scarlet Pimpernel, published in 1905, was her first and greatest success. A stage production that she co-created with her husband soon followed. She went on to write several sequels to the novel as well as some popular mystery fiction. The innovative Lady Molly of Scotland Yard was the first detective story to use a woman as the main character. The profits from her works enabled her to purchase an estate in Monte Carlo.