Book 3, Chapter 11 Summary
Mrs. Assingham vacillates between believing Charlotte and the Prince are currently having an affair and thinking they are merely proceeding in that direction. However, she can tell by recent expressions on Maggie’s face that the Princess believes something is going on. She is beginning to doubt that friendship and family connections are strong enough against temptations. The Colonel feels that Maggie will place the blame on Charlotte rather than on her husband. Mrs. Assingham disagrees, saying Maggie will most likely only blame herself. Mrs. Assingham feels that herself is most to blame, though Maggie will not blame her. She reminds the Colonel of the night on the way home from the party at the Foreign Office, when they discussed what they should do about the budding romance between Charlotte and the Prince. The Colonel had suggested that they let them figure it out for themselves, and now they have. The Colonel feels pity for Maggie; he sees her as a victim. But Mrs. Assingham thinks Maggie will find a way to live through it. She will accept that she has never really had the Prince’s love. The Colonel thinks she will decide to live for the benefit of her child, but Mrs. Assingham dismisses this idea completely, stating that Maggie will decide to live for the benefit of her father.
Fanny Assingham blames herself for the illicit relationship between Charlotte and Amerigo. It was she who pushed Charlotte in the Prince’s direction originally because he had the habit of attracting the most unsuitable women. She viewed Maggie as likely to accept Charlotte as a friend. Charlotte, on her part, “plays the forms” for the Prince in order to make everyone happy. Fanny is not sure Amerigo really cares for Charlotte; she tells the Colonel that no man truly cares for a woman who gives herself as freely as Charlotte has. Fanny believes that initially both Amerigo and Charlotte had been innocent until she became involved, though she hints that it was Maggie who started “the vicious circle.” Maggie’s primary intent is to save her father, and she may have seen the Prince’s interest in Charlotte as a way by which her father could be saved from Charlotte’s unfaithful nature. This view confuses the Colonel. In the meantime, Mr. Verver suspects nothing, even after having lived with Charlotte for two years. Fanny imagines the Assinghams can find a way to save Maggie, who will die before she lets her father suffer.