Maria is the main character, protagonist and heroine of The Secret of Moonacre. She is a teenage orphan who is sent to live in Moonacre Valley, with her uncle Benjamin, her governess Miss Heliotrope, the cook Marmaduke Scarlett and the servant Digweed.
She is also the very last Moon Princess, and it falls to her to break the curse set on Moonacre Valley.
It is never stated when she was born, but it was presumably prior to 1870. Her mother, Eliza, died in 1874 and Maria was raised by her father, George, and her governess, Miss Heliotrope. However, since George was a colonel in the army, he would have spent most of his time away from home, leaving a young Maria with only Miss Heliotrope as a parental figure.
When Maria was about 13, her father was killed by loan sharks after not paying back the money he borrowed for gambling. Maria never discovered her father's gambling habits until after he died, and always thought of her father before then as a brave, honourable man who fought for his country.
Judging by Maria's initial disdain for the countryside, it is clear that Maria probably rarely left the city, and presumably grew up in her father's house all her life, before moving to Moonacre. Miss Heliotrope had a very distinct effect on Maria growing up, particularly on how she dressed and what her hobbies were. For example, Maria initially loved wearing very grand (and large) gowns and wore her hair in ringlets. She also enjoyed French needlepoint, something Miss Heliotrope obviously taught her.
Nevertheless, under Miss Heliotrope's guidance, Maria grew up to be a proper, well-mannered lady that would fit in easily with Victorian London society in years to come. With Miss Heliotrope in control of her studies, it is already evident that Maria learnt at least the basics (English, Mathematics etc.) along with French and needlepoint.
At Moonacre ValleyEdit
Maria initially hated the thought of moving to the countryside, having lived in the city all her life. This was not helped when the carriage she was travelling in was attacked by 'bandits' (later turning out to be Robin de Noir and his friend) and she had to fight them off with her embroidery needle.
She got off on a bad start when meeting her uncle, finding him very tactless and cold. However, she seemed to love her new bedroom, and quickly settled in for the night. Finding mysterious milk and biscuits next to her bed the next morning, she gets up to find a less attractive-looking dress on her chair, disdainfully rejecting it for one of her other dresses. She got onto further bad terms with her uncle when he took away the book her father left her, and testily asked for silence repeatedly during breakfast. He then took the women for a tour, stating that half the rooms in the house were out of bounds, forbidding her to go into the forest, and revealed to both Maria and Miss Heliotrope that the men who attacked them were part of the de Noir clan.
During her first lesson with Miss Heliotrope in the new house, both are shown to be slightly wary of Wrolf, the large black dog. That night, Maria sees a star on her bedroom ceiling fly across it, also signalling the real shooting star happening outside. The next morning, the milk and biscuits appear again, as does another dress (which has the same 'L' embroidered on it as the first). Downstairs, she discovers a piano, which starts to play by itself. She quickly joins in with it, before Benjamin walks in, and asks for Digweed to 'bring him his whip'.
Thankfully, all Benjamin has in mind is horse-riding (although Maria has never sat on a horse before in her life) and assigns Maria a white mare called Periwinkle. Maria quickly bonds with Periwinkle, and joins Benjamin on a horse-ride around Moonacre Valley. After having such an enjoyable ride, Maria requests that she stay out longer despite it getting dark. Benjamin accepts her request, but warns her to stay out of the forest.
When riding near the outskirts of the forest, Maria speculates about just how dangerous the forest really is and hears a rabbit cry in pain. She decides to go into the forest on foot to rescue it, and finds it in a trap. However, Robin and the rest of his gang burst out of the trees and it is revealed that the rabbit was just bait in the trap for Maria. Robin attempts to grab her, and Maria spots the long jagged line on his hand that was caused by her embroidery needle, revealing that Robin was the bandit that grabbed her in the carriage.
Wrolf appears and knocks one of the De Noirs to the ground, causing the rest of them to run away from Wrolf and Maria (calling Wrolf a 'demon dog'). Wrolf leads Maria back to the house, and Maria picks up the rabbit and takes it home. Once she arrives, Benjamin reveals that the rabbit is a special 'Moonacre Rabbit' and Maria decides to name it Serena. Benjamin then exasperatedly reminds her to keep out of the forest. Miss Heliotrope arrives, frowning at the state of Maria's dress, and shrieks in shock when she sees Serena in Maria's bonnet.