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The ultimate Sanditon character guide - from Charlotte Heywood to Sidney Parker

Is Charlotte Heywood more of a Marianne Dashwood, or an Elizabeth Bennett?

Tori Brazier

Although Sanditon was Jane Austen's final, unfinished novel before her death in 1817, it has all of the elements of the classics novels that we know or love. After all, Jane Austen always had a plucky heroine, a haughty but misunderstood love interest, and plenty of comic aunts, uncles and younger sisters to go with them. Ahead of the new ITV series, which starts on Sunday 25 August and was completed by the award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies, we have taken a look at the characters in the Regency seaside town. Described by Davies as similar to Love Island, find out more about its characters below…

Charlotte Heywood

Similar to: A cross between the imaginative Catherine from Northanger Abbey and headstrong Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice. Expect her to be loveable, liking nothing more than a bit of a laugh (or, as Lizzy is described in P&P, "delighting in anything ridiculous"), but with a heart of gold as well. Played by Rose Williams (Curfew, Reign), Charlotte is a country girl swept up in the excitement of everything the new seaside resort of Sanditon has to offer. She’s energetic and unconstrained by society’s expectations – including its obsessions with money and marriage – making her a breath of fresh air. Although originally rather a cipher, this new adaptation highlights Charlotte’s opinions and straightforward manner. She’s a modern heroine, ready to embrace the new century. 

Sidney Parker 

Similar to: His aloofness and arrogance is Mr Darcy, but he’s prone to wittiness and teasing like Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey. Get ready to swoon. Sidney Parker actor Theo James expired rather memorably in Mary’s bed in Downton Abbey as Kemal Pamuk. He’s also Four in the Divergent movies. Despite only a brief meeting between the two in Jane Austen’s writing, Sidney is set up as Charlotte’s romantic foil, having been described as “very good-looking”. He’s the black sheep of his family, restless, unpredictable, and back in Sanditon reluctantly. His backstory now includes a lost love and independent wealth from the sugar trade. Sidney is irritated by Charlotte’s tendency to speak her mind, but drawn to her nonetheless. 

Lady Denham

Similar to: The domineering Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice. Also Mrs Norris from Mansfield Park, with her meanness and money loving. Lady Denham is played by BAFTA-nominated Anne Reid, onscreen for over 60 years. She’s the Grande-Dame of Sanditon. With two marriages behind her, she’s succeeded in acquiring title and fortune. With several youngsters keen to secure her favour, she’s surrounded by fawning. Well-drawn in the novel by Jane Austen, Lady Denham is tight-fisted, old-fashioned and direct – which ruffles feathers. 

Tom Parker & Mary Parker 

Similar to: Tom’s innate goodness is like Mr Bingley’s from Pride and Prejudice, while Mary has been transformed from a dim-witted Mrs Allen of Northanger Abbey to a caring Lady Russell of Persuasion. Tom Parker (Kris Marshall, Death in Paradise) is head of the Parker family, and the driving force behind Sanditon’s development into a seaside resort. Full of bonhomie, Tom’s prone to risk-taking. His patient wife Mary (Kate Ashfield, Line of Duty) supports her husband’s scheme. She’s been fleshed out from the novel to the family’s anchor, rather than a useless accessory. 

Young Stringer 

Similar to: Mr Knightley from Emma, always leading with good intentions. Leo Suter (Clique, Victoria) is new character Young Stringer. Tom Parker’s foreman, he’s ambitious, talented and keen to progress. He’s taken by Charlotte’s forthright demeanour and he makes an impression on her too, despite class boundaries. This sets up a tricky love triangle between him, Charlotte and Sidney Parker. 

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Diana Parker & Arthur Parker 

Similar to: Arthur is similar in appetites to Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliott, and Diana is a younger Mrs Bennet. Parker siblings Diana (Alexandra Roach, The Iron Lady) and Arthur (Turlough Convery, Poldark) are an interesting double act. Living together, they claim to be invalids – although neither of them exhibits many symptoms. Arthur is a fan of food and drink. Hypochondriac Diana frets over her brother, while busying herself with the latest Sanditon gossip.

Sir Edward Denham & Esther Denham

Similar to: Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park and Isabella Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, with their eyes on their respective prize. Also think John and Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, in terms of stinginess. Sir Edward (Jack Fox, Riviera) and Esther Denham (Charlotte Spencer, Glue) are close step-siblings, intent on nabbing Lady Denham’s fortune. Edward is handsome, caddish and happy to ruin anyone who stands in his way. Esther’s frankness seems caustic, and sees her butt heads with the likes of Lady Denham – although it attracts the attention of Lord Babington. 

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Clara Brereton

Similar to: Fanny Price from Mansfield Park in status but Sense and Sensibility’s scheming Lucy Steele by nature. Clara (Lily Sacofsky, Summer of Rockets) is another arch-manipulator. At first glance submissive and sweet, she is a poor relation taken in by Lady Denham. Having fought this far, she is determined to secure herself a fortune. She’s ready to battle Sir Edward and Esther for Lady Denham’s affections, by any means necessary. 

Miss Lambe 

Similar to: High-spirited Louisa Musgrove from Persuasion. Miss Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke, Ordeal by Innocence) is a West Indian heiress and Jane Austen’s first black character. In a departure from the novel, quiet, delicate Miss Lambe, is ready to speak up and cause trouble. She is also Sidney’s ward, brought her here under a watchful governess’ eye. She forms a fast friendship with Charlotte.