When John Ingle first took over the role of Edward Quartermaine, nearly 20 years ago, I was 13. I was about a year away from my first relationship, and Robin was about six months away from her first love, Stone Cates, although she was crushing on Jason Quartermaine at the time. I remember Edward coming back, having been discovered enjoying life incognito in the Bahamas. In no time, everything was back to normal at the Q Mansion. Which means Edward was doing everything possible to turn his family members against each other in the name of ELQ and picking his perfect heir. It would be years before he realized that enjoying his family was all that truly mattered, and it was a realization that came too late, but it came nonetheless.
That slow journey toward a gentler, misanthropic Edward was handled deftly by Ingle, starting with the uncovering of Edward’s affair with Mary Mae Ward.
Edward stood accused of murdering Bradley Ward, his son from the affair. Oh sure, we believed Edward would do anything to protect his reputation, but it became apparent, no matter how much he loved Lila, that Edward had once loved Mary Mae, too. And after Bradley’s true killer was revealed to be Laura, Edward insisted that Justus, his grandson, be accepted as a full member of the family. The patriarch’s rough exterior was cracking just a little.
Emily Bowen took a chisel to it. When Monica brought her home and adopted her after Paige’s death from breast cancer, Emily charmed the socks off the whole family (though I must note she never charmed the socks off me).
I think her presence was so powerful to them because she was full of life and vibrancy even after losing her mother. She was a catalyst for change in the Quartermaine social order, the bright light of simple childhood joy exposing how dreary their age-old battles were. Like much of the family, Edward was putty in her hands in no time.
But those were the beginning ripples in Edward’s transformation pool. In the meantime, he double-downed on grooming his perfect heir. That was because his favorite grandson was taken from him—Jason developed amnesia.
It consumed Edward, this desire to get Jason back into the family. Edward refused to accept AJ, the grandson who stayed, as a suitable representative, and once Michael was revealed to be a Quartermaine great-grandchild, all Edward did for years was scheme to get him into their household. He was obsessed with it, obsessed with the notion that Michael was his chance to get things right and to make their family as great as he wanted it to be. In pursuing that obsession, he managed to push away his other heirs, driving both Justus and Ned away with one failed scheme after another that had only the goal of securing Michael’s custodial rights.
It was at that point that Edward began recognizing that something was off in his life, something was missing despite his financial success and power. In the name of family, he took in all Quartermaine stragglers with open arms despite any unsavory characteristics the other Quartermaines found. He was always hoping for someone new to crown his heir: Skye, Dillon, Brook Lynn. By the early 2010s, he even grasped at Ethan as a potential Quartermaine leader, offering him 10 million dollars if he’d stay married to Maya Ward and allow Edward to groom him. This once great man was in the process of accepting that all his schemes never brought him the happiness he desired, though he was still unwilling to give them up.
It was a process that started when Lila died. I’m not familiar with Jed Allen’s work as Edward, but it will always seem like a shame that John Ingle was not on the show for the passing of Anna Lee and Lila.
That could have been a moment for Edward to turn his back on all that was good in his nature, because Lila was ever the embodiment of it, but he didn’t. This was an Edward who had changed, had mellowed enough from accepting Justus and Emily to know that some things can’t be fixed. Instead, he grieved, and it was a grieving that extended and deepened over the next six years as one after another, the Quartermaines died. AJ, ever the black sheep of the family, was the next to go. Then Justus. The next year it was Alan, and barely nine months later, Emily. All murdered, all dying far too young and leaving an old man to stew over the expanding gallery of the dead on his fireplace mantle. Ingle gave a powerful performance after learning of Emily’s death, comparing his life to that of Joseph Kennedy, Sr.
It was fantastic character insight that I’ll never forget. From that moment onward, Edward always wore that grief on his sleeve. It resided in his downcast eyes, in the ways you could tell he always thought of who was missing, even when he took the time to feel grateful for whom he still had. I am very glad Edward was granted one last holiday with Jason and Michael in the house.
But Edward’s grief was renewed when Robin died this year, and he collapsed. Over the last six months, the character has scarcely appeared on the show, in large part because of Ingle’s personal life and failing health. I will be forever touched that he managed to make it in for one last taping, and that fortune was on our side to air those scenes the week before Ingle’s death to remind us of what the Quartermaine patriarch has become after his long transformation.
You see, in the end, Edward Quartermaine knows, no matter how much his daughter and daughter-in-law still love him, that he will never be able to achieve what he truly wants from life. Once, he had thought that was success. Then he had thought it was securing his heir. But now he knows it is earning the love of his family and giving it back to them. In that moment, Edward knew he had lost that chance, and so he gave up his unquenched desire so Emma might someday have her own. It was a beautiful sacrifice on the part of a changed man, and however brief it was, I am so grateful we got to see John Ingle onscreen, giving that subtle undercurrent of a broken man’s regret and acceptance one last time.
I don’t know when Edward Quartermaine will be written out of the show. I am glad we have people in charge who seem to care about the show’s history, and I hope they’ll give a fitting tribute to John Ingle and his 20 years on General Hospital. But I do know that my eyes aren’t dry while typing this, and I am glad we’ll have a chance to say goodbye to the screen image of the man as well.
Thank you, John Ingle, for your fine acting, and for taking us all on this character journey with Edward Quartermaine. You are missed already.