Ilse Burnley is Emily Byrd Starr's dearest friend and distant cousin. She is neglected by her father, Doctor Allan Burnley, who is embittered by her mother's death. For most of Emily of New Moon, Ilse is ragged, and cared for by the housekeeper or concerned neighbours. After the mystery of her mother's death is resolved, Dr. Burnley spoils Ilse in Emily Climbs. Ilse goes on to study at the School of Literature and Expression in Montreal in Emily's Quest, eventually living there. She has "hair like daffodils and eyes like yellow diamonds", and eventually grows into an unusual beauty. She is impulsive, dramatic and unconventional. She desires to become an elocutionist. Her friendship with Emily is characterized by tempestuous "rows": Ilse has an explosive temper and fights with Emily constantly by calling names or saying biting things, while Emily remains maddenningly silent. The fights never last long, and the best friends make up quickly.