Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Duchess 2008 with Kiera Knightley

The Duchess 2008
The Duchess is one film I am glad to own. Having read the book about the remarkable Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire I really enjoyed the silver screen version of her life. The costumes and locations alone would make this worth watching, but the tragic story of the vivacious teenager married off to a cold fish 10 years older is enthralling. It was marketed as a similar story to Princess Diana, who was her great-great-great-great niece and I must say, the Spencer family have some pretty amazing women. Georgiana was also the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York via her illegitimate love child, Eliza Courtney. What a story, huh? You can't write this stuff!

Kiera Knightley and Ralph Fiennes as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire

I like both Kiera Knightley and Ralph Fiennes but I wouldn't call myself a fan of either one. However, they both do an amazing job here as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. If there was ever an illustration of the saying "money can't buy happiness" this story would be it! I think the servants looked happier than this pair.

Domenic Cooper as Charles Grey (The future Earl Grey as in Earl Grey tea!)

The chemistry between Kiera Knightley and Domenic Cooper as politician Charles Grey is electric. So is the chemistry between Kiera Knightley and Hayley Atwell as Bess Foster for that matter! This is certainly a different tale than Pride and Prejudice, which was the other film Kiera Knightley did at Chatsworth in Derbyshire England. Real life doesn't have the happy ending that novels do however.

The famous fox outfit based on historical records from the Charles Fox Whig campaign

The costumes are breathtaking. Georgiana was the Princess Di or Kate Middleton of her day. All eyes were on her for style and she may reasonably be called the first "celebrity", followed by media wherever she went. There is a great scene where the "paparazzi" of the day are furiously sketching her outfit before she disappeared into a social event.
Charlotte Rampling as Georgaina's mother Lady Spencer
Charlotte Rampling is luminous as Lady Spencer, Georgiana's slightly scary mother. Not warm and fuzzy but very believable.

Hayley Atwell as Elizabeth Foster or Bess, the third person in the marriage
Hayley Atwell gives a wonderful performance as Lady Elizabeth Foster, the third person in the marriage. Starting out as Georgiana's friend, she ends up right in the middle of the marriage! Highly unusual, even for the times methinks.

The Duchess and Charlotte, the Duke's illegitimate daughter on the grounds of Chatsworth
Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire: There are limits to the sacrifices one makes for one's children.
Bess Foster: No, there aren't. No limits whatsoever.

"When she arrives, all eyes are upon her. When absent, she is the subject of universal conversation. And what we see her wearing tonight, I look forward to seeing the rest of you wearing tomorrow!" 

Georgiana Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire
If there is a fault to be found with this film, it would be that it romanticizes the Duchess and her faults. Her gambling is glossed over, whereas in real life it dominated her entire life. Her friends would avoid her so as not to be asked for money to pay her debts. And yet, of course, we want the romanticized version on screen, don't we? But she was an amazing woman...more amazing than can ever be shown in 110 minutes.

Having just re-watched this last night, I can wholeheartedly recommend this for an evening's entertainment. Especially if you don't mind a good cry at the end.


  1. I loved the costuming. I loved the scenery. The story was even got. I have the book but haven't read it yet. I hated how she was treated and I just don't know if I could have lived like that even for my children. How absolutely horrible. Left me outraged as I left the theatre but I bought the movie for the costuming etc. smiles

  2. Hi Suzan,

    You might really like the book (I did). As much as it is hard to read about her gambling and unhappy marriage, she was an amazing woman. The author pretty much admits that she fell in love with Georgiana while writing it.





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