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The Duchess

by habituallychic

08 . 20 . 08
I’m a sucker for a good period movie so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing The Duchess which stars Kiera Knightley as Lady Georgiana Spencer who after marrying Duke William Cavendish, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, becomes Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The best part of these types of movies is that you realize that people had just as many problems and issues as we do today except that they had to deal with them while wearing wider dresses and even bigger hair.

“Lady Georgiana Spencer was born on June 7th, 1757. Her father, John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her niece was Lady Caroline Lamb. Among her descendants is the present Duke of Devonshire (via her granddaughter). Another was Diana, Princess of Wales (born Lady Diana Spencer), who was descended from Georgiana’s brother, the 2nd Earl Spencer. Georgiana married William Cavendish on June 6, 1774. They has a son , William George Spencer Cavendish who became the 6th Duke of Devonshire and 2 daughters Georgiana and Harriet.”

Georgiana Cavendish was a celebrated beauty and a socialite who gathered around her a large circle of literary and political figures. She was also an active political campaigner in an age when women’s suffrage was still over a century away.

“Georgiana was famous not only for her marital arrangements, her beauty and sense of style, her political campaigning, but also for her love of gambling. She was reported to have died deeply in debt, even though her own family the Spencers and her husband’s family the Cavendishes were immensely wealthy.”

“During her years in the public eye, Georgiana was painted by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. Gainsborough’s famous painting of her in a large French hat was lost for many years. It was purchased a decade ago by Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire for the Chatsworth collection.”

The movie is actually based on the bestselling and Whitbread Prize winning book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. The book about Georgiana began when Foreman was working on her Ph.D. thesis at Oxford and came upon a “cache of her letters” and then fell in love with her subject. She also served as historical adviser where she also gave the actors insight into the lives they were portraying.

The Devonshire estate of Chatsworth (above and below) was of course used in the movie which is also amusing since it was used as Pemberley in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice also starring Kiera Knightley. Other scenes were filmed at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.

I know I am looking forward to learning more about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the It Girl of her day. From the sounds of it, she could give Paris and Britney a run for their money! As the retired French diplomat Louis Dutens, who wrote a memoir of English society in the 1780s and 1790s said, “When she appeared, every eye was turned towards her; when absent, she was the subject of universal conversation.”

Comments Closed

  1. Anonymous August 20, 2008 | 3:16 am

    yes i read ur blog weekly.

    and make silly ano. comm. freq.

  2. Kristine August 20, 2008 | 5:36 am

    I love a good historical biography. I have read this book but hadn’t heard of the film. Thanks for mentioning it. It will be on my must-see list.

    If you like this sort of read, I recommend my favourite, “A Scandalous Life” by Mary S. Lovell. The subject – Jane Digby – had a fascinating life.

  3. pve design August 20, 2008 | 11:50 am

    Who would replace her in current times?
    Posh Spice? Who dost thou think?

  4. Anonymous August 20, 2008 | 12:37 pm

    Can’t wait for this one…are you going to the screening on Sept. 9th?

  5. Ms. Wis. August 20, 2008 | 12:55 pm

    One of the very first presentations on Masterpiece Theatre was “The First Churchills” if you want the back story on the family. It is out on DVD. And last year I had my yard sale loveseat reupholstered in a gorgeous Romo fabric. It looks like it cost a mint instead of $30!

  6. Habitually Chic August 20, 2008 | 2:25 pm

    Anonymous – You know I don’t appreciate the silly comments and I will rethink meeting up with you again if you don’t stop.

  7. Habitually Chic August 20, 2008 | 2:26 pm

    Kristine – I definitely want to pick up the book and see the movie. They both look good!

  8. Habitually Chic August 20, 2008 | 2:26 pm

    PVE – Hmmm…good question. I’ll have to think about it.

  9. Habitually Chic August 20, 2008 | 2:28 pm

    Anonymous #2 – I hope to go to the advance screening as long as it doesn’t conflict with anything going on during fashion week.

  10. Habitually Chic August 20, 2008 | 2:29 pm

    Ms. Wis – I love Masterpiece Theatre but am not familiar with the Churchills. I will have to look for it.

    Glad you also appreciate Romo. I think they are my new favorite fabric company!

  11. CB August 20, 2008 | 3:25 pm

    I read the book three years ago and adored it. (It also got me a little hooked on Marie Antoinette bios…but that is for another post.) Cannot wait to see this film!! Thanks for the tease.

  12. porter hovey August 20, 2008 | 6:48 pm

    I’m so excited to see this!!

  13. Brilliant Asylum August 20, 2008 | 7:49 pm

    So excited about this–I love a good corset movie!

  14. Richie Designs August 20, 2008 | 11:44 pm

    There is a stunning article [written by the author of the book the movie is based] in this month’s Vogue. Oddly, I just read it last night. Kiera is on the cover of course.

    It’s long, but the end portion of the story is quite notable and made me cry.

    check it out if you can

  15. Eloise August 21, 2008 | 12:40 am

    I had not heard about this movie and am so glad you featured it. It looks wonderful! I was not a Keira Knightley fan but thought she was fabulous in Atonement. I’m always in awe of the costumes and sets in these period movies. Thanks for the heads up.

  16. WendyB August 21, 2008 | 4:05 am

    The book was great — if the movie gets good reviews, I’ll go see it.

  17. Robin August 21, 2008 | 4:06 am

    I only recently saw a trailer for this movie and am so excited, as I love British costume dramas. Can’t wait to see it! Thanks for all the gorgeous pics.

  18. Visual Vamp August 21, 2008 | 6:49 am

    Thanks for the timely heads up. It’s nice to have another beautiful movie to look forward to. Did you enjoy Brideshead? Also – love, love, love the Romo fabrics!

  19. Persian Tea August 25, 2008 | 4:59 pm

    i’m excited to see this now! even though i’m not a big fan of knightly.

  20. Easy and Elegant Life August 25, 2008 | 8:04 pm

    Let us know how the movie turns out. I (regretfully) won’t make the screening.

    “When she appeared, every eye was turned towards her; when absent, she was the subject of universal conversation.”

    I wish I’d written that…