Monday, October 13, 2008

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Keira Knightley
as Georgiana (nee Spencer) Cavendish

As a young girl in the 1950s, I read many fairy tales about princesses and like other little girls, I wanted to grow up to be a princess. Problem was, in the United States, there were no real princesses, just celebrities and most celebrities have absolutely nothing to celebrate!

In "The Duchess," Keira Knightley plays the spritely Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. The young socialite's flair for high style and towering hairdos adorned with colorful plumage led to her nickname the "empress of fashion" in the 18th Century.

The movie gets a big WOW from me. I was entranced by Knightley and was overwhelmed with the ambiance of aristocratic, courtly England in the 1770s. While Georgiana was one of the wealthiest women in the world, her life was anything but happy.

Gorgeous Keira as Duchess

The Real Duchess of Devonshire



Current Duchess and Dowager of Devonshire

Devonshire House London (in Movie)

The above is actually Somerset House because the real Devonshire House was demolished in the 1920s, but the interior scenes were filmed at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (home to the Dukes of Devonshire for over 5oo years) and Kedleston Hall, also in Derbyshire, lending an authentic, elegant feel to the film.

The Duchess is a magnificent period piece. Keira Knightley is utterly dazzling. Ralph Fiennes is cruel and indifferent as the painfully antisocial Duke. The story based on the biography by Amanda Foreman bares an uncanny similarity to the modern day saga of Prince Charles and Princess Diana (i. e. "There are three in this marriage.")

Beautiful Diana, Another Tragic Royal

Movie trailers and reviews are touting the fact that Princess Diana was a direct descendant of the Duchess of Devonshire. Being a genealogist and a stickler for facts, I beg to differ! To be a direct descendant, Georgiana would be Diana's 3rd Great grandmama. Diana was, in fact, descended from Georgiana's brother, George John, the 2nd Earl of Spencer (spelled Spenser in England).

Incidently, Ralph Fiennes and I share a common ancestor, way back in the 1500s. Could this be my claim to fame? (Actually, Sir George Yeardley, the first Governor of Virginia Colony, and I share the same ancestor as Ralph Fiennes.)

It is my opinion that Keira Knightley has one of the most exquisite faces currently being "celebrated" on screen. She is the princess I wanted to become. In some ways she bares a resemblance to one of my all-time favorite actresses, the lovely Audrey Hepburn. Both have striking faces and both are/were extremely anorexic. In The Duchess, Keira's anorexia was hidden under layers of heavy 18th Century clothing. (I must like skinny women with accents!)

Love that Audrey Smile!

If you like English history, you will probably like the movie The Duchess. I give it two hardy thumbs up!


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Kate said...

Kiera Knightly is so beautiful. It's no fair!:).

Why, I have never heard of this movie, till now. Thank you for posting this--- you can't imagine how out of it Chris and I are with movies these days (since we can't find a good theatre and + henry = complicated). I would love to see it!!

I was totally dazzled by Princess Diana when I was a young girl- my grandma absolutely loved her and thought she was a very elegant and refined woman.. She actually started calling me Princess Di occasionally when I was only 6 and 7, but I still remember it and remember loving it because it made me feel like I was a priness! HA! Guess every little girl wants to be a princess, huh?

Very fun post, Sheri!

PI said...

Good to hear a good crit. It hasn't done too well from critics over here. I agree Keira is a unique looking actress and - like Audrey - a welcome change from the pneumatic gals.
I think both of them would passionately deny being anorexic. Having been skinny and very boney in my youth -despite eating normally with extra amounts of sweets and goodies after the deprivation of WW2, I can believe they both eat/ate normally.

Kathleen said...

Lovely. The post is lovely, Keira is lovely, the costumes are lovely... I had not heard of this film before your post and now it is a "must see!" I love all things England, so much so I joke that I must have lived there in a past life!

Keri(th) said...

Tis true! That Keira Knightley does look lovely on screen. I also have to admit that she's a fabulous little actress and has broadened her scope somewhat!

kate said...

love your blog, i am also a british and high tea lover,engaged to an englishman currently,please ck out our new blog, i hope you will enjoy it as much as i enjoyed yours, esp. the piece on your grandparents in the depression! kate