Film: The Duchess

Set at the end of the eighteenth century, The Duchess is a 2008 film from BBC Films and Pathé (distributed in America by Paramount), directed by Saul Gibb, with musical score by Rachel Portman, and starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes.

The film is based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. While her beauty and charisma made her name, her extravagant tastes and appetite for gambling and love made her infamous. Married young to the older, distant Duke of Devonshire, who was blatantly unfaithful, Georgiana became a fashion icon, a doting mother, a shrewd political operator, intimate of ministers and princes, and darling of the common people. But at the core of the story is a desperate search for love. The film delves into Georgiana’s passionate and doomed affair with Charles Grey, the future Prime Minister and Earl Grey, and the complex love triangle with her husband and her best friend, Lady Bess Foster.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Your husband can take your children away from you, and there's nothing you can do about it because you're a woman and he has the law on his side. This briefly happens to Bess, while the Duke threatens to do this to Georgiana if she continues her affair.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Despite everyone having a mostly Happy Ending, Georgiana remains married to the Duke until her death and never rekindled her affair with Charles Grey, although she did often visit their daughter in secret.
  • Break the Cutie: Dear God...
  • Easily Forgiven: Georgiana forgives both the Duke and Bess in the end, despite all of the suffering they put her through. Bess is more easily forgiven as Georgiana comes to realise that Bess only had the affair (initially) to regain her children, something she herself experiences later. Georgiana however never fully forgives the Duke or lets him forget the time he raped her, naturally.
  • Historical In-Joke: The newspaper political cartoon parodying Georgiana really did exist.
  • Jerkass: The Duke. Has shades of Jerkass Woobie towards the end.
  • Marital Rape License: The Duke rapes Georgiana after his discovery of her affair with Charles Grey, and nobody does anything even when they hear her screaming.
  • Polyamory: Georgiana, the Duke and Bess live together for over 25 years, until the former's death.
  • Pretty in Mink: One of her outfits has a red fox muff and a Nice Hat with fox tails. She also has a maternity dress with fur trim.
  • Spirited Young Lady: The Duchess of Devonshire, known for her beauty and fashion sense, desperately wants to make a love connection. After her husband betrays her she turns to the man who shares her political ideals, Charles Grey, whom she campaigned for. When the statesmen around her were interested to know her thoughts she expressed to them her option that the concept of freedom is an absolute.
  • The Stoic: The Duke.
  • Table Space: used frequently, particularly when relationships are strained.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Charles Grey, who would later go on to become Prime Minister and implement the 1832 Reform Act.
  • Your Cheating Heart: The Duke is very obvious about his affairs. Georgiana briefly has one with a Charles Grey, but it ends badly.