is based on a 1998 biography of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire,
1757-1806. Georgiana (Keira
Knightley), an aristocat of passion and intelligence, was given in
marriage to the Duke of
Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes),
who was only interested in her fulfilling her obligation to produce a male
heir. Certainly her first two children, both girls, were a
nuisance and a bother, as was his girl-child by a maid who died, who then came
to live with them. Though cold and cruel to his wife, The Duke
can actually manage love, but only to his mistress, Lady Spencer (Charlotte
Rampling), who also moves in with her three sons because the many
servants take care of everything, you know. Georgiana tries
to rebel by taking her own lover, Charles
Gray, who would later become Prime Minister, but alas, their liaison is
doomed, because the Duke makes her choose between her lover and her children.
(These days, it’s the women who can have it both ways, and that makes
us all liberated?) So Georgiana decides which tragedy
she’ll choose, by staying with her children in a loveless marriage, and
after she’s dead the Duke marries his mistress, anyway, but presumably that
doesn’t affect the inheritance situation for the “legitimate” heir.
Sara, after all, made sure that her maid Hagar’s son, Ishmael,
wouldn’t be around to compromise her son Isaac’s inheritance rights by
making her husband run them both out of the house (Genesis 21). And
Abraham, after all, is the patriarch of no less than three world religions.
Interesting that in “The Duchess,” love is an immature impulse to
be assiduously ignored whenever possible, because it’s so unpredictable,
inconvenient, and embarrassing. Interesting also that the
“disturbance in The Colonies” (which we prefer to call The
American Revolution), contemporary with this story, isn’t even
mentioned. As if that was somehow something, well,
unpredictable, inconvenient, and embarrassing.