21 August 2009

Supping On the Lawn: "The Duchess"

Just a quick note here, as I'm off to a long day of work and errands...

I'm going over to see "The Duchess" tonight over at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. The show starts at 8pm, and it's a very good outdoor venue (that sells decent wine, too!), so I'm hoping for no rain today or tonight. Admission is only $3.

While generally I am not known for liking 'chick-flicks', I do have a fondness for films of some historical merit...although Lord knows some take 'history' and stretch it to unrecognizable limits. "The Duchess" stars Kiera Knightley, who portrays the headstrong Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, in 18th century England. Headstrong may not even begin to come close to an accurate description of Georgie: The Duchess was known to be quite outspoken at a time when women (even rich, politically powerful and titled ones) were not expected/tolerated to be; known to be quite a rebel (of sorts) within English nobility for her popularity with the common people and her leading fashion sense; known to be a quite the (unsuccessful) gambler; and then there was that whole known love affair not with her husband, the stuffy and boring Duke...but instead with the future Whig Prime Minister Earl Grey (yes, the real-life man attached to the popular kind of tea). The affair with Grey eventually produced a female child, which Georgiana was forced to give up to Grey's family to raise.

If parts of the above (save the out-of-wedlock child) all sound a bit all-too-familiar with another deeply loved member of English nobility, the late Princess Diana of Wales, you're visiting the same neighbourhood: the late Princess was a direct descendant of the Duchess. Sarah Ferguson, the recent former Duchess of York and Diana's good friend for a number of years, is also a descendant of Georgiana's (by way of the illegitimate daughter she had with Grey). (Talk about history repeating itself...drama seems to be a part of the family tree.) If you're really into the history of all things Duchess Georgie, try reading this witty, well-researched, and informative blog about all the characters (and many side acquaintances) of Georgiana's world: The Duchess of Devonshire's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century.

I'm hoping that at least some of "The Duchess" stays true to the facts, as it's a fascinating tale to read about in history books, let alone see on film. (With the exception of Lizzy Bennett from Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice"...and Lizzy is a fiction...the Duchess of Devonshire represents my favourite thoroughly modern woman in a not-so-modern world of proper society.) Since this is a British production, and since the dear Brits take their film making deadly serious, I'm confident Knightley won't be slaying her rivals with a gamma ray gun or doing inhuman-like acrobatics on the backside of a horse en route to meet her lover.

I was sorry I missed this movie when it first came out last year, but am glad I'm able to see it again on a large screen...albeit a large, outdoor one. A glass of wine, a small picnic basket of goodies, on the nice lawn at the NC M of A: it seems an excellent choice to take in the public and private affairs of a star-crossed English aristocrat. Hell, I might even bring along some Earl Grey tea and biscuits and do it all proper-like.

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