The Duchess (film): Wikis


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The Duchess

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Saul Dibb
Produced by Gabrielle Tana
Michael Kuhn
Written by Book:
Amanda Foreman
Jeffrey Hatcher
Anders Thomas Jensen
Saul Dibb
Starring Keira Knightley
Ralph Fiennes
Hayley Atwell
Charlotte Rampling
Dominic Cooper
Music by Rachel Portman
Cinematography Gyula Pados
Editing by Masahiro Hirakubo
Distributed by Paramount Vantage
BBC Films
Qwerty Films
Release date(s) United Kingdom:
September 5, 2008
United States:
September 19, 2008
Running time 110 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £13,5 million
$25,2 million
€17,1 million[1]
Gross revenue $43,306,325

The Duchess is a 2008 British drama film based on Amanda Foreman's biography of the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. It was released in September 2008 in the UK. Originally to be directed by Susanne Bier,[2] The Duchess was directed by Saul Dibb.


Plot summary

Set at the end of the eighteenth century, The Duchess 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 Earl Grey, the future Prime Minister, and the complex love triangle with her husband and her best friend, Lady Bess Foster.

At the start of the movie, the Duchess and her friends are betting on which of their young male friends will win a race. The young mens' names are put into a hat, and Georgiana picks Charles' name. When he wins the race, Georgiana is delighted, and he asks for his reward. She in turn asks him what he thinks it should be, when they are interrupted by a maid, telling Georgiana that she is summoned by her mother.

Lady Spencer announces that Georgiana is to be married to the Duke of Devonshire, who we later see is extremely unfaithful and a harsh, exacting hypocrite. Nevertheless, Georgiana strives to meet his standards and please him, but when, after six years, she does not produce a single male heir, only two daughters, his bitterness and resentment grows, even when she raises Charlotte, an illegitimate daughter of his, as if she were her own. It is around that time that Georgiana meets Lady Elizabeth; after seeing her husband talking to Lady Elizabeth at a party and suspecting that something is going on between them. However, Elizabeth reveals that there is nothing between her and the Duke, and, surprisingly, the two women soon became extremely close friends. Elizabeth tells Georgiana that she has nowhere to stay and so the latter offers her a room at their house. Elizabeth, or 'Bess' soon becomes a permanent fixture in the Devonshire household.

One night, when the Duke, Georgiana and Bess are attending a play, Georgiana spies her old friend, Charles Grey and asks him how he found the play. When he does not show much enthusiasm, and she reminds him that it is supposed to be a comedy, and that she hopes that he has not lost his sense of humour after going into politics, he looks deep into Georgiana's eyes and says that it looked more like a tragedy to him. This is of particular significance to Georgiana, as the play is about a beautiful young girl who marries a much older, disgruntled man who only seeks a male heir, which echoes perfectly Georgiana's predicament. Indeed, the playwright remarks to her that he had been thinking of titling the play 'The Bad Marriage', and it becomes obvious that the play was inspired by Georgiana and the Duke's marriage. Accordingly, Georgiana looks into Charles' eyes and we see the same passion and emotion we saw at the beginning of the film, when they were both young and free. Later that evening, Georgiana is in Bess's room. Bess tells Georgiana that Charles Grey was in love with her, but Georgiana doesn't believe her.

Georgiana and Charles continue to talk whenever they meet. At one of these meetings, he tells her that the campaign for his political party is not going well at all, to which she replies that she has many faults, not least of them being her ability to draw attention, and then tells him that she will use that to their advantage.

And so, with Georgiana's help, Charles makes a speech to a huge crowd, who then cheer for him wholeheartedly, while Georgiana looks on in a wonder bordering on adoration. After he has made his speech, the two go inside to talk and he asks her what she thought of his speech. She says that it was a 'marvel', and the conversation soon switches to their feelings for each other. When asked if he thinks about her when they are not together, he replies that he does, all the time, and that he always has. At that exact moment, someone informs Georgiana that her carriage is ready, interrupting the intimate moment.

Georgiana returns home light-hearted, but her happy mood is soon quashed by the revelation that the Duke has been having an affair with Bess. Although he has had many affairs before, of which Georgiana has been, to an extent, indifferent, she is enraged that he should have an affair with her best friend, the 'sole comfort in their marriage', and a heated argument ensues. Georgiana insists that Elizabeth leave the house at once, but the Duke flatly refuses.

Soon, growing restless that she is forced to live with her husband's mistress and former best friend, Georgiana proposes a deal with her husband. Georgiana will give her blessings for Bess to continue carrying on with the Duke, if the Duke will accept Georgiana's romantic feelings for Grey. Enraged, the Duke chases and corners Georgiana in her bedroom, where he proceeds to rape her. The entire household is forced to bear Georgiana's screams, and when it is finally over, the Duke demands a son from his wife.

Trapped in her own life, the Duchess forgets her usual manners, and one evening, at a party, becomes so intoxicated that she accidentally sets her wig on fire, embarrassing her husband before other members of the court. Soon after, The Duke discovers Georgiana is pregnant, and not long after, she gives birth to a healthy son, William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire.

In the midst of all this pain and betrayal, it is Charles Grey to whom Georgiana turns. They both go to Bath and start living together, with Bess encouraging Georgiana to enjoy her lover. But soon the Duke discovers the romance and comes to take back his wife, threatening her with the loss of her children forever, and with destroying Grey's career. Georgiana, though it breaks her heart, stays with her children and sets Grey free.

When it is discovered that she is carrying the child of Grey, the Duke forbids her to keep the child. Bess insists upon accompanying Georgiana to the country where she gives birth to a daughter who she names Eliza. Georgiana secretly sees Eliza throughout her life and Eliza only finds out of her real parentage after Georgiana's death at age 48, caused by an abscess of the liver.


The Duchess is financed by BBC Films and Pathé.[3] The Duchess was filmed at Twickenham Film Studios and on-location at Chatsworth, Bath, Holkham Hall, Clandon Park, Kedleston Hall, Somerset House and the Old Royal Naval College.

Regarding lead actress Keira Knightley, director Saul Dibb said The Duchess was "a chance to take a character from late childhood — she's married at 17—into full adulthood, 10 years later."[4] It was also a chance to work with Ralph Fiennes, whom she regarded as one of her most accomplished co-stars to date; Dibb said, "When I said, 'We've got Ralph interested in playing the Duke,' we both took a gulp and went, 'F---.' [sic] ... But I didn't for one second feel that she wasn't up to the task."[4]



  • Calvin Dean (II) as Devonshire House Servant; Emily Jewell as Nanny; Hannah Stokely as Maid; Richard Syms as Dr Neville; Richard McCabe as Sir James Hare; Andy Armour as Burleigh the Butler; Emily Cohen as Harryo; Poppy Wigglesworth as Charlotte (aged 10); Mercy Fiennes Tiffin as Little Georgiana; Sebastian Applewhite as Augustus; Eva Hrela as Charlotte (aged 3); Bruce Mackinnon as Sir Peter Teazle actor; Alistair Petrie as Heaton; Georgia King as Lady Teazle actress; Kate Burdette as Lady Harriet; Paul Daley as George Augustus Henry Cavendish, created 1st Earl of Burlington of the 2nd order or creation (a.k.a. Duke's brother); Hannah Stretton as Lady Mary; Hollie Standish-Leigh as Lady Patricia; and Anon. plays Georgiana's daughter by Lord Grey, Eliza Courtney.



Studio executives wanted to use digitally altered images of Keira Knightley in promotional materials. The alterations were specifically aimed at enlarging her breasts. However, Knightley objected to the alterations and they were not used.[5]

Theatrical release

The BBFC has classified the film as a 12A, citing the scene of implied marital rape, which is "delivered through Georgiana's screams of protest, heard from outside the bedroom door." The BBFC's PG rating allows implied sex as long as it is discreet and infrequent; the board decided that the scene in The Duchess is more than "discreet" or "implied".[6] The film had its world premiere on September 3, 2008, in Leicester Square and was released nationwide in the United Kingdom on September 5.[7] [8]

Critical reception

The film received mixed, though mostly positive, reviews gaining 61% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 142 reviews, with the consensus that "Keira Knightley squeezes into a corset again, and pulls off another worthy performance in this sumptuous and emotional period drama, that serves parallels to the Duchess's descendent Princess Diana."[9] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote that "Dibb's movie looks good" [however] "exasperatingly bland and slow-moving at all times" handing out a 2 of 5 star rating. However, Paul Hurley gave the film 8/10 and called The Duchess "an excellent new film" and states that "The Duchess stands a good chance of taking home some very big prizes at the end of the year".[10]

Most reviewers have highly praised Knightley and Fiennes' performances. Timeout London wrote: "[Saul Dibb] is also helped enormously by a mature, restrained portrayal from Knightley, a masterclass in passive aggression from Fiennes and a performance of tender seduction from Atwell."[11] The Epoch Times writes, "Ralph Fiennes brings a human quality to [the Duke] by avoiding any intent, exaggeration or ill will" and "Keira Knightley’s performance gains new depth — she not only perfectly portrays a witty and feminine Georgiana early in the film, but also a caring mother, and an abandoned woman later on. Also remarkable in this role is Knightley’s ability to portray the strengths, weaknesses, and the internal hurdles of Georgiana, as well as her internal contemplation."[12] Film Ireland writes "It is a slow movie but it is well acted with Knightley and Fiennes suited to their roles, especially Fiennes who gives a formidable and powerful performance."[13]

Cameron Baily, the co-chair of The Toronto International Festival comments; “The Duchess Of Devonshire, with Keira Knightley, which is a beautiful film and she gives a really mature performance. You’re seeing her really turn into something beyond the kind of pretty face that we’ve seen her do already so well. But she’s actually a very serious actress and she’s turning into a great, great performer.”[14]

The film's costume designer Michael O'Connor was nominated for, and won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, the BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design and the Satellite Award for Best Costume Design.


Awards ceremony Award Category Subject Result
Academy Awards[15] Best Costume Design Michael O'Connor Won
Best Art Direction - Nominated
BAFTA Awards[16] Best Costume Design Michael O'Connor Won
BIFA[17] Best Actress Keira Knightley Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Hayley Atwell Nominated
Best Technical Achievement Michael O'Connor (Costume) Nominated
Golden Globes Awards[18][19] Best Supporting Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
People's Choice Awards[20] Favourite Actress Keira Knightley Nominated
Favourite Independent Movie The Duchess Nominated
Satellite Awards[21] Best Art Direction and Production Design Karen Wakefield, Michael Carlin Nominated
Best Cinematography Gyula Pados Nominated
Best Costume Design Michael O'Connor Won
London Circle Critics' Film Awards British Actor of the Year Ralph Fiennes Nominated
British Actress in a Supporting Role Hayley Atwell Nominated


  1. ^ On-set report: The Duchess The Telegraph. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  2. ^ (18 September 2006) Susanne Bier finds The Duchess:Open Hearts helmer glamming up for period love story, Total Film
  3. ^ DAWTREY, Adam (29 July 2007) Keira Knightley set for 'Duchess':Actress to play the controversial blueblood, Variety
  4. ^ a b "2008 Fall Movie Guide: Preview: The Duchess". Entertainment Weekly, Issue #1007/1008. Time Inc.. August 22–29, 2008. pp. pg. 50.,,20219070_20219072_20218882,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  5. ^ Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld. Fox News. Broadcast date: July 30, 2008.
  6. ^ "The Duchess rated 12A by the BBFC" British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved on 13 August 2008.
  7. ^ Pamela McClintock (2008-03-31). "2008 awards season shaping up". Variety. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  8. ^ "Knightley stars at Duchess launch". BBCNews. 2008-09-03. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  9. ^ The Duchess (2008)
  10. ^
  11. ^ From Time Out London
  12. ^ Keira Knightley Shines in Premiere of Duchess
  13. ^
  14. ^ CityNews: Brad Pitt And Keira Knightley Among Big Names Confirmed For T.O. Film Fest
  15. ^ AA (2009-01-22). "Oscars 2009 Nominations =Academy Awards". Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  16. ^ "Film Winners in 2009". BAFTA.,657,BA.html. Retrieved 8 February, 2009. 
  17. ^ BIFA (2008-12-13). "BIFA 2008 Nominations =BIFA". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  18. ^ Silverman, Stephen (2008-12-11). "Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt Score Golden Globe Nods". People.,,20245120_2,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  19. ^ "Nominations & Winners". Golden Globes. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  20. ^ PCA (2008-12-13). "PCA Nominations =People's Choice Awards". Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  21. ^ none (2008-12-13). [ "2008 13th Annual SATELLITE Awards Nominees=Satellite Awards"]. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 

External links

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