My Own Fact Checker – Duchess of Devonshire style

Fact Checker websites are all the rage in the political world these days. It appears that all politicians have a problem telling the truth these days. Well, I too want a piece of this truth-telling action. After all, I can’t stand people that haven’t done their research but fell the need to shoot off their mouths.

So here is my fact checker for the trailer to the movie The Duchess. I have now seen two trailers that essentially state that Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire began life as an ordinary woman. In fact on trailer flashes the words “An Ordinary Woman” and the other one has the voiceover state, “She came from nothing.”

Fact Checker: Absolutely False; So false, that this very characterization of Georgiana causes me not to want to see the movie. Georgiana was born a Spencer, her father was the 1st Earl of Spencer, in fact. The daughter of an Earl is hardly was an ordinary woman in 18th Century Regency England. Titled nobles were a tiny segment of the population of England, but who had the good fortune of most of the property of England and the British Isles. Georgiana, being born into wealth property had every advantage that an “ordinary” woman at the time would not have.

I have been going back and forth about going to see this movie. I finally read Amanda Forman’s book, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, this summer and still haven’t entirely resolved my feelings towards that book. At the same time, I also was reading a biography of Tudor England’s Bess of Harwick, who was the matron of the Cavendish family that a few centuries later Georgiana married into. Bess of Hardwick really struck me as a woman before her time. Her wise and prudent investments in financial matters as well as her meticulous eye to protecting all of her legal rights to her property ensured the Cavendish family would have the means to one day become Dukes and Duchesses. Of Bess it could be said that she came from nothing (her family was minor gentry, with a very small estate relative to the Spencers of the 18th century) and built her family’s fortune through a series of unfortunate events as well as prudent management and stewardship. In contrast, of Georgiana (as well as her husband, the Duke) it could be said that she did her best to squander the Cavendish fortune through what could safely be called a major gambling addiction and obsession with defining trends in Regency England. Certainly, Georgiana was noteable in 18th Century England for her intense political involvement on behalf of the Whigs. However, Bess’ involvement at court on behalf of the fortunes of her family and interests is even more remarkable in the 16th century.

What digusts me about the trailer, and why I probably will not see the movie, is that overly romanticizes the life of a woman, who fundamentally was insecure and frequently made bad decisions. And that trailer absolutely showed that the film is attempting to make Georgiana into a heroine, that may or may not be deserved, but not at all for the reasons why the film trailer suggests.

I am writing a screenplay about Bess of Hardwick. She may not have been known for her beauty or trend-setting like Georgiana, but her prudence and thoughtful decisionmaking truly birthed a dynasty. And that is a far more interesting and long-lasting tale than the fleeting glory of being a fashion trendsetter.

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