I watched the excellent film, The Duchess, at the weekend and was instantly transported back to Georgian Britain, with its beautiful architecture and sumptuous fashions. It is based on the wonderful book, Georgiana, Duches of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.
As the daughter of the 18th century Lady Spencer, many similarities have been mentioned over the years between Georgiana's life and that of the 20th century, Lady Diana Spencer who became a princess. Certainly, both were in unhappy marriages that involved a third person. And both were highly celebrated as young women of fashion and popularity.
I was more interested in the double standards of the period portrayed in the film. Although the Duke of Devonshire was one of the most eligible bachelors of the day, it soon became clear that he married the beautiful, much younger, Georgiana in order to procure an heir. But he had no intention of being a faithful husband and as well as foisting his illegitimate daughter on his wife, he begins a bizzare relationship with the Lady whom Georgiana brings into their home as her friend.
Georgiana retaliates eventually by taking her own lover, but it is doomed to fail. I won't spoil the film by giving away the whole story! It was a fascinating picture of the lives of some of the aristocrasy of the time and the way in which women had few rights, no matter their standing. It is to Georgiana's credit that she remained so popular with many of the leading people of the time, although she had a terrible penchant for gambling.
For anyone interested in the period, it is well worth reading the book, or watching the film.