The Duchess, Part II

I’ve seen The Duchess, and it is an amazing movie. Go see it!

I saw it with a friend who wasn’t very familiar with the story nor with English history and culture in the late 1700s. It was hard for her to reconcile today’s concepts of feminism and civil rights with Regency England. She also thinks Ralph Fiennes is ugly. Not just unattractive, mind you, but ugly. Even with the wig and tummy padding, I disagreed.

The movie didn’t delve into the psyche of William Cavendish, the fifth Duke of Devonshire. After seeing the movie and Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal, I went back to the beginning of the book to find out more about the duke.

Amazingly, he was orphaned at a young age. Sound familiar? His mother died when he was about six, and his father died when he was 16.  Upon his father’s premature death, he was became the duke and gained control over vast land holdings throughout Derby and in Ireland. From his childhood, he became accustomed to his word being unquestioned and obeyed.

The Duke was considered highly intelligent–he was an expert on Shakespeare–but he was sullen and hardly spoke a word. He was unemotional and unwavering. He was seen as one of the most eligible bachelors in all of England, but because of his holdings and influence and not because of his charm and personality.

Although there are some general parallels to Mr. Darcy’s personality, the duke’s personality was quite diffent than our fictional Darcy. By many accounts, the duke’s personality didn’t get any warmer over time or intimacy. He was literally unable to express his emotions.

I don’t think Darcy’s character was inspired by the Duke of Devonshire. Irregardless, I find the continued parallels between this true story and the fictional Pride and Prejudice to be fascinatingly similar.

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One response to “The Duchess, Part II

  1. It leaped out at me when I was watching The Duchess over the weekend that this was a key source for P&P, that is what led me to Google which led me to your post on this subject. I had not realized that Derry had written about this nearly 20 years ago.

    If you treat the allusion seriously, it suggests some darker (Darcier?) shades to Darcy’s character, doesn’t it?

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