Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Duchess

Jerry and I watched The Duchess last night. It's a costume drama with Keira Knightley, that chronicles the life of Georgiana Spencer Cavandish, Duchess of Devonshire, an 18th century aristocrat. She was a very extravagant celebrity figure of her time, both politically and personally. Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales is a descendant of Georgiana's brother, and Sarah, Duchess of York is a direct descendant through Georgiana's illegitimate child, Eliza.

Georgiana was unhappily married to William Cavandish, the Duke of Devonshire and she gave him 3 children, 2 daughters and 1 son. She also gave birth to a 4th child, another daughter named Eliza from her lover, Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey who later became the prime minister. Georgiana proved to be a great influence who helped further Grey's political career by lending her name and appearances to his cause. Highly intelligent and politically savy, nevertheless it seems that she wasn't above using her beauty and socialite status for the Whig party. Supposedly she traded kisses for votes. The Duke also had another lover, Lady Elizabeth Foster, who was Georgiana's best friend and the three of them lived together in a ménage à trois until Georgiana's death. The Duke then married "Bess" who gave him 2 children. He also had another daughter by former mistress who was born after he married Georgiana.

Good film. In this story the Duke was portrayed as an insensitive asshole (he actually raped Georgiana in this version) who took on another lovers and then seduced her best friend and moved her into the home he shared with Georgiana. Georgiana came to accept this arrangement and in return requested the freedom to openly pursue a relationship with a man she had grown to love. He denied her of course due to his fear of being perceived as a cuckold (as opposed to a wittol who rather than being blind and ignorant towards his wife's infidelties, knows about and tolerates his wife's affairs) and threatened to kill her lover. She pursued the relationship anyway and the drama unfolds.

Sometimes I get bewildered and frustrated by the seeming stupidity of the human race. It makes me sad when I see the potential of love in human relationships as compared with the way people choose to play the gift of these opportunities out. Throughout history we find people who are either stuck in loveless marriages and/or find themselves loving more than one person and rather than opening their hearts to what is and finding a kindhearted and compassionate way to allow this love to enrich their and their partner's lives, they tighten and constrict to the possibilities, throwing love by the wayside, succumbing to fear and status quo and in the end, create much unnecessary suffering.

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