The Duchess (2008)

There were three people in her marriage

Plot outline

A chronicle of the life of 18th-century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life.

Personal notes



A chronicle of the life of 18th-century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life. - anonymous

Georgiana Spencer became Duchess of Devonshire on her marriage to the Duke in 1774, at the height of the Georgian period, a period of fashion, decadence, and political change. Spirited and adored by the public at large she quickly found her marriage to be a disappointment, defined by her duty to produce a male heir and the Duke's philandering and callous indifference to her. She befriends Lady Bess but finds she is once again betrayed by her husband who wields his power with the three eventually living uncomfortably together. Against this background, and with the pressures of an unfaithful husband, strict social pressures and constant public scrutiny, Georgiana falls passionately in love with Charles Grey, a rising young Whig politician. However, despite his ongoing liaison with Lady Bess, the Duke refuses to allow her to continue the affair and threatens to take her children from her. - johnno.r[at]

After a careless youth, Georgiana Spencer is delighted to be married off at 17 by her parents in 1774 to the Duke of Devonshire, one of England's richest and most influential peers. Although his grace enables a lavish life-style in grand homes and privileged introduction to the highest society circles, it comes at a price. The duke only cares for her as future mother of a male heir, and punishes her failing in that respect severely, while enjoying serial adultery and ordering her to help raise his illegitimate offspring, without omitting her sole confident Bess Foster. Even after the birth of a son, her indiscreet affair with rising politician Charles Grey is intolerable. - KGF Vissers

1770s England. Despite being at a carefree stage of her young adult life which includes a friendship and possibly more in the future with Charles Grey, Lady Georgiana Spencer is more than thrilled to accept the marriage proposal of older William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, regardless of the fact that they have only met twice. Georgiana is well aware that she has only two primary responsibilities as Duchess: (1) to produce a male heir for the Duke; (2) to be loyal to him. However, their marriage is not as she expects, where he pays more attention to his dogs than he does to her. Even their lovemaking is cold and clinical. As long as she doesn't fulfill that first responsibility which seems to be difficult to achieve, their marriage will remain distant. That coldness she is aware includes infidelity on his side, which she tolerates in keeping to her second responsibility, especially as it relates to her public duties. As such, she decides to be fulfilled in other ways outside of her time with the Duke, which he, in an unspoken agreement, is not to intrude. Those outside activities, which make her a star among the elite, include fashion design, gambling, and surprisingly politics. It also includes a friendship with Lady Elizabeth Foster - Bess - whose own marriage is in disarray, as her husband beats her and he has all but taken away their children from her. Georgiana and Bess act as each other's emotional support, which on Georgiana's side includes inviting her to live in Devonshire House with her and the Duke. As her marriage to the Duke deteriorates even further, Georgiana has to decide how far she will go, especially as it relates to Bess, and to Charles, who, as a young man, has political aspirations. If she can't have her cake and eat it too, she will have to make some difficult decisions with regard to the ones she truly loves. - Huggo

Though adored by the people, the Duchess of Devonshire is not content to sit as a pretty figurehead. Determined to be a major player in affairs of state, she rises to the forefront of the Whig Party and helps usher in reform in late-1700s England. The one thing it seems she cannot do is win the heart of her husband. - Jwelch5742

At the age of 17, Georgiana Spencer is married to the Duke of Devonshire. She soon realizes that hers is to be a loveless marriage and her only purpose in the arrangement is to provide her husband with a male heir. She hasn't much good fortune on that front, producing two daughters and having several miscarriages as well and it is many years before she succeeds. What relationship she does have with her husband breaks down completely when he begins what proves to be a lifelong affair with her best friend, Bess Foster. She does make a life for herself, becoming quite active in politics and the fashion icon of her day. - garykmcd