Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Duchess (2008)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Duchess (2008, US/UK/It./Fr.)

In director Saul Dibb's exquisitely sad costume drama of 18th century life adapted from Amanda Foreman's biography "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire":

  • the many lavish but tragic scenes of witty and attractive aristocrat Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightley), who was set up and then trapped in an arranged marriage at age 17 with emotionally-distant and callous but regal and powerful Duke of Devonshire William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes) by her calculating mother (Charlotte Rampling) to become the Duchess of Devonshire in 1774 - and her telling, gasping question she asked when told she was engaged: "He loves me?...I have only met him twice"
  • the long tracking shot back from her face as she proceeded into her marriage (and the title screen)
  • the scene of her conjugal loss of virginity to her loathsome husband (with his sole contractual intention to produce a male heir) when he took a scissors to her complicated bodice
  • the scene of her seductive Sapphic experimental initiation to pleasurable love-making by her personal friend Lady Elizabeth 'Bess' Foster (Hayley Atwell)
  • Georgiana (known as "G") - who was unable to bear male heirs (at first), and who had to turn a blind eye to her husband's illegitimate ("bastard") child Charlotte (that she raised as her own); but then she became aghast at her husband's open 'live-in' affair with her own friend/divorcee Lady 'Bess' Foster; she had to accept it, while she was not allowed, due to the double standard, to have her own extra-marital lover (open marriage)
  • the scene of her passionate kiss with rising politician and childhood sweetheart Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), admitting: "I feel I've done some things in life too late and others too early"
Extra-Marital Love Affair with Rising Politician and
Childhood Sweetheart Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper)
  • her proposal of a "deal" with her husband when she asked permission to take her own lover to make her happy; the Duke forcibly and angrily raped Georgiana as she screamed out: "Get off...Is this how you treat your whore?" - it was the one act of sexual intercourse that produced a boy between them ("Success at last")
  • the latter scenes of a secret love affair with Charles
  • after giving birth to their love-child - the tear-jerking scene on an open country road, when she had to give up her infant daughter (Eliza) to the Grey family, although she was able to frequently visit the girl in secret (whom Charles called his 'niece') as she grew up
  • the final caption that with Georgiana's blessing, Bess went on to marry the Duke and become the next Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Spencer
(Keira Knightley)

Forced Marriage and Loss of Virginity to Duke of Devonshire

Lady Bess and Georgiana: Sapphic Experimentation

Conjugal Rape

Giving Up Her Love-Child (Conceived with Charles)

Final Caption


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