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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Duchess can be found here.
The Duchess is a 1998 biography of the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire [1757-1806]. It was written by English biographer Amanda Foreman.
Most likely, it is her relation to the late Diana, Princess of Wales [1961-1997] and the similarities between their lives. For example, both the Duchess and the Princess married young (Georgiana was 17 and Diana was 20) to an older man (William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire was 27 and Charles, Prince of Wales was 33) for political reasons. Their husbands did not love them, preferred their mistresses over them, and eventually married their mistresses after their wives' deaths. Both Georgiana and Diana had extramarital liaisons of their own, became well-known for their fashion sense, and were dearly loved by the general populace, and both suffered from intense scrutiny by the world media because of it.
Georgiana Spencer Cavendish (1757-1806) (played by Keira Knightley) was the oldest child of the first Earl Spencer. Her only brother George became the second Earl and fathered eight children, one of whom became the third Earl. When the third Earl passed away with no surviving heirs, the title passed to the fourth Earl Spencer, whose second son Robert, Diana's paternal great-grandfather, became the sixth Earl. This makes Georgiana approximately Diana's great-great-great-great-grandaunt.
Devonshire is a historical reference to Devon, a county in the South West of England. Devon is bordered by Cornwall on the West and Dorset and Somerset Counties to the East. Although William (played by Ralph Fiennes) and Georgiana were titled the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, they didn't actually live in Devon. Their family 'seat' is Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, and Georgiana, William, and William's second wife, Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Foster (played by Hayley Atwell) are all buried in Derby Cathedral.
She had two daughters, Lady Georgiana (1783-1858) ("Little G" as played by Mercy Fiennes Tiffin) and Lady Harriet (1785-1862) (Kate Burdette), and one son, William George Spencer (1790-1858) by her husband William. In 1792, she also had a daughter, Eliza Courtney (an ancestor of Sarah, Duchess of York) with Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (played by Dominic Cooper).
Wigs were a symbol of a person's status. The bigger the wig, the more important the person. Some VIPs even had wardrobes of various wigs to be worn for different occasions. From this came the term "bigwig" that we use today for a very important person.
The official cause of death was given to be a liver abscess. However, the cause of the abscess was not given. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire was 49 when she died.
There are several movies that feature the Duchess of Devonshire albeit in minor parts. In The Divine Lady (1929), the Duchess is played by Evelyn Hall. In Berkeley Square (1933), she is played by Juliette Compton. Mary Clare plays the Duchess of Devonshire in Mrs. Fitzherbert (1947), and Kathleen Byron plays her in The House in the Square (1951). There is The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) in which Christina Robert plays the Duchess of Devonshire. However, this last movie takes place in 1890s London, almost 100 years after Georgiana's death in 1806, so it must be noted that not all the Duchesses of Devonshire portrayed in these movies refer to Georgiana.
Unfortunately not. Probably in order to obtain the PG-13 rating, several scenes with sexual content were altered or shortened like Georgiana's defloration. They used alternative material in other "sex scenes" as well and even Knightley's topless scene has been cut for the US version. All these scenes can be found on the German DVD. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be seen here.
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