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The Duchess (2008)

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


Saul Dibb


Jeffrey Hatcher (screenplay), Anders Thomas Jensen (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
3,643 ( 136)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Keira Knightley ... Georgiana
Ralph Fiennes ... The Duke
Charlotte Rampling ... Lady Spencer
Dominic Cooper ... Charles Grey
Hayley Atwell ... Bess Foster
Simon McBurney ... Charles Fox
Aidan McArdle ... Richard Sheridan
John Shrapnel ... General Grey
Alistair Petrie ... Heaton
Patrick Godfrey ... Dr. Neville
Michael Medwin ... Speechmaker
Justin Edwards ... Macaroni
Richard McCabe ... Sir James Hare
Calvin A. Dean ... Devonshire House Servant (as Calvin Dean)
Hannah Stokely Hannah Stokely ... Devonshire House Maid


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. Written by johnno.r[at]xtra.co.nz

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The scandal that shocked a nation. The courage that defined a woman. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and thematic material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official site | Official site [Japan] | See more »


UK | Italy | France | USA



Release Date:

10 October 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Duchess See more »

Filming Locations:

Bath, Somerset, England, UK See more »


Box Office


£13,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$190,426, 21 September 2008

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The initial marketing campaign featured images of Keira Knightley with digitally enhanced breasts. Knightley took great exception to this so the material was not used. See more »


In the scene with the little girls in the carriage, when they print on the screen the names of Harryo, Little G, and Charlotte, they mix up Harryo and Little G's names. Harryo is the youngest, with the dark hair, but they put the name "Little G" in the front of this child and put "Harryo" in front of the blond older child. In a subsequent scene, Harryo, the youngest with the dark hair, falls and scrapes her knee. Georgiana specifically calls her by name, Harryo. In fact, Little G was older than Harryo. So the scene with the names is incorrect, while the scene with the scraped knee is correct. See more »


Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire: I am her mother. After all, she is only a girl.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Paramount Vantage preferred a PG-13 version for the United States and in order to get that rating some cuts and alternate shots were used. See more »


Featured in The EE British Academy Film Awards (2015) See more »


Menuetto from String Quartet No. 12 in B Flat Major
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Too hard to get into, and all too easy to walk out of.
8 October 2008 | by OtobokeSee all my reviews

The period drama never has been a genre that has offered cinema attendees high octane thrills and pacing, instead opting for a much more subdued, elegant formula to tell whatever historically placed story it may be willing to explore. To say that much of the genre as a result is usually unfairly deemed as dry to the point of uselessness would be somewhat of an understatement; in fact the vast majority of such films, although slow and exceedingly dry, usually make up for their blandness in story with well rounded, memorable and exciting characters. The Duchess however, is not one of these films. No, this is dry turkey with an ostensible glaze created by superficial juice. Going through the motions at every turn, director Saul Dibb fails to create anything worth noting here; it's an extremely straight-forward, standardised period drama with little to no interesting characters whatsoever. So not only do you have to sit through a soap opera plot that feels about as fresh and exciting as seeing Keira Knightley in another period costume, but you have to do so with inane personas that never do anything but pamper about in their big mansions, shouting at their servants. Dull, dreary and utterly disposable, The Duchess is as boring as the genre gets, and while there are some good elements present, they fail to mesh coherently to disguise the fact that the script has no intrinsic value inherent in its thin, formulaic design.

To discuss the premise of the movie is almost futile; if you have seen any movies from the genre, you have pretty much seen The Duchess. Revolving around yet another privileged woman who in turn marries a man of prestige and obviously finds out he is interested in her only for the chance to birth an heir, the twists and turns that take place here are stunted and all too obvious. Throw in the ambitious dreamer that whisks the duchess to her dream fantasy land where the sex is just so much better because, well, he's rugged and a little more emotionally viable, and you can see that not much out of the ordinary is set to take place over the next couple of hours. At this point in discussing the story I would normally diverge onto something that works a little better, and yet I can find no opposing tangent to bring up here. Aside from the happy error of making the film's quietened antagonist more empathetic and compelling than the lead woman, The Duchess is straight forward, no risks involved, period drama; all the staples are here and yet never before have they all felt so lifeless, tired and irrelevant.

Indeed, in order for such a film to work, one must bridge the massive gap that separates the culture of today with that on the screen. Many of the most memorable movies residing within the genre have managed to do this, but The Duchess never does. Sure enough, the script does well to put character and themes of love and regret in the forefront of focus in order to tell a story of humanity rather than history, yet in direct contrast with this year's much more engaging The Other Boleyn Girl, this outing feels emotionally mundane. Lead actress Keira Knightley is no stranger to these types of features, but unfortunately her whole performance this time feels perfunctory and useless; her character is ruled by emotion to that the point that she is perceived as weak and without reasoning. When you have a central character who asks for sympathy in every scene without doing anything to warrant such a thing, you have a troublesome predicament. As a personality The Duchess of Devonshire is banal and the antithesis of compelling. She never surprises and shows less personality than in her ridiculously fake beauty spot that she sports in one scene. During this sequence I was enraptured by this giant obstruction on Keira's face, and then I remembered where I was. To scream irony at this point would have been befitting.

To be sure, there are audiences out there who will eat up this sort of thing for what it is; cheap, seen-it-all-before drama that demands little and offers not much more in exchange. Behind me sat two older women, both of whom I deemed aficionados of the genre going by their hoots and wails during certain scenes that tickled their fancy. Sure enough, I would guess that they at least were entertained, yet I was not. Again, I blame culture difference. And yet with major worldwide successes this year from the likes of Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Batman, one wonders if the period drama will ever manage to draw in the demographic that such movies have thus far managed to do. Going by The Duchess however, which prompts one to believe that things are only getting worse for a genre that is by now churning out the same story time and time again, this potentiality seems unlikely. Perhaps if the historical setting and themes present here were delivered with more poignancy and an overall conviction or sense of modern relevancy, The Duchess could have at least dispelled my apathy towards the genre by the likes of The Other Boleyn Girl. Unfortunately this is not the case; esoteric and emotionally stunted, this movie is too hard to get into, and all too easy to walk out of; only for those who haven't seen a period drama in the last five years.

  • A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)

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