Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806) was a celebrated beauty and a socialite who gathered around her a large circle of literary and political figures and she was also an active political campaigner. In 1776 at the age of seventeen she married William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire, who was then in his late twenties. In 1782 Georgiana introduced the Duke to her best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, and lived in a ménage à trois with them for the next twenty-five years during which time Lady Elizabeth had two children by the Duke. Georgiana was famous not only for her marital arrangements, her catastrophic affairs, her beauty and sense of style, and her political campaigning, but also for her love of gambling – despite her wealth she died deeply in debt. In 1809 the Duke married Lady Elizabeth Foster.
Lady Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Foster (1759–1824), the daughter of the fourth Earl of Bristol, married John Thomas Foster in 1776. They had three children but the marriage was not a success and the couple separated within five years – possibly after Bess had a relationship with a servant. She is also alleged to have had affairs with several other men, including Cardinal Ercole Consalvi, the Duke of Dorset, Count Axel von Fersen, the Duke of Richmond, and the Earl of Dunraven
The making of this movie apparently had nothing to do with the fate of another young and naive Spencer girl nearly two hundred years later. Still they milked the resonance while denying the connection.
The movie explores the marriage, relationships, and passions of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Seventeen-year-old Lady Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightley) was delighted to have excited the notice of the much older Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes), and married him amid high personal and family expectations. Unfortunately for Georgiana the Duke was far more interested in his dogs and his sole interest in his wife was the production of an heir as he made brutally clear to both Georgiana and her mother, Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling). Bess Foster was played by Hayley Atwell.
Daniel Phillips was the makeup designer; Jan Archibald was the hair designer.