Last night, I threw on one of my all time favorite movies: The Duchess. Keira Knightley portrays Georgiana Cavendish and her tumultuous and extravagant life as the Duchess of Devonshire. The movie is characterized by many laughs as Georgiana discovers the true meaning of being an aristocrat; these small victories lessen the blow of this woman’s ultimately tragic life. A life filled with every necessity and luxury, yet profoundly and singularly alone.
As a young girl, Georgiana easily becomes enamored with the notion of love. She’s an idealistic in a time when women weren’t supposed to be anything other than educated and beautiful to look at. More than anything, she clung to her fame, a trait gained from her quick wit, charm and fashion forward sense of style.
Succinctly, the Duchess of Devonshire revolutionized the British aristocracy. In spite of the menage a trois she lived in for over two decades, she was a breath of fresh air reinvigorating the upper class. She was, in essence, Britain’s first celebrity.
When she arrives, all eyes are upon her. When absent, she is the subject of universal conversation. And what we see her wearing tonight, I look forward to seeing the rest of you wearing tomorrow!
So how does this connect with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge? While I don’t believe that Kate’s life is marred by so much tragedy, I do think there’s a lesson to be learned.
Similar to the above quote, I would say that without a doubt, cameras pan directly to Kate when she enters a room or steps out of a car. When she went on maternity leave, the press seemed anxious for her return. And chalk one up for the Kate Effect; whatever Kate is photographed wearing, it sells out nearly instantaneously. Clearly, the Duchess of Cambridge is channeling her late mother-in-law’s ancestor, the Duchess of Devonshire, with respect to her celebrity status. (Georgiana was Princess Diana’s great-great-great-Aunt.)
Fame, while seemingly an enviable trait, has its downside. Many believe that Georgiana’s desire for popularity made her desperate to please those around her while at the same time being terrified of letting anyone down; a dangerous combination for a woman always under the media’s spotlight.
It makes sense though – the more people pay attention to you, the more you aim to make them happy; it’s a natural expectation as one makes the journey from commoner to celebrity.
Unlike Georgiana, I think Kate had plenty of time to realize what becoming the Duchess of Cambridge, and ultimately the Queen of England, would mean for her. On some levels, it means forfeiting a small piece of who you are to please the masses. It’s the sacrifice every starlet is aware of.
The key to being an international celebrity is not to be consumed by fame. The world may still be watching, but you have to maintain your sense of self.
Luckily for Kate, and very unlike Georgiana, she has a down to earth husband whose unconditional love will help keep her grounded.
What do you think? Have you watched The Duchess?