[excerpt from the upcoming book - The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride]
|from “The Duchess”|
Georgiana Spencer was Diana’s great-great-great-great aunt—certainly the two most famous members of the Spencer family. In an interview with UK writer Andrew Pettie, the film’s director shared: “‘There are lots of connections. Georgiana and Diana are related to start with. And they married as girl-women in their late teens after a sheltered upbringing, probably with a romantic notion of what marriage is, to men who understood the marriage contract differently.’”
|from “The Duchess”|
As the movie portrayed, the marriage was an unhappy one. “He expected subservience and a male heir. When Georgiana produced only daughters, the relationship deteriorated. And while the Duke continued to have affairs, the duchess looked for love and attention in public life, where she became a shrewd political operator for the Whig party and a feted trend-setter,” wrote Andrew Pettie.
|Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire|
However, the parallels with the two kindred spirits—Georgiana and Diana—are “more temperamental than biographical,” Pettie explained. As dramatic as Diana’s very public beyond-rock-star-status life was, “much of Georgiana’s story is too extraordinary to be echoed by anyone else.” It was a life “bigger and messier” and more grand-soap-opera-like than even the movie portrayed! Pettie said that although the biographer Foreman didn’t approve of the film’s marketing campaign comparing the two Spencer women, she had previously described Georgiana as a “‘cross between Marilyn Monroe and Lady Diana.’”
“‘One of the resonances with Diana is that Georgiana was one of the first celebrities,’ says Dibb. ‘When her face appeared in newspapers, they sold more copies. But, for me, the most fundamental connection between their lives is that Georgiana did lots of things she wasn’t supposed to, and Diana did the same. The establishment has never liked rebellious women, particularly if they’re sexual women.’”
This is very telling about Princess Diana’s life within the royal family—British royalty being an exemplar for the patriarchal establishment box that all women had to maneuver through. In her study focusing on the portraiture and image of Diana, Representing Diana, The Princess of Wales: Cultural Memory and Fairy Tales Revisited, Colleen Denney explores the “assumptions that cultures make about women and their behaviors.” She explains how the British monarchy—with the assistance of imagists, journalists, and the mass media—negotiated the future of Diana and other female members of the royal family based on their Victorian ideal of “feminine respectability.”
No wonder the monarchy—and the restricted aristocratic society it spawned—struggled with their “desire to maintain the feminine fairy-tale construction” they had created when free-spirited Diana came along or even when any powerful woman broke or pushed those limiting, out-of-touch bounds!
|Arms of the Earl Spencer|
[Excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Stay tuned for publication date information.]