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News about Britain

Duchess - or Princess?

Does Keira Knightley's film mimic the life of Princess Diana?

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The British actress Keira Knightley has rejected claims that her latest film The Duchess, a historical drama set in the 18th Century, parallels the life of Princess Diana. The film tells the true life story of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was the great-great-great-great aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In the film Knightley plays an aristocratic woman who is trapped in a marriage to a man who is in love with his mistress. It is this storyline that mimics the experiences of Princess Diana, who married Prince Charles only to discover that he was continuing a long-standing clandestine relationship with another woman. Even the film's tag line, "There were three people in her marriage", suggests a link to Diana's story, as it bears a remarkable similarity to the words the princess used to describe her own situation in a highly candid 1995 television interview.

Speaking to the BBC, Keira Knightley was quick to play down the similarities in the stories, saying her character was "an interesting enough person to warrant a film completely about her, without comparisons".

In fact the 23-year-old actress claims not to remember the story of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's doomed marriage. "I was 11 when Diana died, so I don't really know what the actual story is, so I don't feel I can comment on the parallels," Knightley scolded reporters at a recent press conference.

Whether the Diana connection exists or not, The Duchess provides a fascinating insight into personal relationships in a society where divorce was taboo.

The film is also a visual feast as the architecture and fashions of 18th Century England are painstakingly recreated down to the smallest detail.

 

Vocabulary

rejected claims
said that it wasn't true (here, 'a claim' means 'something you say is true without enough factual proof')

duchess
in Britain, a noblewoman of the highest hereditary rank, or a wife/widow of a duke

parallels
is similar to, reminds of

aristocratic
belonging to the class of people with a high social rank

mistress
a woman who is having an intimate relationship with a married man

clandestine
secret (especially when talking about something that is not allowed officially or morally)

tag line
a phrase repeatedly used in connection with a person, organization, or product, especially in publicity

highly candid
very honest and direct (often in a shocking way)

to play down
to make something seem less important, or credible than people think

to warrant a film
to deserve a film to be made

doomed
bound to fail, destined to suffer a dreadful fate

scolded
told off (because she did not like their questions and/or thought they were inappropriate)

a fascinating insight
a very interesting, engaging and profound look

divorce was taboo
it was socially unacceptable for a husband and wife to break up and start living separately

a visual feast
full of unusual, striking images

painstakingly
with a lot of effort


 
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Knightley stars at Duchess launch
 
 
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Duchess: no parallel with Diana
 
 
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Watch: Dismay at Duchess marketing
 
 
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Watch: Stately homes' starring roles
 
 
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The film's official website *

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