A Collection of Connections

22 01 2012

A few years ago, I went to the local cinema to watch The Duchess, a film starring Keira Knightley as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She was born a Spencer, and though I can’t be bothered to research it – I’d not be surprised if she was a distant rellie of Diana (yes Charles’ dead ex). As the film unfurled, I realised that more and more connections with my own life were being drawn.

IMDB: The Duchess

IMDB: The Duchess

No, it’s not that I’m a minor royal or anything. Nothing so grand. When I arrived, I just knew it was “The Duchess”. Of where was at that point a mystery (OK – I didn’t care is more truthful, it was a chick flick and I was only there because my good lady wanted to see it.) Anyway, it turned out she was the Duchess of Devonshire, married therefore to the Duke… of Devonshire. Now, being from Yorkshire (opposite end of the country from Devonshire,) you’d think this would be of little import. However, The Duke owned (to coin a Monty Python phrase) “huge tracts of land” in West Yorkshire. Specifically 30,000 acres around Bolton Abbey (which, just to keep you on your toes is nowhere near Bolton… which is in Lancashire. Still with me?) So there are a myriad of pubs, roads, and the like which owe their names to the Duke. To this day, there’s lovely hotel and spa by the name of The Devonshire Arms in the area. Now the Duke’s family name is Cavendish, which is commemorated in other names, such as Cavendish Street in nearby Keighley (the Keighleys married into the Cavendish’s a couple of hundred years earlier). All this just to point out that my formative years were spent in places all connected to the characters in this film.

So let’s move on… Georgiana has an affair with Charles Grey, later to become 2nd Earl Grey, or Chazza to his mates. OK – probably not, I made that bit up. He was a cautious type and by all accounts liked to keep his hand on his wallet, as can be seen in this Wikipedia image.

Wikipedia: Charles Grey

Wikipedia: Charles Grey

So plus or minus a bit of good natured philandering with married Duchesses, Charles was  a bit of a mover and shaker, ending up as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1830 and 1834. He lent his name to a tea blend now very well known as Earl Grey Tea, purportedly first sold by Jacksons of Piccadilly, and… you guessed it… drunk by the bucket (amongst other blends), by yours truly when Bunburying. But that’s not all. Being of Northumbrian stock, he was well known in the North East of England and as well as having a street named after him in Newcastle, he was also commemorated with a college at Durham University – Grey College, built in 1959. Guess which college I went to? Yup. Still have the scarf, though it’s a little moth-eaten now. And then, just to add one final strand to the web of connections, I went to watch “The Iron Lady” today. Again with my better half. Meryl Streep does an amazing job of getting Maggie’s voice perfectly. It’s pretty well done and manages to show Maggie’s determined single-mindedness counter-balanced with her undying love for husband Denis, and her later slide into dementia. Maggie was PM during my college years, and the miners’ strike, along with her crushing of the unions was a major backdrop to my further education in the mining area of Durham. (I’ll resist bringing Billy Elliott into the mix – it’d be overkill). It just seemed like a timely reminder to write down all the other strands and connections with the film of 2008. I think I’ll go and have a nice cup of tea now…




2 responses

22 01 2012
misfits' miscellany

An elephant never forgets–except perhaps for the “ph” in philandering.

22 01 2012
Quieter Elephant

Thanks! That’s the downside of late night blogging in an editor with dubious spell checking! Sorted!

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