A date with trouble

September 18, 2008

I doubt that Hannah Greig has dispelled the justifiable scepticism about academic collaboration with film producers and their studio masters ("Let's get our dates straight", 11 September).

In the opening scene of The Duchess, Georgiana Spencer is seen flirting with Charles Grey in the grounds of Althorp (aka Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire), while inside her mother settles her fate with the icy Duke of Devonshire.

Given that Grey was only ten in 1774, when this scene is supposed to have taken place, I doubt that he could have attained the physique, let alone the foresight, to create this scene for the benefit of future cinematographers. In her biography of Georgiana, Amanda Foreman tells us that the two met while Grey was at Eton but became lovers only when he was 25 and she 32.

So by all means collaborate with film-makers in the interests of historical awareness but, to echo your title, please let us get our dates straight.

Richard A. Gaunt, Lecturer in modern British history, University of Nottingham.

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