Thursday, January 1, 2009

Devonshire Progeny: Eliza Courtney


Perhaps you are wondering whatever happened to Georgiana and Charles Grey's child, Eliza? As you may know, after the Duke of Devonshire discovered Georgiana's pregnancy he forced her into France to have the child, leaving her to wonder whether he would also divorce her. Luckily for Georgiana she had the benefit of being very loved and was accompanied by a rather large party consisting of Harriet and her husband and daughter Caroline, Lady Spencer, Bess and her daughter Caroline St Jules. However, Harriet's bad health caused all but Bess and Caro St Jules to remain with Georgiana at the time of her child's birth. Since Georgiana had such a bad history with pregnancies she was sure she would not survive this one. As she waited in anticipation of what was to come she wrote her will and goodbye letters to each of her children. Georgiana's letter to Hart was written in her own blood. It was made no secret to her children why their mother was away but the rest of England was told that their favourite celeb was going on vacay. On 20 February 1791 Charles Grey's first child was born and named Eliza (a name Bess liked) Courtney. She was then quickly taken away from her mother and placed in foster care until Grey's parents were ready to take her.

Eliza grew up as a little Cinderella in the Grey household. She was raised to believe that her father was actually her older brother and was ignored by her "parents." It seems as though the Greys resented little Eliza for her parents' error. Grey himself also seemed unattached to his child while Georgiana was heartbroken. She would act as Eliza's kind godmother who would occassionaly visit (when allowed) and give Eliza toys since no one else would. Georgiana would write to Eliza, once telling her a story about a little orphan girl who was restored to her loving mother (who was really alive) eventually. Humble little Eliza never got the hint.

I'm not sure when Eliza found out the truth of her parentage. But luckily her sad story has a happy ending. Eliza grew into a very likeable young lady. She was also very beautiful, moreso than her half-sisters. Her inner and outer beauty grabbed the attention of a Colonel Robert Ellice who fell in love and married Eliza, saving her from her miserable life with the Greys. Robert adored his wife and the remainder of Eliza's life was happy. Georgiana's (legitimate) children kept in contact with Eliza who seemed to always be welcoming of their half-sister. As for Eliza's feelings for her birth mother, there was no bitterness. She only had the fondest memories and sympathy for her mother. Her first daughter was named Georgiana in memory of the mother Eliza loved so much.

51 comments:

  1. aww.. it's nice to read a story with a happy ending! Still looking forward to seeing the movie...I'm going to buy it tomorrow :)

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  2. I love Eliza's story just for that reason, it has such a nice happy ending!

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  3. I didn't know Eliza was a name Bess liked. Could she really be Miss Bingley in disguise?

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  4. Bess's formal name was Elizabeth; thus, Eliza, being a derivative of Elizabeth, at least had the appearnace of being named after her.

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  5. I'd wondered what happened to Eliza. Thanks for filling me in.

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  6. Hmmm... As much as I loved the movie, I would have to say I am upset that they lead you to believe that The Gray's loved and cared for Eliza very much, when in truth they didn't.

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  7. That really upset me too Aimee. Foreman (Georgiana's biographer whose book the movie was based on) even described Eliza's life as a "Cinderella story."

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  8. Then I wonder why they decided to go a different way when Historically speaking it didn't happen that way. Movies that are based on a true story are supposed to be as close as humanly possible. Right?

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  9. Apparently not. Her real was so much more interesting than the life they gave her in the movie...which seemed so stereotypical and what audiences expected women's lives to be back then.

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  10. they probably didn't want to infuse too much sadness and drama to the story. I myself haven't been able to watch the movie again because it was too sad already!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just watched the movie of the duchess of devonshire the other day, and it's good to know that Eliza ended up happy after all. It would be horrible to have to give a child up like that because your husband is a worthless piece and to have to leave the man you truley loved, or never see your childern again. I'm glad I live in a world were such encounters never cross my path.

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  12. Just watched the movie loved it! I work in the beauty field in L.A. they eluded to the fact that she was not a fashion icon, but that she would commission her unique design to the taylor. So in modern day she would be fashion icon and a designer. I loved some of the costumes so much i gasped. Have any of the original drawings and dresses been preserved for the public to view?

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  13. She was the fashion icon of the time! I know I have seen an occasional drawing of her by Bess, but you fight find what your looking for in prints Thomas Rowlandson did of her. He is the artist who portrayed her in my blog banner.

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  14. Such a lovely story but the Grey's were so mean to her :(

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  15. Believe it or not Eliza is an ancestress of Sarah Duchess of York, just as her uncle is ancestor to DIANA princess of WALES.
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  16. Oh she's soo cute and Lovely. Amazing story and I want tihs picture!

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  17. Loved the costumes, sets, script, acting portrayals too. Very excellent movie.

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  18. After reading about Georgiana and watching the duchess of Devonshire when naming my daughter I gave her Georgiana for her middle name Aaliyah Georgiana

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  19. Georgiana's life was so similar to Lady Di's life! So sad, they had everything in life...success, money, health...but they were so unhappy... So sad...

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    Replies
    1. True, what people also don't know is that Georgiana had an unhappy ending as Diana did, though in a different way, from being one of the most beautiful women of her day, where she was celebrated by female members of the aristocracy all over Europe in her choice & style of clothing, she was an inspiration & often encouraged other females to be bold in their fashions back then, as was said correctly in the movie, it was one of the few things women had any autonomy over, so accomplished at disarming opponents using her personable charm, she accompanied politicians during political events to gain votes & party momentum using that popularity, unfortunately she had either a stroke or some kind of palsey during her late 40's i think, the condition caused her facial numbness, lack of movement, nerve like damage & one side of her face slanted downwards, she ended up isolating herself because she didn't want to shock people seeing her like that, i think its safe to say she endured a lot of discomfort & a loss of confidence, after some time she had a slight improvement of control over her facial muscles but she still dribbled saliva & had to constantly wipe the side of her mouth, she bravely begun to accept her lot and began to recieve more family company she did end up attending smaller events within her closest circle but never had a desire to regain her former position, in the movie they gave slight attention to the cartoonists of the day saying & drawing terrible things about her personally & her private life, they were actually quite vicious because they saw her as an entitled whig, sadly, they never knew how repressed & melancholy her inner life was, the duke could be a selfish cold man on occasion but he too was a product of his parents lack of warmth, the aristocracy almost always had wet nurses & governesses to rear their young so they rarely had those bonds poorer families who lived in closer proximity had with their offspring, he was keenly aware of the enormous responsibility of his station in life, his duty to preserve his dukedom, so those pressures were a responsibility he bore very seriously, no excuse moving his wife, Georgianas former best friend into their lives, in reality he was also cold toward her too which brought the two women closer together in later life.

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  22. Just watched the movie on Acorn (which you MUST sign up for.) Acorn is BBC television and available by subscription. I received a Roku stick for Christmas and started signing up for free trial subscriptions. After the free trial, Acorn is only $5 per month. Now, back to the movie. It left me with so many questions that I guess I'll have to read the book. For ex.,she is portrayed as a very loving mother; yet she assured the vanquishment of Eliza by unnecessarily naming Gray as the father. Another puzzlement is why her mother, played by Charlotte Rampling as pragmatic to the point of coldness (like the Duke), yet G was obviously raised and encouraged to speak her mind by warm and loving parents. I enjoyed every moment of this movie and recommend it (and Acorn) highly.

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