Watching period dramas is one of the safest ways to escape the present. So, even though we aren’t able to travel in time, we can go back in the past by watching some of the best period dramas created. Today, we’re looking at the real people that inspired five classic dramas, to separate a little fact from fiction.
- Becoming Jane (2007)
If you’re a fan of period dramas, you must be acquainted with Jane Austen’s novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma are some of her best-known works of art. Becoming Jane is an adaptation of the novelist’s life but as you might expect, the movie isn’t the most accurate presentation of Austen’s life. The film is actually inspired by Jon Spence’s critical biography – Becoming Jane Austen.
Spence identifies Tom Lefroy as being the man who Austen was genuinely fond of. He also attributed part of her genius to her bond with him. Nonetheless, he actually didn’t make any mention of an elopement, unlike in the movie. What is more, Spence actually notes that he simply made speculations regarding Jane’s relationship with Tom Lefroy, merely reading between the lines of the family records and the letters written by Austen.
Although we cannot argue that the movie is historically accurate, it aims at presenting the experiences that Jane had, which contributed to the creation of some of the best masterpieces of English literature. One thing is for sure – although the movie is inspired by the life of the great novelist, the reality is left in the second plan.
- The Duchess (2008)
The Duchess is another excellent film you should definitely add to your list. It is about Lady Georgiana Spencer, a member of the upper class who lived in the 18th century. She married above her rank and, as a result, she became the Duchess of Devonshire, one of the most socially prominent women in the British society of the time.
Happily for her and the social gifts she possessed, she easily acclimatised to that position. Hence, she quickly became the leader of the most glamorous people of the day, acting gracefully and charming. The movie does a terrific job of presenting Georgiana’s inborn sense of fashion. If we were to speak in modern terms, she was what we call today a trendsetter.
Concurrently, the movie presents Georgiana as being keen on gambling. In reality, Georgiana actually had a gambling problem; she showed signs of compulsive behaviour in this department. Although Georgiana struggled with money, the movie doesn’t show this side of her at all, nor is there much emphasis on the fact that she was politically influential. Thanks to her, the 1780s actually noted the first appearance of a woman into British politics.
So, she was truly something else for that time. The movie portrays just a few facets of her life, being an artistic, subjective interpretation of her actions.
- The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Each movie is fiction. And even though we’re talking about historical fiction, we cannot hold the same standards as we do for biographies or historical movies – can we? While The Other Boleyn Girl was inspired by real-life events, it is still fantasy.
The film focuses on Mary Boleyn, the sister of the famous Anne Boleyn. Mary has been mentioned every now and then in the various biographies that focus on presenting Anne’s life. Unlike Anne, Mary had been the mistress of two kings, namely Henry VII of England and Francis I of France. According to a popular, yet somehow mythical legend, Mary was prettier than Anne, while Anne was charismatic, intelligent and witty. While there isn’t any factual evidence of the rivalry between the two sisters, the movie exploits this theme.
Ironically, it was Mary the one that actually ensured the prosperity of the Boleyn family, considering that Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, was disregarded after her birth. That way, the connection between the Boleyn family and the Tudors continued until the end of the century.
- The Countess (2009)
The Countess is a dark period drama, which tells the story of Elizabeth Bathory – the ‘Blood Countess’ of Hungary. Referred to as one of the most notorious female serial killers, it is believed that the countess had bathed in the blood of no less than 650 virgin servant girls. She was eventually arrested; consequently, she was condemned to a lifetime of imprisonment, being locked in one of the towers of her castle.
Her shocking story was a source of inspiration for Bram Stocker and the Brothers Grimm.
The real Elizabeth Bathory was born in 1560, and she was gifted with beauty, a stellar social position, and an excellent education. The Bathory family would rule Transylvania at that time, as a separate principality within the kingdom of Hungary. As a result of an accident, the countess realised that blood would make her skin look rejuvenated. Legend has it that, at that point, the madness started, and she considered bathing in blood.
Unfortunately, at that time, numerous rumours were invented, which means we cannot fully trust these legends. In fact, her life has been so fictionalised, that separating fact from fiction is quite challenging.
- Victoria (2016)
And last, but definitely not least, Victoria. Victoria is a ITV series that presents the life of Queen Victoria and the way in which she reached the throne of England. The series also highlights that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were actually in love, in comparison to most marriages of convention that took place at that time. As you might expect, there are some historical inaccuracies in the series – for instance, Queen Victoria never proposed to Lord Melbourne. However, the show masterfully presents the challenges overcome by the young queen in a world ruled by men.
We are hopeful that you liked our list of period dramas inspired by real-life events and that you found it insightful. We should note that each film is fiction but then, just occasionally, what’s wrong with a little artistic license?