Friday, March 27, 2015

Belle: The Rest of the Story

You are very quiet, my dears, but I thought you would want to know a least a part of the rest of the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the heroine of the movie Belle, which our own Cara King presented to us this week. My thanks to those who commented.  Please feel free to continue doing so. 

As Cara and QNPoohBear pointed out, the movie was a fictionalized version of Dido’s life.  In reality, she was no dewy-eyed youth when she married; she was more than 30, and she did not marry John Davinier until Lord Mansfield had died. They had three sons, twins two years after they’d married and another son later.  Sadly, she did not live to see her 44th birthday. John later remarried and had two more children with his second wife. 

Her cousin Elizabeth ended up marrying George Finch-Hatton when she was 25 and he was 38.  George was the nephew to Lady Elizabeth, “Mama” in the movie, so we can imagine she must have made the introductions.  George was the oldest son of respectable family, but his father was the fifth son of the 7th Earl of Winchilsea, so ascending to a title was highly likely.  Elizabeth’s George did, however, have not one but two estates, and he was elected to Parliament and served for 12 years, so conceivably Elizabeth and he did rather well. It didn’t hurt that Lord Mansfield left her 10,000 pounds on his death.  

They had a number of children (some sources say three, others five).  Interestingly enough, their oldest son, another George Finch-Hatton, beat all the odds and became the 10th Earl of Winchilsea when his father and all four of his uncles preceded him to the grave. That’s him in the portrait (and it struck me he looked a bit like an older, portlier Tom Felton). Unfortunately, Elizabeth also preceded him in death, so she did not have the opportunity to enjoy her son’s elevation in status.

Want more details about what happened after the movie ended?  See this fabulous post from English Heritage.


QNPoohBear said...

I watched the special features on the DVD and they mostly talked about how empowering the story was and yet no one knew about it. After I read Paula Byrne's book I was left wondering whether Lord and Lady Mansfield did the wrong thing in doing the right thing in raising Dido as their daughter? What kind of life was she to have after they passed away? There really weren't any other people of color in that social class. The real John Davinier was a servant and they lived in a middle class neighborhood. It must have all seemed so different to Dido. The other option, staying in the West Indies and eventually becoming a wealthy man's mistress didn't sound all that appealing. She was kind of stuck in no man's land. The movie did a fabulous job filling in the blanks for what she must have been thinking, how she saw herself and how she saw her family. I loved that about the movie.

I recommend reading Ann Rinaldi's novel The Ever After Bird for a similar subject. If the history of slavery is your thing, follow this movie up with Amazing Grace and then cross over the pond to America, watch Amistad, 12 Years a Slave and finally, Lincoln (Daniel Day Lewis is mesmerizing as the 16th President).

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, QNPoohBear! I didn't have the DVD (watched it on cable) so didn't know about the extras. Amazing Grace is on my TBW list. :-)