The Duchess

Question: Why did the Duke refuse to divorce Georgiana and marry Bess, as Georgiana herself even suggested? They lived in the 1700s. Henry VIII divorced multiple wives in the 1500s. It was possible for a nobleman to end a marriage if he wished.

Answer: Marriage was far more complicated at that time and divorce was rarely an outcome. Henry VIII, being king, could more easily break conventional rules without suffering the same consequences others would face. Historically, marriages were seldom about romantic love and were unions that were arranged by the families. In upper classes, a marriage contract was drawn and a substantial dowry by the bride's family was bestowed to the groom. It was also about forming advantageous social, economic, and political alliances. Dissolving a marriage purely to marry someone else that you preferred could result in forfeiting whatever was gained from matrimony.


Question: When the Duke says that he "cannot" ask Lady Bess to leave his home (after the Duchess discovers their affair), does he simply not want to or is there some reason that he feels he cannot?

Chosen answer: He is ignoring the Duchess' request by saying that he cannot ask her to leave. He does not want her to go, nor does Lady Bess wish to leave.




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