About the film
"If it's quality TV you're after then by all means check out Aristocrats."
-- New York Daily News
Aristocrats, a dazzling adaptation of Stella Tillyard's acclaimed family chronicle set in eighteenth-century England and Ireland, tells the true story of the fascinating Lennox sisters.
Caroline (Serena Gordon), the oldest, spurns her parents' plans for an arranged marriage by eloping with Henry Fox (Alun Armstrong), a middle-aged politician with a past. He becomes one of the most powerful men in Parliament -- and one of the most despised.
Emily (Geraldine Somerville) lands Lord Kildare (Ben Daniels), a noble of impeccable credentials, except that he's Irish -- an insuperable handicap in the eyes of the sisters' parents, Lord and Lady Richmond (Julian Fellowes and Diane Fletcher). They relent, and Emily goes on to produce twenty-two children with Kildare and his spousal successor, William Ogilvie (George Anton), a free-thinking schoolmaster. One of Emily's sons, Edward Fitzgerald (John Light), earns fame and martyrdom as an Irish patriot.
Louisa (Anne-Marie Duff) makes a far more sedate match with the richest man in Ireland, Thomas Conolly (Tom Mullion). To all appearances they lead an exemplary life. Well, at least she does.
Less exemplary is Sarah (Jodhi May), who starts spectacularly by catching the eye of the Prince of Wales, soon to be King George III (Luke De Lacy). Sensing advancement beyond his wildest dreams, Henry Fox does all he can to encourage the match. But it falls through, and after suffering through a loveless marriage to Sir Charles Bunbury (Andrew Havill), Sarah eventually becomes a fallen woman. She later finds true happiness with an uncomplicated military man and settles down to produce a brood of future soldiers.
Also starring are Siân Phillips as the older Emily, who narrates the series and appears in its final episode, and Clive Swift as the irascible King George II.
Filmed entirely in Ireland, Aristocrats includes scenes shot at Carton House, Emily and Lord Kildare's country estate near Dublin, with its strange seashell cottage. (Singer Marianne Faithfull lived there until recently.)
Producer David Snodin (Great Expectations) notes that, among other scrupulous period details, the film's costumes are "absolutely correct" and even show the subtle shift in styles during the half century covered in the series. "The dresses start off as massive affairs with huge bustles and become more flowing as the century progresses. It was a period of great social change and the fashions reflect that," he says.
About the Film | Story Synopsis | Interview with Stella Tillyard
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