Beauty standards have changed a lot throughout history. And that’s why many ladies of high society, whose looks were so admired in the old days, may not look very attractive to us in paintings. In addition, it is necessary to know that the painters slightly “photoshopped” their noble clients and did not reflect their true appearance in the portraits. And of course, the film industry also embellishes some historical figures.
We, from awesome.club, we decided to compare how famous women of the past were portrayed in portraits of that era and in modern films. And not bonus, an analysis of how the standard of beauty has evolved over the centuries using the example of Isabella of France. Check out!
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Georgiana Cavendish was admired by many of her contemporaries for her beauty. Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait portrayed a woman who also conforms to modern standards of beauty. Furthermore, she was a trendsetter. Just a few words from Georgiana were enough to endear an artist or make a piece incredibly popular.
The Duchess of Devonshire adorned her hair with three feathers, which caused a major problem for funeral service providers. Ostrich feathers were a rarity in England, and women went to great lengths to get them to adorn funeral carriage horses. This beauty was portrayed in theaters: in The Duchess, the role of Georgiana was played by Keira Knightley.
Marguerite of Valois, known as Queen Margot
According to contemporaries, Marguerite shone with incredible beauty and unique charm. She was even called the “Pearl of the Valois”. Juan of Austria, half-brother of Spanish King Philip II, traveled to Paris, just to see the famous woman for himself.
After that, Juan wrote: “The beauty of this princess is not of earthly origin, but divine. It was made to condemn and ruin men instead of saving them.” The beautiful woman has been portrayed in theaters many times. Isabelle Adjani played Marguerite in the film Queen Margot.
The personality of Lucrezia Borgia has always been understood in an ambiguous way. Some admired her moral qualities, others accused her of all kinds of sins. But in one thing both opponents and admirers were unanimous: the girl was distinguished by her beauty.
Contemporaries said that Lucrezia’s lush blond curls reached below her knees. She was such a charming blonde that she was pictured on television. In the series The Borgias, the appearance of actress Holliday Grainger is in many ways similar to that described by Lucrezia. Except for a few details. Lucrezia’s portrait shows that she had brown eyes and a narrow face. And that’s how she was described at the time. The woman boasted a straight nose, a long neck, and a snow-white smile. And her gait was so graceful that she seemed to float rather than walk.
Frances Theresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond
Frances Stuart captured the hearts of everyone at the court of Charles II with her incredible beauty. Also, she had a lot of fans. Because of her appearance, Frances was nicknamed “the beautiful Stuart” and recognized as the true personification of Great Britain. And a no less charming actress was cast to play her in the cinematographic world. In the television series The Great Fire, she was portrayed by Antonia Clarke.
But the gentlemen weren’t too enamored with Stuart’s intelligence. Count de Gramont, a French aristocrat, was even amazed how such an exceptional appearance could be combined with such poor intellectuality.
Louise de La Valliere
Contemporaries admired Louise de La Vallière’s temperament and spiritual qualities more than her beauty. Of all Louis XIV’s mistresses, she was the only one who never wanted anything for herself and did not seek personal gain from romance.
Louise was distinguished by magnificent skin, light curls, blue eyes and a gentle smile. Sarah Winter, who played de La Vallière in the TV series Versailles, doesn’t quite fit that description, nor does the official portrayal of Louise.
Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, Marquise of Montespan
The Marquise de Montespan was considered one of the most attractive ladies at the court of Louis XIV. At that time, she had an extraordinary beauty. Her golden curls fell gracefully over her shoulders, and her eyes sparkled blue.
The girl also had a very fine nose, small mouth and a round body. In the Versailles series, Francisca Athens was played by Anna Brewster, who looks very thin compared to the original.
Yolande de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac
Yolande de Polastron was a court lady and a favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette. The girl was distinguished by her cheerful and easy-going personality, in addition, she was very beautiful.
She was described as a small, dark-haired woman with very fair skin, almost like alabaster. But Yolande’s most beautiful feature was her eyes, which were large and an incredible shade of lilac. In the film Marie Antoinette, the role of the Marquise went to Rose Byrne.
Catalina de Aragon
Unfortunately, Catalina de Aragón’s contemporaries did not bother to leave any detailed descriptions of what the first wife of King Henry VIII looked like. They just limited themselves to generalities, saying that she was the most beautiful creature in the world.
What is known is that Catalina was proud of her long and lush hair. And that she also stood out for her education and refined manners. The Queen was portrayed on television by Charlotte Hope in the series The Spanish Princess (no Portuguese version).
Catherine of Valois
Catherine de Valois, daughter of the French King Charles VI, helped in the rise of the Tudor dynasty to the throne of England. And all because, after the death of her first husband Henry V, she remarried Owen Tudor.
At that time, the Queen was considered extremely beautiful. Contemporaries said that her face was of a color similar to ivory, and her eyes were large and dark. In the movie The King, Catherine was portrayed by Lily-Rose Depp.
Elizabeth Woodville’s appearance was so fascinating that King Edward IV could not resist proposing her hand in marriage. Elizabeth was distinguished by her imposing figure, blonde hair and delicate skin. The most fascinating thing was her eyes. They were “hidden by heavy eyelids, like a dragon’s”.
Historians believe that Elizabeth’s eyes were bright green or perhaps golden. Rebecca Ferguson portrayed Elizabeth in The White Queen (no Portuguese version).
Sibylla of Jerusalem
Sibylla of Jerusalem, played by Eva Green in Crusade, was a controversial figure. Although some manuscripts idealize and glorify her, it is unlikely that she possessed all the virtues attributed to her.
On the other hand, she was not a foolish, weak-willed queen. His contemporaries commented on his courage and prudence. There is no accurate description of Sibylla’s appearance. But scholars suggest that she was a tall, beautiful woman with blonde hair.
Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, was considered the most beautiful princess in Europe. She was said to look like an angel, and was admired for her elegance and grace. Even the young woman’s light eyes and eyelashes were commented on.
Erasmus of Rotterdam said about the girl: “Nature has never created anything more beautiful.” But Mary really stood out for her strong personality. Despite her brother’s prohibition, she married whomever she wanted and vehemently opposed the divorce of Henry VIII and Catalina of Aragón. On The Tudors, Mary was portrayed by Gabrielle Anwar. However, in production she was called Margaret, so that the character would not be confused with the daughter of Henry VIII.
Bonus: How the ideal of beauty has changed over time, taking Isabella of France as an example
Historians suggest that Isabella was outwardly similar to her father, Philippe the Fair. She was a slender and charming girl. Her husband even nicknamed her Isabella the Beauty. One of the chroniclers of the time spoke of the queen as follows: “The most beautiful of the beautiful, perhaps not only in her kingdom, but in all of Europe”. A 15th-century portrait of Isabella matches the descriptions of her contemporaries.
However, she was not known as Isabella the Beauty, but as “The Wolf of France”, because with her lover, she rebelled against her husband Edward II, King of England. She then ruled the country for several years until her son ascended the throne.
Subsequently, she was often portrayed in literary works as a beautiful but dishonest woman. The above portrait, painted in the 19th century, demonstrates more the concept of attractiveness in the Victorian era than the Queen’s true appearance.
In the 20th century, the controversial figure of Isabella became more comprehensive. So, in the film Braveheart she was played by Sophie Marceau, and in the plot she sympathizes with the hero William Wallace and even develops love feelings. Whether the noblewoman was similar to the actress in appearance is difficult to say. But she sure as hell never met the famous Scotsman.
In your opinion, should actresses bear some resemblance to the historical character they are going to play? The story of which of the women in our article caught your attention the most? Tell us in the comments section.
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