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Aristocrats

AristocratsA resplendent costume drama
  that weaves romance around politics
  and honour, Aristocrats brings to
  life the intrigues of an 18th Century
  English aristocratic family with royal
  connections
...

IN THE LONDON OF 1743, the pampered Lady Emily Lennox (played by Hayley Griffiths in childhood and as an adult by Geraldine Somerville: Gosford Park) and her sisters — who are the great-granddaughters of King Charles II — lead a very sheltered life.

Born into one of the grandest families of 18th Century England, the Lennox sisters lived long and turbulent lives. Each searched for love and happiness in a world of unyielding convention, intrigue and scandal. But as each believes she has found the perfect life, they discover that they are still bound by the dictates of the times.

Based on the bestselling book by Stella Tillyard, Aristocrats is a true story of high politics and romance, of family solidarity and tragedy. A classical drama of the highest quality, the story is told from Emily's perspective and the narrative works well.

Emily adores her eldest sister Caroline (Serena Gordon: GoldenEye). She is devastated when Caroline refuses to marry Lord Beaufield (Richard Dempsey) but instead elopes with rising politician Henry Fox (Alun Armstrong) and, as a result, is disowned by their parents — the Duke of Richmond (Oscar-winning actor, screenwriter, novelist and national treasure Julian Fellowes: Shadowlands) and his Duchess (Diane Fletcher).

Henry Fox is neither well-connected nor handsome; he is years older than Caroline and has a somewhat dubious reputation as a womaniser and as a ruthlessly ambitious social climber — he is destined to become Secretary of War. Emily can do nothing about her enforced separation from her sister and has to bide her time until an opportunity arises.

As she reaches marriageable age, Emily attracts the eye of young, handsome and wealthy Irish aristocrat Lord Kildare (Ben Daniels). He asks for her hand in marriage, only to be dismissed privately by her parents for being 'Irish'. But Lord Kildare persists and eventually even her mother — who did not wish to be reminded of her own Irish ancestry — relents.

As they become grandparents, The Richmonds themselves have more children, including the delightful Sarah (played by Lara Madden as a child, then as an adult by Jodhi May) — who becomes a favourite of King George II (Clive Swift) and later attracts the attentions of The Prince Of Wales (Luke de Lacey); Louisa (Anne-Marie Duff) and Cecilia (Amelia Warner). When tragedy strikes, Emily and her husband find themselves with additional responsibilities — responsibilities that threaten to drive a wedge between Emily and Caroline.

The 18th Century was a time of intrigue and scandals, where Court favourites were solicited for favours and physicians were still relying upon unproven remedies — such as the millipedus (ground woodlice) or oxymel of squills (a combination of vinegar, extract of bulbs and mercury sulphide) given to Caroline's sick baby Stephen.

Filmed entirely on location in Ireland with the support of the Irish government, Aristocrats is a beautifully shot and sumptuously produced drama and is similar in style and substance to recent box office smash The Duchess. The series also features early performances by the immensely talented young British actresses Jhodi May (Tipping The Velvet) and Anne-Marie Duff (Shameless). It is a must have for any fan of graceful acting, beautiful photography and period dramas.

The sterling cast of Aristocrats includes: Anthony Finnigan as Lord Hervey; Lewis Jones as The Prime Minister; Katharine Rogers as Princess Caroline; William Sparks as Young Charles; Tom Beard as Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond; Cecil Bell as Lord Bute; Andrew Fitzsimons as Young Edward Fitzgerald; Toby Jones as Ste Fox; Rory Keenan as George; Frank Kelly as George Selwyn; Pauline McLynn as Susan Fox-Strangeways; Sian Phillips as the older Lady Emily; Eamon Rohan as Horace Walpole; Hugh Sachs as Charles James Fox and Adam Webb as William.

Art Director is Mark Kebby; Director of Photography is James Welland; Written by Harriet O'Carroll from the biography by Stella Tillyard; Produced by Christopher Hall and David Snodin; Directed by David Caffrey.

Aristocrats is a lavish observation of the social history of the time, augmented by superb performances by the large, multi-talented cast. An outstanding special feature takes you behind the scenes to the making of this historic drama — the settings, food and fashions.

Aristocrats will be released for the first time on DVD as a stunning two-disc set, courtesy of Acorn Media, on 12 January 2009. Catalogue No: AV9138 | Running Time: 329 mins | RRP: 19.99 | Certificate: PG. Special Features include a 30-minute documentary The Making Of Aristocrats.

"A resplendent costume drama that weaves romance around politics and honour, Aristocrats brings to life the intrigues of an 18th Century English aristocratic family with royal connections" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar