The Duchess of Duke Street is a wonderfully beautiful series, worthy of all the acclaim it has received over the years. The series follows Louisa Leyton (Gemma Jones) as she works her way from a kitchen worker to the mistress of the Prince of Wales and then a hotel owner. Louisa Leyton is loosely based on the real life Rosa Lewis, who was a mistress of Edward VII and known as “Duchess of Jermyn Street”.
In The Duchess of Duke Street, Louisa has a dream of becoming the best cook in England. She finds herself working in the household of Lord Henry Norton and working under a French Chef named Monsieur Alex. Through a series of events, she ends up catching the eye of the Prince of Wales, Edward. The Prince of Wales events her to become his mistress but in order for this to happen, Louisa must be a married women. She marries and becomes his mistress. She then buys a hotel along with her husband. While managing the hotel, her husband and sister-in-law rack up a lot of debt which Louisa decides to take on herself when she kicks them out. And none of this really gives away the show considering this all happens in the first part of the show. Spanning 25 years of Louisa’s life, there is a lot of events that take place.
While watching The Duchess of Duke Street you will go through an array of emotions. As in most melodramas, there is just as much sadness and heartbreak as joy. The events are played out beautifully by the actors, both the main and supporting actors are worthy of praise. With the series taking place at the beginning of the 20th century, the ways in which people see women was beginning to change, although many of the traditional views were still very much in place. Louisa must work against the traditional views in order to find her own way, while still getting caught up in those traditional roles. Jones does a great job in portraying this aspect of Louisa’s character.
The series originally aired on the BBC in 1976 and 1977, which still holds up today. This set from Acorn Media boasts over 27 hours of material on 10 DVDs, and the special features include a biography of Rosa Lewis, Edwardian period background, photo gallery, and cast and crew filmographies. This re-release is in a new package. Although the artwork is still the same, the box is more streamline, boasting the ten discs packaged in two keep cases inside a box. The previous box had the discs in a book-like flip case. The new packaging is smaller by almost a whole DVD size and it is more easily replaced if the need would arise. The fact that it has the same amount of discs and special features in a more streamline case is a real bonus to this already wonderful series.