Belle is based on the real life story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of an officer in the Royal Navy and a West Indies slave. I'm desperate to see it but a little wary as I wonder if they'll make her color or her illegitimacy the bigger problem for society. The reality is that the latter was far more problematic than the former. Either way, she would have had issues finding a husband, though less so if there was a decent dowry but her color wouldn't have kept her from eating with the family nor would it have kept her from being presented to society or accepted at society functions and such.
Illegitimacy you see, was a very big issue in English society in those days, particularly for a woman. If acknowledged by his father, an illegitimate son could have a place in society, though he would not be able to inherit his father's title, if he had one or any property that went along with that title. An illegitimate daughter, on the other hand, could never find a place in society by virtue of her birth. I would presume she could gain status through a husband but given her status as an illegitimate daughter would relegate her to some kind of half caste position even lower than a governess, her prospects for finding a husband would be fairly slim.
And now that your eyes have completely glazed over, watch the trailer.
Belle comes out in theaters May 2nd, 2014.
And here is a portrait of Dido along with her cousin, Elizabeth Murray by an unknown artist.