The international success of the Oscar-nominated film, “12 Years A Slave” has both boosted the standing of the British film industry and increased awareness and interest in the history and impacts of slavery.
This interest will be heightened by the June release of a major new film, “Belle”, which is produced by Damian Jones, whose past triumphs include “The History Boys, “The Iron Lady” and “Gridlock”.
The film tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race daughter of a slave and a British admiral whose portrait, which hangs in Scone Palace in Perthshire, will be the focal point of the Palace’s 2014 public exhibition. Dido Elizabeth Belle was born in the 18th century to Sir John Lindsay and the slave Maria Belle. She was brought up under the care and protection of the 1st Earl of Mansfield who was the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and the uncle of Sir John Lindsay. The 1st Earl’s family home was at Scone Palace.
In 1772, the Earl of Mansfield ruled that no slave could be taken from England or Wales under force, saying: “The state of slavery is of such a nature and so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it”. This judgement is now viewed as a crucial early step towards the international abolition of slavery.
The 1st Earl of Mansfield was educated at Perth Grammar School and his successors are the owners of Scone Palace and Mansfield Estates. The Palace displays a 1779 portrait attributed to Johann Zoffany, which depicts Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin, The Lady Elizabeth Murray.
This is the only representation of Belle known to exist and will be the central focus of an exhibition, which will open at Scone Palace on 1 April and run throughout the summer season.