Entertainment & Arts

'Real' Mr Darcy was nothing like Colin Firth, academics say

Mr Darcy artists impression and Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation Image copyright UKTV/Nick Hardcastle/BBC
Image caption The 'historically accurate' portrait of Mr Darcy looks starkly different to Colin Firth who portrayed him in the BBC drama

Academics have revealed what they claim is the first "historically accurate" portrait of Jane Austen's Mr Darcy - and he's a world away from the romantic hero of films and TV.

Instead of the broad shoulders and square jaw of Colin Firth there is a modestly-sized chest and pointy chin.

There is little description of him in Pride and Prejudice, so the academics used historical fashions from the 1790s, when it was written.

This version also wears a powdered wig.

"Our Mr Darcy portrayal reflects the male physique and common features at the time," says Amanda Vickery, professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London.

"Men sported powdered hair, had narrow jaws and muscular, defined legs were considered very attractive," she says.

Image caption Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice seems to have set the standard for the modern Mr Darcy
Image copyright UKTV/Nick Hardcastle/WorkingTitle/Shutterstock/BBC
Image caption A frock coat can be seen on the artist's impression, Colin Firth and Matthew Rhys in the BBC's Death Comes to Pemberley

Colin Firth got the nation's collective hearts racing in 1995 with his depiction of the mysterious Mr Darcy in the BBC's adaptation.

Further adaptations since have followed in the style of Firth's portrayal including Matthew Macfadyen in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice.

Image copyright Working Title/REX/Shutterstock
Image caption Matthew Macfadyen played Mr Darcy in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice alongside Keira Knightley

But the academics say their muscular chests and broad shoulders would have been the sign of a labourer and not a gentleman at the time the book was written.

The fans' favourite Mr Darcy moments - when Colin Firth walked out of a lake dripping wet and Matthew Macfadyen crossed a field in the mist, both showing off their chests - would not have looked the same with the historically accurate Mr Darcy and his sloping narrow shoulders.

Image caption Alan Badel - the BBC's Mr Darcy in 1958 - looks more like the academics' impression

Some fans have not been impressed by the portrait.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Professor John Sutherland, from University College London, who led the research says they only had "scraps" of physical description of the character Fitzwilliam Darcy.

As well as looking at the fashions of the day they also looked at Austen's relationships and the men who may have inspired her characters.

"He is our most mysterious and desirable leading man of all time, says Prof Sutherland.

And he appears frequently in modern culture.

Image copyright Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
Image caption The character of Mark Darcy, the romantic hero in the Bridget Jones books, was named after Jane Austen's character and played by Colin Firth in the films

Further depictions of Mr Darcy include Matthew Rhys who played the character in the TV adaptation of the Pride and Prejudice "sequel" Death Comes to Pemberley.

He also inspired the character of Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, also portrayed by Colin Firth in the film versions.


Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

More on this story