Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

The ‘real’ Mr Darcy has been revealed – and he looks nothing like Colin Firth

colin firth mr darcy.jpg

Many remember where they were the first time they saw Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy emerge from the lake in BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.

This author, for instance, was perched on her nan’s couch with a cup of tea and a biscuit – and even these distinctly unsexy circumstances failed to distract from that sodden white shirt, dripping and clinging… Ahem. Here’s a visual reminder:

It was, essentially, the Georgian equivalent of a wet t-shirt competition.

But we, like so many other Darcy fans, assumed that our literary crush was based on something deeper than Firth’s undeniable good looks. After all, Elizabeth Bennett’s love interest isn’t just handsome and fabulously wealthy; he’s also brooding, and serious, and complex. His moral compass is on point, his kindness undeniable and his impassioned speeches unparalleled (“I love you, most ardently…”).

Throw in the fact that he’s an avid bookworm, and you basically have the man of many people’s dreams.

But it turns out, the ‘real’ Darcy is somewhat different.

Read more: 15 of the best book and drink pairings for a boozy literary adventure

A team of academics, led by Professor John Sutherland, have researched how Mr Darcy would have really looked and come up with what they claim to be the “first historically” accurate portrait of literature’s most eligible bachelor.

To do this, they examined fashions of the time period and pored over portraits of Jane Austen’s real-life love interests.

The result?

Say hello to the real Mr Darcy

Say hello to the real Mr Darcy

Gone are the chiselled cheekbones, the tousled dark hair, the deep and soulful eyes, the square jaw we’ve become so fond of over the years.

Instead, we have a gentleman with powdered white hair, a sickly complexion and the “narrow jaw… considered very attractive [at the time]”.

Read more: These are the books that Barack Obama wants everyone to read

It’s not just Darcy’s face that’s changed; his broad shoulders and muscular bod have been swapped for a modest chest and the slender, sloping shoulders prominent in Georgian gentlemen.

Large thighs and calves complete the look. At around 5ft 11in, the fictional character would have been slightly smaller and daintier than the stars who’ve played him on screen.

Thus, the Georgian ideal may be rather unsatisfying for a Firth fan.

And it gets worse...

And it gets worse...

Amanda Vickery, professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London, who worked on the research, said: “Mr Darcy is an iconic literary character, renowned for his good looks, charm and mystery.

"As Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in the 1790s, our Mr Darcy portrayal reflects the male physique and common features at the time.

“Men sported powdered hair, had narrow jaws and muscular, defined legs were considered very attractive.”

Read more: 12 dystopian novels that every woman should read

Vickery added (somewhat unnecessarily, in our opinion) that Darcy’s new look is in “stark contrast to the chiselled, dark, brooding Colin Firth portrayal we associate the character with today”.

The research was commissioned by TV channel Drama to celebrate its Jane Austen season, and the portraits were created by illustrator Nick Hardcastle.

Adrian Wills, general manager of Drama, said: “These illustrations might lead to a slightly different imagining of one of the most famous romantic heroes of all time.”

Not in this author’s mind.



One Day Books: 15 page-turners you’ll finish before sundown


Pride and Prejudice’s Jennifer Ehle shares her advice for young women


Blag the classics: the best modern makeovers of literary staples


Why Instagram poet Rupi Kaur credits her success to female friendship

“I want women to feel powerful in their own skin when they read my work.”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
13 Oct 2017

“Why the world doesn’t need a retelling of 50 Shades - especially now”

Is Fifty Shades empowering or dangerous?

12 Oct 2017

There’s a new Fifty Shades book on the way – with a twist

We'll finally learn what Christian was thinking in Fifty Shades Darker...

by Megan Murray
10 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon wants you to read these 5 brilliant books

Here are the five female writers she’s championed in recent months

by Susan Devaney
10 Oct 2017

Ladybird releases hilarious grown-up guide to dealing with a breakup

Heartbroken? You need this

by Sarah Biddlecombe
06 Oct 2017

The first look at Fantastic Beasts 2 has arrived

Muggles, assemble

by Susan Devaney
06 Oct 2017

10 must-read books for October

From short stories to epic journeys

by Sarah Shaffi
29 Sep 2017

Feminist publishers are binning manuscripts addressed to ‘Dear sirs’

"People have to stop thinking there are no consequences to being sexist."

by Moya Crockett
29 Sep 2017

The feminist backstory that will make you love The Moomins even more

Our love for Tove Jansson’s stories goes beyond adoring the charming characters

by Amy Swales
27 Sep 2017

9 books to boost your career, according to successful entrepreneurs

Let these must-reads inspire you

by Stylist
25 Sep 2017