Ammonite true story: Is Kate Winslet film Ammonite based on real life?

Ammonite: Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in trailer

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Kate Winslet stars as Mary Anning, a palaeontologist whose discoveries in Lyme Regis were incredibly important to our understanding of the Jurassic era. However, this film focuses more on a love affair between her and Charlotte Murchison (played by Saoirse Ronan), who visited Mary with her husband. breaks down what part of the film is true and what has been created with artistic licence.

Was Mary Anning real?

Mary Anning was a real person, born on May 21, 1799, in Lyme Regis, Dorset.

She was one of 10 children and soon began going on fossil-hunting expeditions with her father and brother Joseph to supplement the family’s income.

At this time, Lyme Regis had become a seaside resort for middle-class people in England, meaning finding fossils around the rocks could have been sold to tourists.

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Was Mary Anning a paleontologist?

While Mary Anning was a palaeontologist, a lot of her work was not recognised due to her gender and religious views.

Mary’s family were Dissenters, which meant they were a branch of the Protestant Church which separated from the Church of England.

This meant the paleontological societies of the day excluded Mary, so her discoveries were written under other names.

One of these was her friend, geologist Henry De la Beche, who painted a representation of prehistoric life based on fossils Mary had found.

Prints of the painting were sold and profits were shared with Mary, and as a result, she became well known in geological circles.

The only scientific writings of hers published during her lifetime were in the Magazine of Natural History in 1839, which was part of a letter she had written to the editor to question one of the claims made in the magazine.

Now, Mary is highly regarded and is considered one of the palaeontologists responsible for aiding our understanding of the Jurassic period, mainly along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset where she resided.

Did Mary Anning have an affair with Charlotte Murchison?

This is the part of the upcoming film which seems to be an example of artistic licence.

Mary never married and spent much of her life living with her ailing mother, Molly.

However, the visit of Charlotte Murchison and her husband, geologist Roderick Murchison, did take place.

It is not clear when the visit occurred, but Mary returned the favour and visited the couple in London in 1829.

Some have suggested Charlotte was the one who made her husband interested in geology, and contributed a great deal to his work, though this was never recognised.

Martina Kölbl-Ebert wrote in a 1997 article for Earth Sciences History: “She not only introduced him into the world of minerals, rocks and fossils but took an active part in the scientific pursuits which she had initiated, which leads us to conclude that her views are intimately connected with Roderick Murchison’s work.”

It may be the shared love of fossils and rocks between Mary and Charlotte did lead to a romance, but as far as can be seen, there was no romantic relationship between them.

However, letters have shown they remained lifelong friends, right up until Mary’s death in 1847.

Director of Ammonite Francis Lee, however, has defended the decision to show this story, telling Indiewire: “Pushing romance is not part of the narrative at all; it’s about subtlety and nuance.”

She also wrote on Twitter before filming began on the movie: “After seeing queer history be routinely ‘straightened’ throughout culture, and given a historical figure where there is no evidence whatsoever of a heterosexual relationship, is it not permissible to view that person within another context…?”

Ammonite is available on premium digital download now

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