Deborah Mitford/Cavendish - Muses & The Beau Monde
I have only written a brief overview of the duchess because she was an incredible woman and there are many articles about her written by people who knew her and interviewed her in person and so I felt that there was nothing valuable or new that I could bring to the table. I have just given an introduction with a collections of photos and left links to more detailed articles below in "content considerations".
Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford on 31 March 1920 in Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, England, was an English aristocrat, writer, memoirist and socialite.
Known to her family as "Debo", she was the youngest and last surviving of the six Mitford sisters, who were prominent members of English society and the Bright Young People in the 1930s and 1940s.
She married Lord Andrew Cavendish, younger son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, in 1941.
“I expect we shall be terrifically poor,” Debo wrote to Diana shortly before her wedding. “But think how nice it will be to have as many dear dogs and things as one likes without anyone to say they must get off the furniture.”
When Cavendish's older brother, William, Marquess of Hartington, was killed in action in 1944, Cavendish became heir to the dukedom and began to use the courtesy title Marquess of Hartington. In 1950, on the death of his father, the Marquess of Hartington became the 11th Duke of Devonshire.
The Duchess was the main public face of Chatsworth for many decades. She wrote several books about Chatsworth, and played a key role in the restoration of the house, the enhancement of the garden and the development of commercial activities such as the Chatsworth Farm Shop (which is on a quite different scale from most farm shops, as it employs a hundred people); Chatsworth's other retail and catering operations; and assorted offshoots such as Chatsworth Food, which sells luxury foodstuffs carrying her signature; and Chatsworth Design, which sells image rights to items and designs from the Chatsworth collections.
Recognising the commercial imperatives of running a stately home, she took a very active role and was known to man the Chatsworth House ticket office herself.
In 1999, the Duchess was appointed a Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (DCVO) by Queen Elizabeth II, for her service to the Royal Collection Trust.
Upon the death of her husband in 2004, her son Peregrine Cavendish became the 12th Duke of Devonshire. She became the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire at this time, and moved into a smaller house on the Chatsworth estate.
Her death, at the age of 94, was announced on 24 September 2014. The Duchess was survived by three of her seven children, eight grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren. Her funeral took place on 2 October 2014 at St Peter's Church, Edensor in Derbyshire, England. It was attended by various family members and friends, as well as six hundred staff and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.
Reading Recommendations & Content Considerations
Sotheby's Article - One of a Kind: The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire