The Duchess of Devonshire
The Duchess of Devonshire, 1938
|Tenure||26 November 1950 - 3 May 2004|
|Born||Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford|
31 March 1920
Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, England
|Died||24 September 2014(aged 94)|
|Residence||Edensor House, Chatsworth Estate, Derbyshire|
(m. 1941; died 2004)
|Parents||David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale|
|Occupation||Writer, memoirist, socialite|
Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, (born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford and latterly Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire; 31 March 1920 – 24 September 2014) was an English aristocrat, writer, memoirist and socialite. She was the youngest and last surviving of the six Mitford sisters, who were prominent members of English society in the 1930s and 1940s.
Known to her family as "Debo", Deborah Mitford was born in Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, England. Her parents were David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (1878-1958), son of Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, and his wife, Sydney (1880-1963), daughter of Thomas Gibson Bowles, MP. She married Lord Andrew Cavendish, younger son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, in 1941. 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 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. She also supervised the development of the Cavendish Hotel at Baslow, near Chatsworth, and the Devonshire Arms Hotel at Bolton Abbey.
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.
She and the duke had seven children, four of whom died shortly after birth:
The Duchess died on 24 September 2014, at the age of 94. She was survived by three of her seven children, eight grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren.
In an interview with John Preston of The Daily Telegraph, published in September 2007, she recounted having tea with Adolf Hitler during a visit to Munich in June 1937, when she was visiting Germany with her mother and her sister Unity, the latter being the only one of the three who spoke German and, therefore the one who carried on the entire conversation with Hitler. Shortly before ending the interview, Preston asked her to choose with whom she would have preferred to have tea: American singer Elvis Presley or Hitler. Looking at the interviewer with astonishment, she answered: "Well, Elvis of course! What an extraordinary question."
In 2010, the BBC journalist Kirsty Wark interviewed the Duchess for Newsnight. In it, the Duchess talked about life in the 1930s and 1940s, Hitler, the Chatsworth estate, and the marginalisation of the upper classes. She was also interviewed on 23 December by Charlie Rose for PBS.
On 10 November 2010, she was interviewed as part of "The Artists, Poets, and Writers Lecture Series" sponsored by the Frick Collection, an interview which focused on her memoir and her published correspondence with Patrick Leigh Fermor.
|Ancestors of Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire|