The Mitford sisters form two sides of a treasured coin here in Great Britain. Their contribution to countryside politics, both in communism and nationalism, their stylish way of living, greatly contrasted with the restrictive and emotionally environment they were brought up in.
And later the six sisters from Hampshire had to make a romantic life out of that same environment, as they were pretty much denied an education despite being throughbred aristocracy – they were expected to be married off to a financially well-off gentleman early on in their lives.
The Mitfords’ contribution to war politics often came at a cost, one of the sisters became suicidal and suffered brain damage, as a result. And these kind of stories weren’t so much few and far inbetween because there were reported incidents of trouble on planes they would use to travel in, as well as pitching in with wartime efforts during the Blitz.
Amongst the many socialites, our country has played home to, the Dowager of Devonshire is undoubtedly one of more famous ones. Deborah Devonshire, or “Debo” as she is often known amongst loved ones, passed away just late last month, with it bringing the youngest Mitford chapter permanently to a close.
Recognized for restoring Chatsworth House, she lived a long and prosperous life as the most quiet of all children. Public perception of this relatively minor noble family in England was quite positive actually, because they continued to interest many people during the forties.
Apart from writing various books on Chatsworth house, she has penned her own memoir Wait for Me! where she wrote about her varied experiences in life, from constantly falling behind her sisters to attending glittering Manhattan societal conventions, where she had play host to local protocol and danced with famous locals, just to keep the affair entertaining…for them, for her it would prove to be far too boring.
Her title as a Duchess came to her in the 1950 through a marriage with Andrew Cavendish, who later inherited the throne to become the Duke of Cavendish. Her life was filled with wartime experiences, such as participating in teatime gatherings with Adolf Hitler, choosing gowns for the Queen’s coronation, and ofcourse becoming a “housewife duchess” as she transformed her home into one of the most efficacious stately homes we have up here.
The Duchess was quite keen on fashion actually, forming a lifelong passion for haute couture, such as Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino. Her heart was always in the right place as campaigning for placing a ban on fox-hunting suggested. Her enthusiasm for life was visible in her chicken farming antics, and the most fabulous aspect of her life was perhaps her spirit and how she handled everything, despite the prejudice that were thrown her way.
Conforming to social norms she skipped school because her parents perceived a school education unnecessary for girls. Debo spent her childhood in a London house, residing with her very own pack of governesses, tutors and servants in country seats, when not spending time in Scotland.
She lived a rather solitary life amongst all the many people inside the house but the bond she shared with her sisters was certainly unique. They would take part in a society they had thought up the “Society of Hons” in a separate stone mansion, in the cold, where they would indulge in sharing their fantastic fantasies – something to pass the mundane days “no education” can bring you as children.
Debo’s family’s wealth wasn’t abundant, exhausting itself during the years of the Great Depression. Perhaps chasing the kids on horseback with hounds, left the Duke with less time to focus on the business instead?
The six Mitford sisters, were certainly a formidable pair, despite the hardships life often brought them would lock themselves up in a linen cupboard and communicate with each other in a special secret language only the six knew, something that was more about poking fun at rural Oxfordshire accents.
Chatsworth is a grand 16th century mansion, surrounded by meadows, wooden hills, and the palace itself is decorated with an enormous number of paintings, rooms, fireplaces, kitchens, workshops, staircases and comforting roofs. Here’s hoping her legacy lives on in Chatsworth, just as much as it does in our memories!