The incredible legacy of Deborah Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and Chatsworth House

The late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire  with her granddaughter Stella Tennant.

The late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire with her granddaughter Stella Tennant.

Sad day today in Derbyshire as mourners pay their last respects to The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the famous Mitford sisters, who died last month at the age of 94. She leaves behind an incredible legacy.

The Mitford sisters were famous for their controversial political opinions. They rubbed shoulders with Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy and even Adolf Hitler. Yes, really.

In fact her sister, Diana Mitford, who died in August 2003, controversially married British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, while Unity Mitford developed a liking for Adolf Hitler and eventually migrated to Germany.

But the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was different. She said the class system, “[is] The biggest pest that has ever been invented” and kept out of politics.

She also loved Elvis Presley (there is a small section dedicated to him in Chatsworth House) – and the song “How Great Thou Art” recorded by the great man himself, was played at her funeral today.

It would be unfair to compare her to the fictional Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey – as the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire accomplished so much more. She opened up Chatsworth to the general public, created a farm shop many thought would fail (it now brings in over $10 million a year) and embraced modern art and public performances.

Get into the history of the Duchess and her life and watch this great PBS documentary on her family and the incredible Chatsworth House. And, if you’ve got time, take a tour of the great place itself.

Blimey! is your daily dose of British news and features for anglophiles everywhere! This article was carefully written by Tim Holt, a British blogger, photographer and actor based back in the UK after many years of living in America. Forever torn between two magnificent slices of sod.

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