Oh, to be in London today…

The Duchess at Devonshire

I would go straight to Sotheby’s.

Not to buy, mind you. I haven’t won the Powerball.

But to look and just to be in the same room as the collection. To get a glimpse inside the walls of Chatsworth and the world of Deborah Mitford Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.

Her “treasured mementoes”will be up for auction on March 2nd in London. 

She was the last of a generation, and a family, that was rife with contradictions.

Unity, Tom, Deborah, Diana, Jessica, Nancy and Pamela Mitford, Burford, c1936.JPG

Unity, Tom, Deborah, Diana, Jessica, Nancy and Pamela Mitford

Despite being a British loyalist herself and married to one of its dukes, she was sister to…. a devout Communist, Jessica; Diana who married a fascist;  one who fancied herself in love with Hitler and shot herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany, Unity; sister to Nancy, a satirist who exposed the class she belonged to; and a sister to Jessica who felt much more comfortable with animals than with people.

One of my favorite books remains her memoir that she wrote by hand, Wait for Me, about growing up in the melee of the Mitford home.

Deborah Cavendish, the Dowager of Duchess, with her chickens

Deborah Cavendish, the Dowager of Duchess, with her chickens

She married a second son, who ended up being a duke.

She revived one of England’s greatest homes, Chatsworth.

She was related to a Prime Minister and flew to D.C. to see her friend, John, inaugurated as president.

She’s the writer of over a dozen books and a familiar of the Queen.

She collected Elvis memorabilia and raised prized chickens.

She recognized the absurdities of life, hers in particular, and had a turn-of-phrase to match each extreme.

Oh, to be in London today and walk through the world of the Dowager Duchess.

A world where it was perfectly appropriate for an “Elvis telephone” to be in the same room as a Rembrandt.

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