to 19th April 1941, 80 years ago yesterday. While she wouldn’t become the Duchess of Devonshire until 1950, Deborah Mitford still turned heads when she married Lord Andrew Cavendish. And her floral bridal headpiece? Fantastic.
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The Duchess always seemed to be such fun. One of her most memorable fashion shoots (UK Vogue, I think) was with her granddaughter, the supermodel Stella Tennant. It was shot by Mario Testino and he seemed to bring out her personality and that of her granddaughter – two very beautiful women. Sadly, Stella committed suicide at the end of last year.
Debo wrote an account of this photo shoot at Chatsworth in Home to Roost. Apparently she was persuaded to wear some of her couture dresses from the 1950s for the shoot.
Yes it was very sad to hear about the death of Stella Tenant. She wax exceptionally beautiful and gifted.
James, thanks so much for telling me this I have the book on my Kindle so will have to set to and move it the front of the queue.
Can you believe Prince Charles spends a week at Chatsworth in the autumn writing his Christmas Cards!! I can only think that it must make a truly horrendous task more palatable – I’m going to write and ask if I can do the same in the autumn! Did you happen to see the three or four part series about Chatsworth this year – the first episode covered Xmas 2019 and then the next episodes covered how they dealt with the Pandemic through to reopening last summer. Very interesting and can recommend it.
We’re currently in the Peak District on a week’s holiday carried forward from last year. Spectacular scenery – just had a very nice lunch in the pub at Crowdecote and on our way back to base.
Hi Lesley, yes I did see it. It was very interesting to see how they coped with the challenges the pandemic brought. Hope you are enjoying your stay in Derbyshire – you’ve had some decent weather.
This post made me think of a Duchess of Devonshire look for another April wedding, 70 years later:
Here’s another view of this hat- made by Lauren Martin when she worked at Philip Treacy
Even better! What a splendid piece — I can’t believe she didn’t get photographed at the wedding!
Fabulous! Wasn’t there a Mitford tiara, or maybe they weren’t worn during wartime?
Thanks to JamesB and TrickyMum for sharing their Debo encounters. What an original she was! Chatsworth is on my life list for when we can travel again.
I’m not sure about a Mitford tiara, I’ve not heard of one but the Redesdale barony (Debo’s father was Lord Redesdale) was a fairly new one.
He had also been hit by two sets of death duties in a short time. Apparently Farve, as they called him, was convinced they were very poor. They weren’t of course but there probably wasn’t the spare cash to commission a tiara.
Debo’s mother-in-law could have lent her a tiara – the Devonshires have more than one. This meant that both Debo and the then Dowager Duchess, who was Mistress of the Robes, could attend the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.
Tiaras weren’t as frequently worn for society weddings in those days. In 1935, Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott didn’t wear one of the Buccleuch family tiaras when she married the Duke of Gloucester, preferring a crystal headdress instead to match her blush pink dress.
Thanks for your perspective, James. No loss since the floral headpiece is actually perfect, and Debo certainly had many tiara opportunities ahead of her.
Like the time she went to a WI party wearing the large Devonshire tiara and matching parure as the oldest Miss World in the world. You can’t help but love someone with that sense of humour who didn’t take herself too seriously.
I’ve been following this marvellous blog for a while, but this is my first time commenting. It is such a lovely place to go in a tumultuous world.
I remember visiting Chatsworth many years ago, and they had a children’s play area. One of the first I can remember at a stately home. This allowed the grownups to take turns visiting the house in blissful peace. Very forward thinking of Chatsworth to improve what was already an incredible visitor experience.
Welcome, Cheetah. Thank you for your kind words about Royal Hats- we hope you’ll feel welcome to continue to join our conversations here!
I am so excited to see this here. I went looking for a description on it a few months ago and came up with nothing. She was beautiful, and it was a u.nique and flattering look. Very Mitford. Very Debo
How marvellous to see. I live not too far from Chatsworth and I met the Duchess on a few occasions. I went to her funeral in 2014 expecting to stand outside and watch on a large screen outside the church.
To my amazement, my friend and I were shown inside as, apart from the immediate family, none of the seats were reserved. We were only a few rows behind the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Afterwards everyone was invited to the reception in the grounds of Chatsworth House.
The Duchess’s life was a fascinating one. In 1938 at the age of 18, she took tea with Hitler through his association with Fascist sister Unity and was also a close friend of JFK and his sister Kick, who went on to marry her brother-in-law, Lord Hartington. She and her husband restored Chatsworth House, opened it to the public on a regular basis and made it what it is today.
She wrote several books but I can recommend her autobiography, Wait for Me. I have a signed copy. I was lucky to get it, she was nearly blind by this stage and held only a few book signings.
What a wonderful story! My Mum and I also met the Duchess once when we went to Chatsworth – she was feeding her pet chickens! We chatted about the chickens and my Mum, a keen gardener, discussed an ailing acer tree with her. She was very pleasant.
One very hot summer, visitors enjoyed playing in the fountains. A TV news reporter was trying to get the Duchess to condemn their temerity, but she seemed genuinely pleased everyone had had such fun.
That’s a fabulous story – I too once met Debo, but it was when she was doing a book signing, so we didn’t exactly have an indepth conversation. She used to call Prince Charles ‘Friend’ and the Queen Mum ‘Cake’ which I have always just loved.
Her wedding dress was stunning and surprisingly grand given the privations of war. She really did go onto become a marvellous chatelaine for Chatsworth and through strength and savvy protected the estate for posterity.
I loved the story of how the Queen Mother came to be called ‘Cake’. It sounds like an insult – in the same way that the Duchess of Windsor, who incidentally was a close friend of Debo’s sister Diana, called her ‘Cookie’.
In fact it was because when attending a society wedding just after the war, Queen Elizabeth was told the happy couple were about to cut the wedding cake to which she replied very animatedly “The CAKE”. The name stuck with the Mitfords.
A friend and I (an equal Mitford nut – we went one weekend on a tour of their graves!) always do this at weddings. You really can imagine her saying it can’t you!!
What marvellous stories and tributes James, Trickymum and JamesB all wrote! The Duchess sounds like she was a fascinating and approachable person.
Her bridal headpiece is gorgeous, as is her dress. What a lovely “Hat From the Past” post today!