Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Debo leaves the stage

Dowager Duchess of Chatsworth 

She's the person I wanted to meet while visiting Chatsworth. I would find her at the ticket booth as she sometimes was: the lady of the house "a housewife," as she referred to herself on occasion. But Chatsworth is no ordinary house, and she was no ordinary lady with her love for Elvis Presley, chickens and a good turn of phrase—though you wouldn't have expected her to say she liked her own writing, though she wrote very well. Funny and forthright without trying to be either, you had the feeling you could talk to her about all manner of things. I loved her stories, especially the one about Evelyn Waugh sending a copy of one of his novels with blank pages because he knew she wouldn't read it. 

When her obit appeared in the NYTimes not more than an hour ago, I found myself jumping up and pulling her book about Chatsworth off the shelf. It's one that I've returned to again and again. Of course, I have yet to visit the grand house she brought back from the brink of ruin. She won't be there, in fact, hasn't been for quite some time, having moved into the "Old Vicarage" in a village a short distance away (find a very good interview here), which can be found in The World of Interiors, September 2010. Yet, in some way—at least for me—she always will be. 

Rest in Peace, dear lady. 

Photo Credit: Chatsworth: The House, by The Duchess of Devonshire with Photographs by Simon Upton. 


  1. I was so sad to have heard this today too. It's been a sad 2014 with our losses!

    1. Thank you, ArchitectD. I agree: It's been a year of losses. Yet, there is much to admire, in this case, the pluck of Debo who made it possible for us to see Chatsworth. I did not mention it, but I watched the PBS documentary about the house a few nights ago, which features her husband, and wondered why, when, in fact, it should have been Debo who did the talking, she having done the heavy lifting.


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