27 September 2014

In Memoriam: The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

This week, the Duke of Devonshire announced the death of his mother, Deborah, at the age of 94. Born the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was the chatelaine of Chatsworth House, one of the grandest estates in England, for more than half a century. As you can imagine, the job came with the opportunity to wear some impressive heirloom jewels. Here's a look at some of the jewelry worn by Debo during her lifetime.

Banquet held by the Royal Society of St. George, 1954

With her husband, the 11th Duke, at the Dorchester Hotel, 1955. The ruby and diamond clasp of her pearl necklace was a Cavendish family heirloom; the necklace became Deborah's signature piece of jewelry

At the Dorchester Hotel, 1961. Deborah wears the smaller of the two Devonshire diamond tiaras; she also wore the tiara at the 1953 coronation, where the larger Devonshire tiara was worn by her mother-in-law, then the Mistress of the Robes. At the coronation, Deborah was described by Cecil Beaton as "the most beautiful of all ... with her hair dressed wide to contain an Edwardian cake-like crown -- a Cavendish heirloom" [1]. Her appearance at the coronation was especially striking because she wore the eighteenth-century robes of one of her predecessors, Georgiana, the famous wife of the 5th Duke. The Devonshires also have an unusual Victorian intaglio parure; Deborah wears it here

At the opening of the Chatsworth Farm Shop in London, 2000

Attending a memorial service for Sir Hardy Amies, 2003

With her chickens at Chatsworth, 1995 

1. Quoted in Diana Scarisbrick's Ancestral Jewels, p. 153.