15 November 2010

how she lives


the sisters

Deborah, affectionately called Debo, wearing the jodhpurs amongst her Mitford sisters

that she adored them and still does-is evident.

Debo-also known as Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, née The Hon. Deborah Freeman-Mitford, in her much written about, and awaited memoir, did not adhere to the credo of her paternal grandfather, Lord Redesdale: 'Looking back, I claim the privilege of the sun-dial, and among the hours record only the serene.' That decision to tell much about herself -the last of the six celebrated Mitford sisters, yet still hold some things so dear or so private to herself tells her readers much. Her erudite sister, Nancy, nicknamed her Nine-a reference to her mental age, is proof her published sisters would have been surprised at the number of her own published books, beginning at age 60.

the supermodel granddaughter

Darling Paddy,
Stella came. We had to be together in a photo for Vogue's 90th birthday come Christmas. So one Mario Testino(1) famous photographer, came in a helicopter with a crew of makeup, hairdresser, “fashion editor”, etc from London.
I've got a really beautiful dress, grand evening, given me by Oscar de la Renta, so that was my kit. They bound Stella's legs, up to where they join her body, in tartan. A Union Jack flag hung from her waist & her top was what my father would have called meaningless.
Hair skewbald/piebald, all colours & stuck up in bits. THEN they produced “shoes” with 6 inch heels. More stilts - she could hardly put one foot in front of the other, wobbling & toppling.
We looked just like that Grandville drawing of a giraffe dancing with a little monkey. I was the monkey.
Much love
(this letter from In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor, John Murray)

Mario Testino photograph from Vogue 2004

"My Grandmother can carry anything off"
- Stella Tennant

"Nancy and Diana introduced me to the fashion world and Stella keeps me in touch. Philip Treacy is charming and so is Oscar de la Renta. I still wear a short Givenchy dress from 1958."

"her pearls"

"Do admit one gets hold of some odd people in Life’s Rich Tapestry."

"People who work the land are who I like and admire more than any others."

"Oh, don’t speak about Elvis,Wasn’t he wonderful? I never became a fan until after he was dead, otherwise I would have been a stalker."

“I find this guessing about the sex life of friends or relations tiresome in the extreme,”

"Happiness is very rare and totally overrated.I think you are only really happy for short periods of the day, or of your life. I wish people wouldn’t go on about it as it’s awfully hard on those who think there is this elusive thing.
Oh I wish I could tell Diana that, she’d laugh so much."

“I have 17 great-grandchildren and they’re not a bit interested. They say: ‘Oh no, not that story again, please don’t tell us anymore’.”

the current digs- the Old Vicarage,Edsenor

a jaunty apple green entry

WoI image

 the sitting room
largely furnished with furnishings from the Chatsworth attics, her own drawings,
paintings and sculptures, with other paintings loaned from Chatsworth,  
with decorating assistance from David Mlinaric

(World of Interiors image)

a table skirt with JJ Grandville animal caricatures embroidered by Chatsworth volunteers
(Nancy Lancaster had a painted Grandville table skirt in her rooms too- HERE)

the dining room

WWD-Simon Upton photograph

the portrait

 to see the Lucian Freud portrait Woman in White 1956-1957 go to the Athenaeum HERE
 When Andrew went to see the finished picture at Freud’s studio, there were two men there, one of whom, looking at the painting, asked him, ‘Who is this woman?’ ‘My wife,’ Andrew replied. ‘Well, thank God it’s not mine,’ the man said.

Debo thinks that the older she gets, the more like the picture she becomes. ‘Lucian’s great and extraordinary talent when he was doing that style of painting is making a person aged 34 look like I do now, and I’m 90. You know, yellow skin, green mustache. So funny.’

the new book

&  “The book is called ‘Wait For Me’ and is just about my life, my whole life…it’s getting rather long now!”

and hear her in conversation recently while she was in New York- 

read more about the Duchess' new book at the STYLE SALONISTE HERE

World of Interiors September 2010
Patrick Lee Fermor's  blog HERE

Nancy Mitford A Memoir- Harold Acton
the Times Deborah Devonshire
the Telegraph HERE
Vogue US- November 2010
Vogue US 2006



  1. Her new residence, the Old Vicarage in Edsenor, is not exactly slumming it, is it? 14 bedrooms in a splendid location... I would give my eye teeth for such a retirement spot. Your photos of the library and dining room are lovely.

  2. Fascinating woman, will order a copy on Amazon....her current "digs" are quite livable I would say.

  3. They were all fabulous creatures!

  4. I'm so glad I listened to that interview - and thanks for including it! I love the colors and ambiance of the Old Vicarage. Looking at the rooms, I'm reminded of a photograph of the Duke of Devonshire's favorite room at Chatsworth, his sitting room - he was most comfortable in the smallest one.

  5. I took your post as a sign that I shouldn't wait until Christmas for this book. My copy is now coming Thursday! The images of the Old Vicarage left me in a swoon. Such a charming, fascinating woman. Thank you for this post P.G.T.!


  6. I just love her! She's like everyone's grandmother. I love the Grandville table skirt, too.

  7. Hels and Francine, the place is cozy, very English and lovingly put together. Hels-I think in my readings there are 8 bedrooms, still roomy for all her relatives. Her granddaughter Stella said it was quite fun visiting there with her 4 children and much less stressful than the priceless Chatsworth!

  8. Pages, Mark- the audio is wonderful, I agree!

    HHR- no don't wait! for Wait for Me. what a wonderful title.

    David, fascinating all really- I favor Nancy so complex and plague in many ways because of it. the Duchess has such smarts.

  9. Dear Gaye, another brilliant post. I love anything Mitford related xx

  10. Diogo,Christina- Merci! yes the Mitfords keep giving. pgt

  11. Gaye: Fascinating work, above. Thank you!

    Horoscope of L.A. is fascinating. Were it a person, "his/her" stamina and ambition (especially political, but also business) would be practically iridescent. Conversely, which in other cases can almost never be said, he/she has a deep reservoir of compassion. More later.

    Big snow tonight & then it gets glazed over again.

    Betcha we have bigger blocks of ice on our sidewalks than Maine does.

    Right now, we are living in a stationary iceberg, which isn't going anywhere fast but which will be much bigger in about 12 hours.

    If I see the Titanic sailing past our front door, that's it.

    Be well,

    Don (Reed)

    (If this posts twice, toss the first & blame Google three times)



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