It’s not everyday that the estate of a duchess hits the auction block. It’s even more rare when that duchess happens to be one of the famed Mitford Sisters. But on February 27, Sotheby’s will auction hundreds of items that once belonged to Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, the Mitford sister who managed the famed country house, Chatsworth.
“The wonderful objects with which she lived illustrate so much of her story, from exquisite jewels gifted by her husband to a rare copy of Brideshead Revisited personally inscribed by her friend Evelyn Waugh,” Sotheby’s, which is handling the auction, writes.
Deborah and her five sisters were prominent members of English society in the 30s and 40s, who were divided by politics and the war. Deborah was the youngest of the Mitfords and married Lord Andrew Cavendish, younger son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, in 1941.
When her husband died and her son became the Duke of Devonshire, Deborah assumed the title of Dowager Duchess and moved from Chatsworth to take up residence at the Old Vicarage in the nearby village of Edensor, taking with her objects of personal significance.
Choosing what she would bring to her new home amounted to “decisions as to what to take from the quart jug to fit into the pint pot,” she wrote.
Some of those items, now up for auction, include her Grace’s collection of walking and shooting sticks, a Edwardian coat rack, antique mirrors, paintings, figurines, chairs, antlers, Victorian sofas, more “English School” paintings, needlework cushions, tables, lamps, silver, and an impressive collection of signed literature.
But most importantly there is “Her Grace’s collection of Elvis Presley ephemera” – roughly two dozen Elvis collectables and records estimated to sell for between £500 to £1,000.
Another standout item is a rare pre-publication copy of Brideshead Revisited, inscribed by the author and close friend of the duchess, Evelyn Waugh. It’s estimated to sell for between £15,000-£20,000.
And listen to Her Grace talk about her extraordinary life at the Frick below.