I have a confession: if I could have been anyone in history, I would have been Deborah Mitford Cavendish. Mostly because I would love to have the run of Chatsworth, although I understand managing it was a huge enterprise. I wouldn’t have minded the other perks, which included lots of diamonds. Let’s take a look.
In 2016 Sothebys held an an auction of a collection of Elvis memorabilia and personal items that belonged to Deborah. The brooch below was designed by Andrew, 11th Duke of Devonshire, and given to Debo on their diamond wedding anniversary, In the same lot were a set of aquamarine clips.
The beautiful butterfly brooch below, described by Getty as a diamond ruby pin (although it looks as if those stones are yellow to me), was dated to 1880.
A collection of Debo’s brooches that would make Max jealous! Bonus photo of the Duchess wearing an unidentified, but sparkly brooch, in her later years.
Which brings us to the famous two Devonshire tiaras. The Duchess is pictured below in 1961 wearing the Devonshire tiara while dining at the Dorchester. The tiara has been described by Sotheby’s as “Cast in silver and gold with numerous diamonds of various size and cuts, the tiara truly dazzles. But it’s also versatile: various pieces of the design can be removed, allowing the tiara to be work as a necklace or divided up into brooches.” Take your time to see it up close on the Sotheby’s site. It’s actually my favorite of the two, because the other is a monster.
Finally, we come to the skull crusher! The heavy, dramatic palmette tiara is beautiful to look at on a stand but must be a bit of a trial to wear. Mary Cavendish, the 10th Duchess of Devonshire, took the challenge on during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
There are few photos of Deborah wearing it. The most famous was taken during her 80th birthday party. She did have a funny anecdote of a case of inappropriate tiara wearing.
One memorable evening we were staying at Windsor Castle for a dance given by the Queen. I came down to dinner, got up as I thought our hostess and the other guests would be, the big tiara firmly in place. To my horror none of the other women wore theirs. It is far worse to be overdressed than underdressed a I sat through dinner wishing I was anywhere else. When the dancing began, I took it off, put it under a chair and enjoyed myself enormously. I suppose Windsor Castle in the only house where you could be sure of finding the blessed thing still there at bedtime.
Are you as intrigued with Debo’s life as I am? Post your thoughts and photos below.