Have you been to Chatsworth?
What this photo fails to convey, even in all its imposing gilded grandeur is the scale of the Chatsworth. How the estate unfolds and encases you in its perfect peak valley setting, a 1,000 acres of parkland complete with herds of deer and picturesque villages. This is the ultimate country house and 16 generations later the family motto emblazoned across the main facade, Cavendo Tutus – safe through caution – seems particularly apt.
We all know the story, the 80% tax bill of 1950 which Debo and Andrew Devonshire negotiated, losing Hardwick Hall but against all the perceived odds keeping Chatsworth, alive, inhabited and flourishing.
Debo in 1952, 7 years before the house was habitable again after the war, a diminutive but powerful figure beneath Holbein’s expression of ultimate power Henry VIII. Today 35 million pounds worth of restoration work are nearing completion and the gleaming house streams with visitors from all over the world, c. 600,000 annually, who are now Chatsworth’s raison d’être (according to the current duke).
The final section of Chatsworth under its evocative scrapbook wraps…as we entered, I have wanted to see Chatsworth for a VERY long time, actually I still need to see it despite this visit, because this time I saw dresses, lots to dresses, fabulous jewels and copious family memorabilia. An exhibition sponsored by Gucci (primarily), staged by opera set designer Patrick Kinmonth and curated by Hamish Bowles, American Vogue’s Editor at large, who spoke for us all when declaring: To be let loose in the wardrobe rooms, the gold vaults, the muniment room, and the closets, cupboards, and attics of Chatsworth, in search of sartorial treasures has been a dream come true for me.Hamish, Patrick and Lady Burlington whose attic adventures with her mother in law provided the impetus for the show – and possibly a close relationship with Gucci?
So Three generations of my family set forth to wonder at generations of Devonshire ladies and the late Duke’s jumper collection, created way before the slogan T.
Shall we finally go in?It’s a grand start with the coronation robes of 19th and 20th century Duchesses underneath Baroque painted ceilings.
But display boxes connect you to the people who wore the clothes, attended the events and kept lockets, rings, cards and treasured momentoes.
Then there was Debo’s 1952 dress, tightly waisted and tiny…
Before a glorious array of wedding and christening robes… naturally in the chapel.
Upwards to the latest sartorial choices of the Devonshire clan… including this Gucci number… inspired by Bess.
and this Gucci number inspired by an archived 18th century court dress.
As the 18th century Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire was THE leader of fashion it feels apt that she has inspired future generations of family women in their choice of attire.
Chatsworth’s head of textiles surveying the completed installation in the South Sketch Gallery, with Georgiana presiding over the displays she inspired, painted as Spenser’s faerie queen.
You need a seat by the end, the settings come alive and you feel the power these interiors would bring to dinner … if you had packed the right dress.
the right jewels
and the right attitude.But for those of us who visit Chatsworth by day only it offers a glimpse into house style and haute couture, via country tweeds and fancy dress extravagnazas which is totally immersive and gloriously decorative. I left thinking they must throw a fantastically good party here when the gates finally close and the curtains shut…
So I came home, popped a bottle of bubbly, and raised a glass to ‘style’ – some people just have it.
photos mainly by me
some from The English Home.
Thank you Lyra for being a great companion throughout our Chatsworth adventure and avid hat trier and Mummy who first inspired me with V and A trips to see the dresses and obviously came too… to swoon at it all.