Sylph, Leviathan and Families

Chatsworth House

“The elegance and splendour of Chatsworth House sits majestically in the green swards of the Derwent Valley. The grand artefacts of past centuries line the way through the estate, house and garden.”

Hassop to Chatsworth through Edensor : Circular Walk - Map and Directions : Google Earth Tour for this Walk

The writers on the Sylph, Leviathan and Families route:

Joseph Paxton - John F Kennedy - Thomas Hobbes – Joseph Shorthouse – Celia Fiennes – Georgiana Cavendish - Caroline Lamb – William Wordsworth - William Adam George Howard - Nancy Mitford

With short abridged extracts from The Literary Way, written by Terry Goble and published by The Creative Peak

Chatsworth House

We will leave the isolated old station at Hassop and we are going to a house, which is one of the gems of the nation. The sheer opulence of Chatsworth captivates all who visit it. And that has been the same for centuries. In the course of constructing The Literary Way, we have read many extracts from biographies and travelogues. Chatsworth appears as a destination for visitors since the seventeenth century, and apart from a period in the 1950s, it seems to have always been willing to show off the accumulations of art, books and sculptures that have been gathered over the years. As we might expect, it has been the focus for some keys writers and literary works. Our oldest literary paragon in this country seat, a name still read today, arrived at the house just as the major building work was being finished in the very early 1600s. At the other end of the scale we have a fascinating read in the twentieth century. In between, we have scandal that rocked society when, amongst others, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire were portrayed, not at their best, in a novel. And as one more taster for this chapter we have a menage a trois and gambling debts that went into the modern equivalent of millions of pounds.

We follow the Monsal Trail towards Bakewell and then take a path which leads us to a road. The quiet lane sharply bends through the woods, and then we reach Balls Cross farm, and in a nearby field is an earthworks site of antiquity. Soon after we begin to descend we take the track on our right. This will take us through the only street in the Chatsworth estate village of Edensor.

Blotting Paper

Edensor’s common characteristic is the warm yellow coloured stonework. As we walk down the lane we can see the markedly different designs of the house, which take their inspiration from many different periods, but have a unison across them as they were built at the same time. The model villages at Snelston and Ilam were built in the 1820s and it was around that time that the Sixth Duke of Devonshire began a substantial building programme at Chatsworth, which included the new model village. The old village, built of local traditional stone, was down towards the river and some buildings straddled along the banks to the old corn mill.
There were three men involved in the design and development of the new Edensor. The first was the Sixth Duke of Devonshire, often known as Hart. He employed an architect, John Robertson and the third man was the Duke’s Head Gardener, which is whom we wish to concentrate on first, for he turned out to be far more than a cultivator of plants.

One of the Duke’s London residences was Chiswick House. He had lent part of the grounds to the Royal Horticultural Society, but still enjoyed walking in the gardens. On several occasions he met a young gardener and was so impressed with him, that he offered him the head gardener’s job at Chatsworth. This cemented a life time business relationship and friendship. Joseph Paxton had a passion for hard work. We shall see some of his notable works in Chatsworth’s garden, but we will also explain why he became so famous. After Joseph came to this stately home he quickly made changes to the gardens but also, with the Duke’s agreement, took on the design of other gardens and public spaces. Whilst he had no formal architectural or engineering training his projects became more and more ambitious. It was a period of great railway building and Joseph became involved in many successful business ventures concerning the railways. His wife began to deal with the daily matters at Chatsworth. Paxton’s most noticeable achievement in the gardens is unfortunately no longer there. It was located where the current maze is, and was called the Great Conservatory. Paxton was ambitious in his design and building. He used the Conservatory at Chatsworth as the first step to a grander plan. The small wall on the outside of the maze was the foundation wall for the Great Conservatory through which a carriage could be driven.

In 1851, the Government had planned the Great Exhibition, which was to take place in Hyde Park. A Royal Commission was appointed to manage the design of a building, which was to house the exhibition. The eminent group had problems in finding a solution, which was cost-effective and could be built in time. Joseph, by then a Director of the Midland Railway, visited London and obtained agreement to submit his own design. It had to be completed in a short time scale and so he drafted his idea whilst in a meeting. It was written on the blotting paper, which was in front of him. It was developed over the next few days into a formal design. The blotting paper is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

He had designed it using a modular approach and knew that railway companies could make the iron girders and supports necessary for the overall framework, which would support the weight of the glass. It was built-in a little over six months and was nicknamed by the Punch Magazine, “The Crystal Palace”. It was a huge structure. To be the first to build such a structure and to complete it in about six months would make modern builders envious. To give the exhibition its full name it was, The Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. Needless to say Joseph Paxton became a celebrity in his own right. The driving force behind the exhibition was Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s Consort, and therefore Joseph Paxton was knighted. As we saw in Darley Dale, Joseph Whitworth, the precision engineer came to international prominence at the Great Exhibition. Joseph Paxton continued his many jobs, but never left Chatsworth, even though, later in life, he became the MP for Coventry.

In yet another business venture Joseph and his partners set up a national newspaper, The Daily Chronicle and he appointed Charles Dickens as editor, although he did not last very long in the job. However, this is how Charles Dickens described the construction of the Crystal Palace:

Two parties in London, relying on the accuracy and good faith of certain ironmasters, glass-workers in the provinces, and of one master carpenter in London, bound themselves for a certain sum of money, and in the course of four months, to cover eighteen acres of ground with a building upwards of a third of a mile long (1851 feet- the exact date of the year) and some hundred and fifty feet broad. In order to do this, the glass maker promised to supply, in the required time, nine hundred thousand square feet of glass (>400 tons). The iron-master passed his word in like manner, to cast in due time 3300 iron columns; 34 miles of guttering tube, 2224 girders. The carpenter undertook to get ready within the specific period 205 miles of sash-bar; flooring for a building of thirty-three millions of cubic feet; besides enormous quantities of wooden walling, louver work and partition.
Household Words
– Charles Dickens

Paxton’s major contribution to authorship was through the publication of books and magazines on gardening, the first of which was the Horticultural Register in 1831. It is interesting to note that the first article in the Register was a Description of a House for Forcing Vines in Pots by Mr Stafford, who was the head gardener to Richard Arkwright at Willersley Castle, Cromford.

The church dominates the village of Edensor and we can see it in its full glory, situated on raised ground, overlooking the park which spreads out along the River Derwent in the front of Chatsworth House. Let us go into the graveyard of St Peter’s Church. One of the largest memorials, and probably the one that captures the first attention, is not one of the Cavendishs, the family name for the Duke of Devonshire, but is the grave of Sir Joseph Paxton.

Kick and Jack

The title of our walk includes the simple word, 'families'. It is not only the Cavendishs, that we want to allude to, but also a famous American family. The 1940s were a pivotal time for the world. For half of that decade, war effected everyone. Just before the war, in 1938 a new US Ambassador was appointed to the Court of St James in England. His name was Joseph Kennedy. He was already a very successful business man with a strong Catholic background. Joe and Rose Kennedy has nine children. One of their daughters, Kathleen, known as Kick, came to England twice during the Second World War, the second time in service of the Red Cross.

William Cavendish was the eldest son of the Tenth Duke of Devonshire and therefore held the title of the Marquis of Hartington. Despite opposition from her mother, Kathleen Kennedy married William Cavendish in 1944. It was expected that, after the death of his father he would become Duke, and therefore Kathleen would become the Duchess of Devonshire. Four months after the marriage tragedy would strike when William was killed in action whilst with the Coldstream Guards. Another tragedy would strike a few years later when Kick was killed in airplane crash in France.

The subsequent events of the Kennedy family became known globally. Kathleen’s brother became the President of the United States of America. In 1945, John F Kennedy, known in the family as Jack, visited Europe. In his diary, he wrote about the Tenth Duke of Devonshire, who was his sister’s father-in-law. It would be very interesting to know how JFK might have reflected on his words in the 1960s when his family became so dominant in the USA. The words also present an interesting perception of Eastbourne. Compton Place was one of the properties own by the Duke of Devonshire.

June 29, 1945
Kathleen and I went down this afternoon to Eastbourne in southern England to Compton Place. Eastbourne is a small village and Compton Place is in the centre of it, though for its quietness it might be in the middle of a large forest. Its owner, the Duke of Devonshire, is an eighteenth century story book in his beliefs - if not in his appearance. He believes in the Divine Rights of Dukes, and in fairness, he is fully conscious of his obligations - most of which consist of furnishing the people of England with a statesman of mediocre ability but outstanding integrity. David Ormsby-Gore maintains that in providing the latter service the aristocracy, especially the country squires, really earn their sometimes extremely comfortable keep
Although the Duke is an anachronism with hardly the adaptability necessary to meet the changing tides of present day, he does have great integrity and lives simply with simple pleasures. He has a high sense of noblesse oblige, and it comes sincerely from him.
Prelude to Leadership
– John F Kennedy

Jack Kennedy remained friends with the Cavendishs and when he visited England, he came to Edensor to Kathleen’s grave. This journey to Chatsworth was a few months before he was assassinated. A plaque on Kathleen’s grave, in Edensor churchyard commemorates the visit.

Let us take our leave of St Peter’s Church and cross the park to the main Chatsworth House. As we approach the bridge, with the house on the other side of the river, we can see, on the wooded hill behind the house, the Hunting Tower. It is situated above Stand Wood, and the tower is often called The Stand. Having set the scene, and before we go into the House and Gardens, we are going for a stiff climb up the hill. It is also time to turn the clock back to near to the period when the present house started its life. On our left after the bridge is another feature left from the early days of the house. Queen Mary’s Bower was once an island in one of the original lakes of the house.

We follow the signs to the farm and adventure playground, but we take the road to the right and, after a short distance, the path on our left which takes us up the hill. You might wonder why we want to start at the Hunting Tower? It’s one of the few parts that is unchanged from the original days of Chatsworth. The Hunting Tower on the top of the hill, overlooking the House, was completed in 1580. Bess of Hardwick, who was the main driving force behind the construction of Chatsworth, was fifty-three at the time. She would live until she was eighty-one. It would be in the year she died, that a young man just out of Oxford, would come to the Cavendish family to tutor her grandson.

Social Contract

That fresh young man was called Thomas Hobbes. He went on to become a leading political philosopher, whose work is still studied today. He is renowned for his laying of a major milestone in the foundations for political philosophy. He conceived the idea of a social contract, which is effectively an agreement between people that must be in place for a society to function. Thomas was born in 1588, which is the same year of the Spanish Armada, and he lived approximately the same life span as Isaac Walton and died when he was ninety-one. This was a grand old age given the political turmoil of the period including, the English Civil War and the prevalence of disease, such as the plague.

His long life span was even more of a considerable achievement given that he managed to alienate both sides during the English Civil War. His writings were denounced as unacceptable, both to the Parliamentarians and to the Royalists. At one stage he fled to France, where he tutored the future King Charles II. When the war was over, and the monarchy had been restored, he was allowed to live on with the Devonshires, provided he did not publish further writings. The Earls of Devonshire, as they were until the end of the seventeenth century, owned two majors houses in Derbyshire. These were both the work of Bess. So she not only built Chatsworth, but she had constructed Hardwick Hall, which still stands. There is the ruin of the first hall and next to it is the current hall. Hardwick Hall can be seen from the main north-south motorway (M1) just south of Chesterfield. The Cavendish family moved between the houses on a regular basis and therefore so did Thomas.

Thomas Hobbes would be described in a Victorian novel written by Joseph Henry Shorthouse in 1880. It is a story set in the time of Charles I, and is an intriguing story written in late Victorian times about events two hundred and forty years earlier. The story centres around John Inglesant, who was the second twin, and so is shown no favours, as he would not inherit. His father is at Court and so the boy is given to the Jesuits to raise. They do so with the purpose of him being able to understand the delicate religious line between the monarchy of Protestant England and the drift towards Catholicism. The English Civil War then erupts and he is involved in battles, but also in the machinations of religion between the different parties.

Joseph Shorthouse was a Birmingham Quaker who became a member of the Church of England. John Inglesant was his first book and it made him famous and thereafter he mixed with senior politicians and writers of his day, including William Gladstone and Matthew Arnold. Our interest in this book is that it paints a picture of Thomas Hobbes. Devonshire House was one of the Cavendishs’ London residences. Thomas Hobbes did not restrict himself to philosophy and, as with many men of his era, he wrote on a large number of matters. His most famous work which was called, The Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil. It was published in 1651. The Leviathan is not an easy read, but it's strength as a political work is that it goes on to define the nature of a social contract and discusses the way in which countries and people should be managed. Thomas is still regarded as a first-rate philosopher. Let’s close with a little mention of his autobiography, which was somewhat of a challenge for people of any historical period, including the present day. He wrote it, at the age of eighty-four, in Latin rhyming couplets.

From the Hunting Tower, we get good views over both Chatsworth House and its estate. And as a little advance information for one of the later periods of Chatsworth, while we are near the Hunting Tower, we could go for a walk around the man-made Emperor’s Lake, which is the source for many of the nineteenth century water features in the garden. This Emperor’s Lake, the Swiss Lake and the nearby woods form a wonderful spring amble with the bluebells spreading out in the dappled sunshine of the trees.

The New Duke

But let’s move on both in place and time. We’ll come down from the Hunting Tower and go into the gardens to see one of its most famous features, the Cascade. At the top of this large stepped water feature is Cascade House. It was designed to be part of the fountains and on special occasions the full water features are turned on including the jets from the floor. In summer it becomes a paddling pool for the children and many adults! The Cascade was finished in the 1690s and the Cascade House added a little later, which certainly must make it one of the oldest paddling pools in the country.

A lot has happened between the Hunting Tower being built and the Cascade being finished. The English Civil War has been and gone. Chatsworth survived despite being the centre of action at different times. The Plague of 1666 had affected a village only a few miles away, and the Chatsworth physician became involved in controlling its spread. William and Mary had come to England and to the throne. This affected Chatsworth. The Fourth Earl had earnestly supported William and Mary, and for services rendered, he became the First Duke of Devonshire. In the late 1680s, the First Duke began rebuilding and he extensively changed the house.

The Sylph

As we entered the gardens we passed the stable block, which is immense structure. It now houses the restaurant, bar and shop. A walk through the garden to the grotto area, which is another part of the garden that was originally developed at the same time. In our journey through history we stop about the time of the American Declaration of Independence, in 1776, which has we have seen before is slightly after the visits of Rousseau to Dovedale and when Johnson had achieved his fame with the English dictionary. About this time the house had one its most noted characters, Georgiana Cavendish.

She was the wife of the Fifth Duke, and mother to Hart, the Sixth Duke, who substantially added to the House itself and re-built Edensor. Devonshire House in London was one of the prime centres of the very fashionable social scene. Georgiana was the consummate hostess, but as we learned, when we were on Stanton Moor, she was seduced by Earl Grey and was sent away to France to have the illegitimate baby. In another strange turn of her life, she introduced her friend Elizabeth Foster to her husband. He took her for his mistress. It was not uncommon during marriages of the time, although normally the affairs were conducted with discretion. But not so in this case. She moved in with Georgiana and they lived as a threesome with Elizabeth having two illegitimate children by William. This arrangement lasted until Georgiana’s death and afterward the Duke married Elizabeth.

Apart from the unusual living arrangements and other affairs, a key part of society of the time was gambling. In this Georgiana revelled, but she was also unsuccessful. In an attempt to keep her gambling debts unknown to her husband she would often borrow money. She would send begging letters to some of the most eminent men in society, including the Prince of Wales. After Georgiana's death her husband, of course, found out the true extent which in modern-day estimates appears to be in excess of £3 million pounds. She managed to run up such a large amount because of the generosity of her banker, who went on to establish a famous name in the banking world, Coutts.

After her death, her husband did not clear them by any means and when his son, Hart, the Sixth Duke inherited, he carried the debts and their interest a long time before selling one of his estates, Londesborough in Yorkshire, to pay them off. Georgiana was seen as one of the most beautiful and leading women in society, but was often parodied in magazines as a result of her conduct. In order to support her friends in elections she would kiss prospective voters, which was very much against the norms of society at the time. Georgiana was portrayed in the film The Duchess by Keira Knightly.

Whilst women of this period wrote a large number of letters, they did not write books as this was seen to be a man’s task. This challenge was taken up by women in two ways. A contemporary of Georgiana’s, but from a different class in society, was Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley’s mother, who during this period wrote The Vindication of the Rights of Women. This targeted middle class women, and stated that it wasn’t necessary to be the weak females, and that they were equal and entitled to the same education as men. Georgiana dealt with her desire to write a book through anonymity.

Another woman who lived at the time also wrote anonymously but she was later recognised as the author, Fanny Burney. She wrote Evelina against all the expectations of her father and society. Fanny Burney’s father was a regular correspondent and good friend of Samuel Johnson. We have seen that even in a much later period many women writers published their work anonymously or under a pseudonym, as with George Eliot and Currer Bell, who we shall come to later on our journey.

Fanny Burney’s Evelina or The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World, was published in 1778. It is written as a series of letters, some of which are quite long. One wonders about the coincidence that Georgiana published an anonymous book in 1779, which was also about a young lady entering society. It was also constructed from a series of letters.

Let us return to the theme families. Georgiana, in her day, was the belle of society. At the top of the garden is the Grotto which was built for her, it has since been remodelled and it is now topped with an old wooden structure resembling a bandstand. It overlooks one of the largest ponds in Chatsworth, and it is one of our favourite places to enjoy the wonderful gardens and watch the coots and moorhens moving in the rushes. Our links here extend back to White Watson, the mason and geologist in Bakewell, for he was paid £66 for the design of the grotto.

Further down the garden and nearer to the main house is a small circular pond with the duck fountain at its centre. On the grass near to the pond was a small plaque that says that Diana, Princess of Wales, held a garden party, for the charity Barnados, there in 1986. What is the connection between these two women? They both come from the same family. Both Georgiana and Diana were Spencers from the Althorp estate. Diana was Georgiana’s great-great-grandneice. And while their characters are entirely different, they were united in the major impact they had on society at the time.

A Lock of Pubic Hair

If Georgiana’s conduct, at home, and in society seems outlandish, it appears timid when compared to her niece, Caroline Lamb. William Lamb was a rising politician in London and would go on to be the significant Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who guided the young Queen Victoria, through the first years of her reign. William, had not inherited the title, when in in 1805, he married the nineteen year old Caroline Ponsonby. By 1807, they had a son and later a daughter who died young. Having recovered from two difficult childbirths, Caroline re-joined the elaborate society of the day, which had just seen the death of her aunt Georgiana.

Caroline had known her aunt very well because she spent a lot of her life as a child at the Cavendishs’ homes. Children, at the same age as her, included the two illegitimate offspring of Elizabeth Foster, and Hart, who would become the sixth Duke of Devonshire. Her return to society captured the attention of Lord Byron, who was mainly in London at the time, but had not yet established his poetic career. Initially, she played hard to get, but then succumbed and became his mistress. They ignored the normal discretions and their tempestuous affair became common knowledge. The exchange of locks of hair between lovers was common at the time, but a new twist was given to the momento by the increasingly erratic and possessive Caroline. She sent Byron as lock of her pubic hair with a note;

I asked you not to send blood but yet do - because if it means love I like to have it – I cut the hair too close and bled much more than you need.
To Lord Byron – Caroline Lamb

When Byron tried to finish the affair she continually pestered him. In modern day parlance she would, no doubt, be arrested for stalking. She wrote to Byron publishers and forged his signature. One of Caroline's enjoyments was dressing up. She would don the dress of a page boy so she could gain secret entrance to Byron’s house. Having set the scene for an unusual literary work let’s return to Chatsworth, which was famous for it celebrations in the country and now under the charge of Bart, the Sixth Duke. As we learned Bart and Caroline were children together and, with the feeling he had for her, it was surprising they didn’t marry. On the breakdown from her affair with Byron, her family, including Bart, went to Ireland to be away from society. Bart had recently inherited and it was one of his first trips to the Irish part of the Cavendish estate, Lismore Castle. It was originally an Abbey, that received royal favour when Henry II stayed there in the twelfth century. It was to this ancient abbey, that had been partially developed into a castle, that Bart and Caroline went, and it inspired her to write.

In 1816 when Caroline was thirty-one she published her first novel. She set it in Ireland during the Irish Rebellion in 1798, which was in living memory of many. It was a vituperative novel with the central characters easily recognised as Byron, in the title role of Glenarvon and Caroline herself as Calantha. Whilst it was published anonymous, the parody of the Whig society of which she and Byron were part, was easily recognised. In this Gothic novel, which is full of passion, love and death, with an underlying traces of masochism, Caroline included detailed representation of her family and her close friends. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, in whose houses she had been raised, play a leading role, and also Bart who was her friend and tried to help her following the breakdown of her affair. Even her husband was depicted in the book, as well as Georgiana, and Byron’s wife. All her family and friends had passed on from her affair by then and the book opened new wounds and poured scorn on their lives and society. Caroline was blackballed from society for a while, but some such as her husband and Bart stayed loyal to her. Caroline even used the love letters that Byron had written to her in the book.

The Literary Duke

Hart certainly supported and enjoyed the company of literary people during his time at Chatsworth. William Thackeray stayed briefly during the period he was writing the serial, Vanity Fair, as magazine articles,which was just after Charles Dickens had stayed. Charles had asked Hart for his help in putting on a charity performance, and Hart generously allowed the use of the theatre at Devonshire House in London for a royal performance on front of Queen Victoria. Chatsworth was open to visitors during the nineteenth century and on one occasion, Elizabeth Gaskell was visiting and was, to her surprise, invited to stay with her daughter that night. The Duke by this time was in a wheel-chair and Sir Joseph Paxton discreetly helped in the host’s role. In 1830, William Wordsworth visited Chatsworth and composed a sonnet which was published in 1835.

Hart also was generous and willing to financially help some writers. The poet and critic, Leigh Hunt, a friend of Shelley and Byron fell on hard times, and although he didn’t know him, Leigh wrote a begging letter to Bart who responded with £200. Hart never married, although is did have a long term mistress. He was also very popular at the court of the Prince Regent and he reluctantly took on royal duties. Francis Hodgson, Byron’s friend, left the vicarage at Bakewell and became Arch Deacon at Derby, which was before he moved to Eton. While he was at Derby, Hart appointed him to the Perpetual Curacy of Edensor and they became good friends.

The Emporer’s Visit

The Emperor’s Fountain near the House is our next stopping point. It was named after the Emperor of Russia, and it was built by William Paxton in 1843. The Emperor never saw the fountain. Hart and the Russian Prince had met in London in their youth and became firm friends. Hart represented the monarch at the coronation of the Emperor at the Kremlin in Moscow. When a formal visit was planned to the England, Hart hoped and expected that the Emperor would come to Chatsworth, but the visit never occurred and they met at Chiswick House.

We have mentioned Joesph Paxton previously as being involved in the design and building of the village of Edensor. He had come to Chatsworth as a gardener and had gradually taken more responsibility for major projects. One example was the fountain, which he designed. This included the piping of the water from its source, which is a man-made lake on the top of the hill. This was monumental work for its time. Incidentally the normal height of the fountain is lower than its original design. On special occasions the valves are fully opened and it can rise to 200 feet.

21st Century Chatsworth House

Let’s consider the introduction given by the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Andrew Cavendish, who died in 2004.
The first thing that springs to mind when I think of Chatsworth is surprise that I live here at all. I came as a child, always at Christmas when my grandfather was alive and, being a younger son never expected that Chatsworth would one day become my home. But my brother was killed in Belgium in 1944. When my grandfather died in 1938, my father moved in until the war broke out, and the house became a girl’s school until about a year after the war. My parents were planning to return to Chatsworth when my father died in 1950. My wife and I were then faced with raising the money for death duties and any idea of living at Chatsworth was quite out of the question for several years. The fact that we moved back there in 1959 is entirely thanks to my wife. In the end I listened to her advice rather than that of my financial advisers.
Guide to Chatsworth by Andrew Cavendish
, 11th Duke of Devonshire

Andrew’s brother, as we learned at Edensor, was married to Kathleen Kennedy. Andrew also took a bride during the war years and, as indicated above, she played a major role in the transformation of the house from the 1950s to what it is today. Deborah has written many books in recent years, but in keeping with our stated intent of not considering contemporary works, we have not included them. However, we will refer back to a book written in 1940’s, in which Deborah is portrayed. In the chapter title we emphasised families and as, not only Deborah, but her sisters and parents were represented in the novel, we need to explain a little about this phenomenal family.

Everyone More Foolish Than The Last

The words in the title of this section were said by Lord Redesdale, about his daughters. And so we must apologise to Deborah as she was the youngest of the six. In truth, it certainly cannot by applied to her, but the sisters, with practically all of them making headlines at sometime, had tempestuous times with each other, but often found reconciliation in the end. Constantly in the headlines their father, at times, despaired of them. They was known as the Mitford sisters, and they all entered the social whirl between the wars as debutantes. They would be known to the rich and famous through the world, for vastly different reasons. All six were undoubted beauties and their elegance was always with them.

The eldest, born in 1904, was Nancy who became the celebrated author and it is in her books, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate in which her family is portrayed. They are light-hearted books and depict a family between the wars which is exactly what the Mitford family were. Nancy had an unsuccessful marriage and in later life moved to Paris to be with her lover, who at one time was General de Gaulle’s chief of staff.

Pamela was born three years later, and was the sister who generally lived out of the headlines. She married and then divorced one of the country leading scientists and that was when John Betjeman fell in love with her, but nothing finally came of the relationship. Thomas, the only son, of the seven children, died in action in the Second World War. The fourth born would be one of the most independent minded and one of the most controversial. Diana’s wedding, into the Guinness Empire, became the celebration of 1929, but her marriage failed four years later, when she took up with the fascist Black-shirt leader Sir Oswald Moseley. Despite the many recriminations and pleas from family and friends, she stayed with him for the rest of her life, which involved being locked in Holloway during the Second World War.

Unity Mitford was attracted by fascism of a different kind. When in Germany she became infatuated with Adolf Hitler and finally met him and probably became his mistress. She was clearly in favour, as she, her mother and Deborah took tea with him one afternoon. The Mitfords were very fond of Germany and the declaration of the Second World War greatly affected Unity, so much so, that she attempted suicide by shooting herself in the head. Surprisingly, she didn’t kill herself. Hitler send her to a hospital in Switzerland from where she was collected by her mother and Deborah. The second youngest was Jessica who eloped in the 1930s and took the communist side in the Spanish Civil War. Then she later moved to America.

We think that from the six daughters we can see enough political intrigue, but there was even more through relationships and marriages. The Mitfords were cousins with Winston Churchill, and following Deborah joining the Cavendish family, the Kennedy’s became friends and Andrew’s uncle was a minister in the government, Harold Macmillan.

Let’s rest awhile on Derwent’s banks

As we sit on the edge of the meandering Derwent it gives us chance to reflect on our visit to Chatsworth. The Reverend Francis Hodgson became a good friend of Hart. When Francis marries for the second time, we shall come across him again on The Literary Way. The life style of our larger than life ladies, Georgiana and Caroline would even make some of our modern pop stars look timid in comparison. We saw another saga in the life of Byron, who we are meeting through his friends and lovers. Undoubtedly he was a charismatic figure and the demonic and flawed Byronic anti-hero has lived on from his time in some many forms of literary tribute. We found the relationship between Hart, the Bachelor 6th Duke and his gardener Joseph Paxton fascinating. While they became firm friends and travelled extensively together, Joseph never attempted to be anything, but a respected employee even after he was knighted for his role in the Great Exhibition. At Chatsworth, as in many other locations the climax of visits and events, are celebrated after dark. In modern days we use fireworks. Joseph wanted Queen Victoria’s visit to be spectacular, so, in the 1840’s he lit the conservatory with fifteen thousand lamps and then lit the grounds and cascade with thousands of Bengal lights. His ultimate compliment for the display came form the normally unforgiving Duke of Wellington, who commented that Paxton should have been one of his generals. In modern times Chatsworth has figured in many films with recent notable ones being, The Wolf Man, Pride and Prejudice and the Duchess, which is about Georgiana.