2 October 2014
Deborah the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (use her name when next you need an example of alliteration!) died last week at the age of 94. She was known to friends and family as Debo and was the last of the in/famous Mitford sisters. I have been fascinated by them since coming across Jessica’s memoir Hons and Rebels when I was a teenager. I read it almost in one sitting and it was so compelling that I wanted to find out more about the characters (her family), who seemed fictional in their eccentricities and diversity.
Over the years I have read books by all the Mitfords who wrote: Nancy’s novels and histories, Jessica’s memoirs and non-fiction about such things as American undertakers and the Communist Party of which she was a stalwart, Diana’s autobiography in which she doesn’t recant from her hero worship of both her husband Sir Oswald Mosley and Hitler, and Debo’s charming accounts of her life as the chatelaine of Chatsworth, which she and her husband the 11th Duke saved from bankruptcy and ruin. I have also read biographies of these larger-than-life women and collections of their letters.
Now that the last of them is no longer with us, one wonders if there will be much more published about them. It doesn’t seem as if any of their descendants can match their idiosyncrasies. I will miss reading new material about them. I often think of the Mitfords when I use Debo’s unique exclamation “Do admit!” or receive a note from my daughter (another Mitford fan) that starts with “Darling Muv”.