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Sep 2017

Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and 105 acres of impressive gardens.

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'Me a fascist? I'm not the one who got married at Goebbels' house.' says Unity.
'He fancies you that Hitler.' says Diana.
'Who replaces furniture when you can simply re-upholster?' says Pamela.
'I can use that in my provocatively witty writing about the upper classes.' says Nancy.
'What time's dinner? I need to get off to the Spanish Civil War.' says Jessica.

'Keep it down girls, I'm on the phone to  JFK here and I can't hear a word he's saying.' shouts Deborah[1].

Deborah Devonshire née Mitford

Yes, it's Christmas Day at the Mitfords and just as with many family gatherings, the sisters are bickering. The Mitford sisters? You know, the  Mitford sisters, those between the wars society somebodies?

Fascist Unity, ditto Diana, thrifty country-girl Pamela, bookish Nancy, Communist Jessica and well-connected Deborah would have made for an interesting afternoon, no doubt, and 'Debo' did good by marrying the 11th Duke of Devonshire even if his home was in Derbyshire at Chatsworth House.

[1] Why's ITV™ not showing this in the Sunday night  Downton slot?

Here's a confession... Chatsworth's been done before, twice actually, because Mrs Guff's mad on the Mitfords, you see. Giving money to toffs[1] to look at their furniture isn't normally this one's idea of a good day out but it has to be admitted just how bonkers their universe was.

The Michaelangelo-like ceilings still astound and there's better marbling on the main staircase than a grass-fed Galloway rib eye.

There are more old portraits and paintings than you can shake a brush at including a modern collection although the  Hockney's not hanging today.

Yes, there's some padding in the bedrooms where someone-or-other once slept but opinions have switched from 'Storm the Bastille!' to 'Wouldn't it be nice to volunteer here?'

[1] Not a cheap day out, neither, just north of a Gift-Aided £20 a pop plus parking at the last check.

Although this one won't be volunteering today, perhaps, since the information wouldn't be exactly flowing. An exhibition's been arrived at, admittedly deliberately, 'House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' whoo-hoo!

Sinister-looking mannequins[1] guard the rooms and other highlights include a wallful of, erm, hats.

Rather more interesting but glass-flashingly unphotographable is a collection of the duke's old sweaters. The crude white block lettering on navy spells out philosophical pearls of wisdom such as 'Never Marry a Mitford' or 'All Passion Spent - Quite Fun' or, rather more simply, 'B*ll*cks'[2] depending on whatever mood he was in that day.

That first one has even 'inspired' one of  Gucci's Spring 2018 collection. Funny old business this fashion and you thought the Mitfords' world was mad?

[1] It's not thought that they were filming one of the new lady  Dr Who's here today.
[2] There's a selection of T-shirts for sale in the shop if you too want to parade around like an upper-class lunatic.

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish inherited the pad and its contents on the untimely death of his father, Duke#10, in 1950. He wasn't the intended recipient but his older brother William had unfortunately bought it, in a very different kind of way, at the end of World War II.

£5,000 in today's money to run each day, they say, and crippling death duties meant he had to raffle off a Rembrandt and open it up to the public or rather, Debo did since she was the real brains behind the operation.

While he was off philandering[1], Debo was busy expanding the farm shop and managing the 35,000-acre estate. That's easier to visualise as just over 50 square miles rather than 20,000 football pitches and includes the garden and the cascading fountain and the hunting tower.

Not to mention the modern artwork that's scattered around or the rockery or the maze or the Emperor Fountain or even the farmyard, which there simply isn't room for here.

It's this 'business model' that's the basis for every other stately home that's open in the UK today, probably.

[1] As a witness in a 1985 trial concerning thefts from Chatsworth, he confessed under oath to showering gifts on a series of girlfriends. '... I think it would be fair to say that the Cavendish line have something of a reputation for philandering right back to the first Duke in the 17th century.' Truly stark-raving!

Speaking earlier of fashion, there's nothing unfashionable about this as a day out with over 600,000 visitors in 2016 seeing it pip York Minster and that's even with the scaffolding that won't be taken down until late 2017.

The current lodger, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, was passed once as he made his way over the rise to the village of Edensor, pronounced Ensor.

This was then home to his late mother Deborah after she rejected the offer upon his inheritance of a granny-flat in the country pile preferring something more practical nearby.

Grinning like a ninny he was and instantly likeable because he was nipping out to see his mum, for lunch, on a Wednesday. 'Don't say anything!' were the instructions.

I did want to say something, something like...

'You sir are a privileged pillock. You won the lottery by birthright but having seen your operation back there and the fact that our lot can now get lucky on the EuroMillions™, best of luck with the decorating.'

  Carriage House Restaurant

One option here is to just stump up for parking and to wander the rest of the estate for free. That leaves some spare change in your pocket for lunch in one of two options in the 18th-century stable block.

One of them is a restaurant but this one, however, is all self-service and pricing aside, is one notch below a canteen, really.