Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire DCVO (born 31 March 1920), née The Hon. Deborah Freeman-Mitford is the youngest and last surviving of the six noted Mitford sisters whose political affiliations and marriages were a prominent feature of English culture in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born in Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, England.
Known to her family as "Debo", Deborah Mitford married Lord Andrew Cavendish, younger son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, in 1941. She was then known as Lady Andrew Cavendish. When Cavendish's older brother, William, Marquess of Hartington, was killed in combat in 1944, Cavendish became heir to the dukedom, and Deborah became the Marchioness of Hartington. When the 10th Duke died in 1950, Lord Andrew Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington became the 11th Duke of Devonshire and Deborah the Duchess of Devonshire.
Alongside her late husband, the Duchess was the main public face of Chatsworth for many decades, and has continued this role in her widowhood, now primarily in partnership with her grandson, William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington, who seems to play a more public role than his father, the 12th Duke.
She has written several books about Chatsworth, and has played a key role in the restoration of the house, the enhancement of the garden and the development of commercial activities such as Chatsworth Farm Shop (which is on a quite different scale from most farm shops as it employs a hundred people); Chatsworth's other retail and catering operations; and assorted offshoots such as Chatsworth Food, which sells luxury foodstuffs which carry her signature and Chatsworth Design which sells image rights to items and designs from the Chatsworth collections. Recognising the commercial imperatives of running a stately home, she takes a very active role and has been known to run the ticket office for Chatsworth House herself. She also supervised the development of the Cavendish Hotel at Baslow near Chatsworth and the Devonshire Arms Hotel at Bolton Abbey.
In 1999 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (DCVO) by Queen Elizabeth II, for her service to the Royal Collection Trust. She became the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in 2004 when her son inherited the dukedom upon the death of her husband.
She has three surviving children: the 12th Duke, Lady Sophia Topley, and Lady Emma Cavendish. She is the grandmother of the fashion model Stella Tennant and a maternal aunt of Max Mosley, former president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
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