Review of ‘Memories of Andrew Devonshire’, by Deborah Devonshire

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Deborah Devonshire
Published by Landmark of Ashbourne
ISBN 1-84306-366-2 (2007)

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, was one of the most high profile 'movers and shakers' in Derbyshire in modern times. His legacy is Chatsworth, now a national treasure but for him an unexpected inheritance hamstrung with an unimaginable debt.

Chatsworth was an obvious topic during interviews for the Peak Advertiser in the 1990s but the Duke of Devonshire also spoke of having been a 'horrible, dirty' schoolboy, of falling in love, active war service, his place in politics, and his deep passion for books, works of art, Derby Rams and horse racing (at Eton he acted as the school bookmaker).

Andrew Devonshire died in 2004, the ink on his autobiography barely dry. His widow Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, has now compiled her own reflective and often poignant tribute under the title Memories of Andrew Devonshire.

His was a well documented and much photographed life; custodian of Chatsworth and public figure for more than half a century but also a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Of more than 180 illustrations chosen for 'Memories', many have been unstuck from family albums to provide an engaging contrast between informal snaps and posed, often historic images.

Hence a photograph commemorating a family wedding in the presence of two Queens appears opposite local children tucking into a Chatsworth Christmas party. Moving on, a sitting room stacked high with books turns out on closer inspection to be occupied by an elderly, long-legged figure stretched out full length on a sofa, newspapers on his lap and spread over the floor.

Happiness for Andrew Devonshire meant books - 'a habit, a lifelong addiction', explains the Dowager Duchess. We see him in the company of Tom Stoppard and J.K. Rowling but it is with Lester Piggott at Longchamps that the Duke really looks like the cat that got the cream, for his beloved mare 'Park Top' has just won the Prix Foy.

The quirkiest photograph in 'Memories' shows a mischievously disembodied ducal head playing hide and seek amongst giant tropical plants, for Andrew Devonshire was also an enthusiastic, hands-on gardener. Swathes of springtime crocuses at Chatsworth, where he planted many thousands of species himself, will be his enduring memorial.

Review by Julie Bunting

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