Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

Dusty, Drafty and Doggy-Doting: Lytes Cary Manor is a Perfect British Country House

Armed with a National Trust Pass, I could wander the British countryside for weeks on end. I never seem to get tired of old houses. Above is Lytes Cary Manor, begun in the 1400s and added to over the centuries. (Did it rain while I was there? Just a little. As Jane Austen’s heroine Anne Elliot told dreamboat Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, “It’s nothing that I regard.” She wanted him to walk her home in the rain).

Lytes Cary still has its Great Room from the 1400s. The Lyte family used to eat at the long table on the dais at the end of the room.

Each ancient roof beam is supported by an angel holding the coat of arms of the Lyte family.

Carved owls in the entry passage look a bit newer, but in a house so old, whooooo knows?

Of course I also like much grander mansions such as Harewood. Many of them still have deep-pocketed owners with the means to bring in modern and avante-garde art.

But National Trust properties, which have mostly come from families hard hit by misfortune and crushing inheritance taxes, lovingly preserve the old stuff that came with the property. The mirror frame above, at Lytes Cary, was worked up in the old needlework technique of “stumpwork” in the 1600s. In the early 1900s, a relative of the newest owner learned the technique and added some panels, including the view of the house in the upper left-hand panel.

A pair of mysterious old leather mannikins, about 3 feet tall, stand beside the fireplace in the Great Parlor.

Their purpose? Possibly to fill chairs in case the dining table would otherwise have 13 guests.

Or possibly they could have been set up in windows to make thieves think the house was occupied when the family was away.

The fireplace settee is very Downton Abbey, don’t you think?

Sir Walter Jenner, the last owner of Lytes Cary, was the son of Queen Victoria’s physician. The Lyte family had been forced to abandon the property way back in 1755. Subsequent owners and tenants allowed the house to fall into decay. Sir Walter bought what was left of it in 1907 and set to work restoring it.

Sir Walter planted yew bushes along the walk. He trimmed them into topiary forms which he named “The Twelve Apostles.”

He kept peacocks which used to scratch at the door for handouts at teatime. Now there’s an enormous peacock topiary beside the front door.

Being abandoned actually saved the house. In Victorian times, rich people busily “improved” medieval manor houses, much the way people today install new Sheetrock walls to cover antique stone or paneling. That’s rare and valuable “linen fold” carved oak medieval paneling above, original to the house.

A little parlor has a “squint:” a tiny narrow window.

It looks like this from outside.

The squint is positioned so that a person could stay inside the house by the fire and still see Mass being celebrated in the little chapel next to the house–which most likely happened regularly in medieval times.

Sir Walter lived happily at Lytes Cary for decades with his wife Flora and their only child, Esme. Sadly, Esme died at age 37 from pneumonia after catching a chill while out riding. She was a keen hunter, serving as Master of the Sparkford Vale Harriers. She died in 1932. (Sir Alexander Fleming had discovered penicillin in 1928, but antibiotics were not yet in wide use).

Sir Walter outlived both his wife and his daughter. A wistful memorial to them both in the little chapel reads, “My Little World!”

When Sir Walter decided to will Lytes Cary to the National Trust at age 88, the director came out to the house to see him, and found him in his canopied bed in nightcap and dressing gown. The house was chilly and drafty, as it was in medieval times.

Another bedroom features a “campaign bed” from around 1800. From Napoleonic times up through the Victorian era, aristocratic military officers who were used to comfy canopied beds ordered custom-made fold-up ones to take with them to training camp and even to battlefields. Why not live in the style to which they were accustomed?

I recently watched a 2016 movie called “Golden Years.” A group of old British friends, battered by loss of their pensions and closing of their subsidized social club, stumble into a plot to roam the countryside, robbing banks and innocently hobbling away to their getaway vehicle: an RV parked in the handicap zone. Cops rushing to the crime scenes try not to knock over the old dears. They’re caught when a sharp detective with elderly parents of his own notices that the banks are always near National Trust properties. The bank robbers have very sensibly combined one of their favorite pastimes with larceny. (It’s a comedy, so all ends well!)

The British love to visit old houses, and they love their dogs. Most National Trust properties encourage dog-walking on the grounds. So do a lot of privately-owned mansions, like Chatsworth. (I also love the very British wordage beside this gateway, “Dead Slow, Hoot.” Translation: If you’re driving into the courtyard, roll ahead at a snail’s pace and lean on your car horn).

National Trust properties almost always have teashops where dogs are welcome at the outdoor tables. The dogs are always polite, though they do cadge table scraps.

It’s easy to strike up a conversation when I stop to pet someone’s dog. I meet a lot of lovely people that way.

Getting to these out-of-the way places requires a brave driver. Country roads are narrow, often only a single lane with occasional pull-offs for when cars meet. And even when there are two lanes, we Americans are driving on THE WRONG SIDE. I wouldn’t do it myself, especially with jet lag. But my husband, bless his heart, thinks nothing of it.

I’m the navigator. I used to maneuver three or four maps at a time to locate things. Navigation got infinitely easier when we acquired a Garmin GPS device with updatable maps. I just plug in the name or the postal code of the destination and we’re pretty likely to get there by following the voice commands and the purple line on the screen. (Note to self: write a post called “How Garmin GPS Saved My Marriage”).

Still, sometimes Garmin gets us into a pickle. Wait, Voice from the Satellite, you really mean we should do a loop-de-loop and then leave the road? Excuse me while I check my paper map.

English country houses: Dusty, Drafty, Doggy-Doting. And sometimes the Directions are Dodgy.

It’s worth all the trouble. Yesterday, daffodils, asters and bluebells were in glorious bloom at Lytes Cary.

All Saints’ Church at Kedleston Hall

KedlestonHall

Kedleston Hall is the spectacular showplace home of the Curzon family, designed by Robert Adam, finished in 1765 and open to visitors before all the plaster was dry. The housekeeper led visitors (of the right sort, of course) on a tour through the state rooms. The point was to impress visitors with the wealth, power and taste of the family. Not everyone cared for the place, though. Dr. Johnson remarked, “It would do excellently for a town hall.” I have to agree.  Entering the lofty Marble Hall feels like entering a courthouse. Visitors stop in their tracks and speak in hushed voices.

AllSaintsKedleston

My favorite part of the estate is All Saints Church on the grounds outside. The church is an important historic site, cared for by a special organization separate from the National Trust, which manages the house.

CurzonMedieval

Curzon ancestors, dating all the way back to Norman times, were buried inside and in the churchyard. When Sir Nathaniel Curzon inherited the estate in 1758, he lost no time in razing the medieval village where his ancestors had lived quietly for centuries. But he kept the village church where they slept in their tombs.

AllSaintsPlaque

As the plaque above explains, various Curzons maintained and restored the church over the years.  But its pristine condition today is mostly because of a sad love story.

Photo by Chris Hoare, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Photo by Chris Hoare, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The photo above shows the exquisite marble memorial of Lord George and Lady Mary Curzon.  It was created between 1907 and 1913 by Bertram Mackennal. (Visitors can’t get the complete view above, because the side chapel is separated from the main church by a gate). This is one of the most beautiful and intriguing of all the many tombs I’ve seen in old churches. Who were these people?

MaryCurzon

Mary Leiter was a fabulously wealthy, cultivated and beautiful young woman from Chicago.  Her father was Levi Leiter, founder of Field and Leiter stores, which eventually became Marshall Fields. (Yes, Mary Leiter was an inspiration for Cora, the perfect wife of Lord Grantham on the TV show “Downton Abbey.”)  Mary Leiter married George Curzon in 1895. He very soon afterward became Viceroy of India, the highest title available to an Englishman, during the heyday of Victorian empire. Mary gave birth to three daughters, but failed to produce the all-important son. The years she spent in India were happy ones, but her health suffered and she died in 1906, aged only 36.

KedlestonSideChapel

Her husband immediately set to work memorializing her, even as he moved on to various mistresses and an eventual second wife. He never really recovered from his grief at losing Mary. So he built a neo-Gothic addition to the family church. The addition blends almost seamlessly with the original medieval church.   He commissioned the beautiful marble memorial. Mary was buried in the newly-created family vault underneath.  My understanding is that Lord Curzon had Mary’s effigy placed on the plinth as soon as the chapel was complete.  His own effigy was finished and kept in storage until he died.  Then it was placed next to his beloved Mary, and he took his place in the vault below.

Victorian technology allowed Lotrd Curzon to install a hidden elevator in the marble floor next to the memorial, so that coffins could be lowered into the vault at the push of a button.  The friendly church guide recalled the spooking of a lady in recent years. She walked into the church just as a workman rose slowly from underground, standing on the moving section of floor. The terrified lady fled.

FullSizeRender (12)

The guide pointed out that Lord Curzon’s right foot is uncovered, a Victorian convention indicating that the effigy was created while the person was still alive. Lord Curzon was a stickler for detail, and he expected the same from his family and everyone who worked for him.

MaryCrown

The sculpture depicts two angels hovering over the sleeping figures.  What are they holding? It’s the Crown of Life–a fairly obscure Biblical reference. The crown is wrapped in a veil. Why?  My thought is that nobody gets to see their heavenly reward until they actually receive it in the Great Beyond.

The sculpture stands serenely in its own side chapel, surrounded by nine stained glass windows depicting various Marys from the Bible and other sources. Impertinent questions come to mind. Considering that there are two people lying in state, why is there only one crown? Is the sleeping couple somehow supposed to share the crown, or is it meant for only one of them? If it is for one of them, would that be Mary? In some traditions, Mary the mother of Jesus became Queen of Heaven after her death. But this is an Anglican church, and as far as I know has no such tradition. Anyway, wouldn’t it be just a bit sacriligious to insinuate that one’s wife was destined to be Queen of Heaven? The guide had an information booklet, but there was very little explanation of the mysterious veiled crown. I would not use a vulgar term like “control freak” for Lord Curzon, but I half expected his ghost to tap me on the shoulder and set me straight about the crown. He did not suffer fools gladly.

Lord Curzon never found another person who could compare to his Mary, and by all accounts he often said so. How could any actual living person compete with a sainted ghost? After Mary’s death, Lord Curzon was soon battling his daughters for their shares of the money Mary had left. He ended up estranged from them. Toward the end of his life, he was also estranged from his second wife, Grace. All the same, according to the guide, Lord Curzon kindly reserved a space for her in the family vault. But Grace did not care to spend eternity directly underneath the effigies of her husband and his first wife, depicted in everlasting marital bliss. Instead she chose a burial plot for herself in the far corner of the churchyard.

Viceroy's Daughters
Every trip leads me to buy books which I may or may not find time to actually read. I’ve already devoured the book above, The Viceroy’s Daughters by Anne de Courcy. The Curzon family history, especially in the 20th century, is riveting.  The book is a window into British aristocratic life from Victorian times all the way through World War II.  I’ll be writing more about the glamorous Curzons.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe and the British Isles!

Consuelo Vanderbilt to the Rescue

La Duchess de Marlborough, Helleu, 1901, Public Domain

La Duchess de Marlborough, Helleu, 1901, Public Domain

Julian Fellowes, creator of the television hit Downton Abbey, did not invent the story of an American heiress bringing her fortune to the rescue of an aristocratic British family of declining fortunes. Fortune-hunting Brits, titled but poor, regularly patrolled the upper reaches of American society for rich brides.  Consuelo Vanderbilt was one of those real-life brides. She became the very reluctant wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough.

By all accounts, Consuelo was one of the loveliest and most charming women of her age. The playwright Sir James Barrie, author of Peter Pan, famously wrote, “I would wait all night in the rain, to see Consuelo Marlborough get into her carriage.” She was also sweet, compliant, and dominated by her mother Alva Vanderbilt.

Alva was formidable.  She was estranged from her husband, the fabulously rich railroad man who, among other feats, created Madison Square Garden.  He was a grandson of the dynasty’s founder, Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, and inherited the equivalent of about $1.4 billion in today’s money. Alva divorced him for adultery and landed a settlement of the equivalent of $280 million in today’s money.  Alva named her daughter after her godmother, a half-Cuban American socialite who had made a spectacular marriage into the family of the Duke of Manchester.

Alva expected no less of her beautiful daughter Consuelo. She forced Consuelo into a brilliant but doomed marriage with the 9th Duke, who didn’t want the marriage any more than Consuelo did. Alva actually placed her daughter under house arrest in her bedroom, keeping her away from the man she loved, until the tearful teenager finally agreed to marry the Duke of Marlborough.  Consuelo wept behind her wedding veil at the 1895 ceremony in New York. She was just 18 at the time. The Duke wasted no time in collecting her dowry, the equivalent of $67 million dollars, which he sorely needed to maintain the family seat at Blenheim Palace. The money lasted until around 1950, when declining fortunes forced the house to open to the paying public.

Duke of Marlborough and His Family, John SInger Sargent, 1905, Public Domain

Duke of Marlborough and His Family, John SInger Sargent, 1905, Public Domain

Consuelo did her duty, producing the required “heir and a spare.” By some accounts, she invented the famous expression. Predictably, the marriage ended in separation in 1906, divorce in 1921, and finally annullment in 1926, after Alva admitted that she had been wrong to force the marriage. Consuelo forgave her domineering mother and they developed a close relationship.

Consuelo with WInston Churchill at Blenheim, Public Domain

Consuelo with WInston Churchill at Blenheim, Public Domain

Consuelo became a close friend of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim in 1874 and remained a frequent visitor there all his life. While she was the Duchess, she worked to improve the lives of the poor around the estate and in the town of Woodstock.  It appears she was universally adored.  Later in life, she continued her good works, even as she took part in glittering society.  Her second marriage was happy, and she lived out her days in contentment. She died in New York at age 87.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe and the British Isles!

Farewell to My Favorite Duchess

DeboChatsworth

Deborah Devonshire, known as “Debo” to her large family, died today at the age of 94.  She was the youngest of the famous (and notorious) Mitford sisters.  Deborah was considered a little dim by her lively eccentric family, but she was really as bright as the best of them; she just bloomed a little later.

One sister had a longstanding affair with a leader of the French Resistance in World War II, and wrote brilliant comic novels about English aristocratic life.  One sister married a Guinness, but soon left him for the leader of the British Fascists and spent the war years in prison with him. One sister became obsessed with Adolph Hitler and actually became his friend; she shot herself when England declared war on Germany and eventually died of her injuries.  One sister eloped with a man off to fight in the Spanish Civil War, then left that husband for a Communist and spent the rest of her life in the United States as a Communist sympathizer and agitator. Another sister led a quiet country life.  And then there was Deborah.

DeboWedding

During World War II, she married the younger son of an aristocratic family.  She expected a quiet country life, poor but happy. He unexpectedly became the Duke of Devonshire when his older brother, who had married Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, was killed in combat in World War II. (Debo became a friend of President Kennedy; she attended his inauguration, which she playfully insisted on calling his “coronation.”) With the Dukedom came huge estates and grand country homes, nearly impossible to maintain.  The world was changing, as dramatized in the TV series Downton Abbey.

For the Devonshires, the solution to keeping Chatsworth, one of  the grandest and most historic stately homes in the country, was up to Deborah.  She rose to the challenge. She spruced up the house and made it ready for a steady stream of paying tourists.  She decided that tourists liked to eat and to buy things.  Soon she had restaurants and elegant shops selling everything from keychains to custom furniture.  She created a children’s farm so that city children could have hands-on experience of running a farm and seeing where the food in the grocery store came from.  She created a farm shop with her own Chatsworth brands of every kind of food grown on the vast estate. Her shops were “local and organic” decades before those terms became trendy.

When the Duke died, Deborah became the Dowager Duchess. She graciously moved out of the grand house and into a smaller house in the village.  There, to the end of her life, she wrote vastly entertaining memoirs and books about country life.  She listened to Elvis records:  she was a great fan.  She raised her beloved chickens and still oversaw every aspect of the thriving Chatsworth businesses that she had created almost single-handed.  May she rest in peace.

DeboChickens

The photos above are from a story about Deborah’s  life and death in the Daily Mail at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2768095/BREAKING-NEWS-Last-Mitford-sisters-Dowager-Duchess-Devonshire-died-aged-94.html

 

Queen Victoria WOULD be Amused

Prince William’s ancestor, Queen Victoria, was widely reported to have said icily, “We are not amused,” when confronted with some risque joke or other.  (She was using the royal “we,” of course). But her biographers deny she ever said it.  In fact, she was known to enjoy life and laugh uproariously when the occasion called for it.

Victoria Amused; photo in public domain

Victoria Amused; photo in public domain

Queen Victoria was known as the “Grandmother of Europe” because her sons and daughters married crowned heads all over Europe during her reign, all of the marriages judiciously arranged.  Victoria’s own marriage was semi-arranged; she was presented with various options.  She fell in love with one of the suitors, her first cousin, Albert of the Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld dynasty. (Victoria’s overbearing mother was German; actually, the present-day British royals all have mostly German ancestry).  The young Albert returned her feelings.  She made him wait, though.  He cooled his heels during various visits until she finally proposed to him.

Queen Victoria's family, public domain

Queen Victoria’s family, public domain

In a way, we can think of Queen Victoria as the “grandmother of tabloids,” because she was the first British monarch to hit on the idea of holding up the royal family as an example of virtuous family life.  This involved opening up the family to some public scrutiny, which of course carried some risks in her day, and still does.  But during Victoria’s reign, and with the capable help of her beloved Prince Albert, Britain fully became a constitutional monarchy.  No longer did the monarch have much real power; she could mostly lead only by example.  She retained “the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn.”

I like to think Victoria would applaud Prince WIlliam’s decision to marry for love, to take his time, and even to finally marry the commoner Kate Middleton. I was in Edinburgh a few months before the royal engagement was announced.  I read a long magazine article that disparaged “Waity Katy,” who by that time had dated Prince William on and off for years with no resolution in sight.  I cheered for her when the long-awaited engagement was announced.

We all know the British Royal Family has not been a very good example of family happiness in recent years.  Am I the only one who could see trouble coming for Prince Charles and Lady Diana right from the official engagement press conference, when they were asked whether they were in love?  She answered, “Of course.”  He moodily replied, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Be that as it may, the monarchy is getting a new lease on life right now as the world breathlessly awaits the birth of a new heir.

While I’m waiting, I think I’ll watch again the 2009 movie The Young Victoria. It was written by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote Gosford Park and is probably at this moment working on the next season of Downton Abbey. The movie shows a young Victoria who is practically kept under house arrest until she accedes to the throne at age 18.  She had to sleep in her mother’s room, and was never even allowed to walk down a flight of stairs without a trusted person holding her hand.  All that changed, though, as she grew into her role of being the Queen Victoria who ruled England for 63 years.  She was not always a dumpy and grumpy-looking old lady.

The Young Victoria, Amazon

The Young Victoria, Amazon

The lovely Emily Blunt plays Victoria and the very handsome Rupert Friend plays her beloved Albert. The movie is available at Amazon.

Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe and the British Isles, while we all wait for new history to be created!

Peering at the Peerage

The New York Times recently published a story about momentous changes possibly coming to the hallowed British laws governing titles and property.  The article is titled “Son and Heir? In Britain, Daughters Cry No Fair.” Royal heredity laws were recently changed to benefit the baby due soon to Prince William and Duchess Catherine.  Boy or girl, the child will become third in line to the throne. (I’m thinking that fun-loving Prince Harry will not really mind giving up his place).

This raises questions for other families still under the laws of primogeniture:  inheritance by males only.  Only in the British Isles does this still happen.  Most European countries have long since required parents to provide for all of their children, regardless of sex or birth order.  But in the British Isles, titles and lands have been held together and preserved for families precisely because the oldest son almost always inherits, and no one else gets anything.

But the changes in royal inheritance law have emboldened other families to question the age-old way of doing things.

Liza Campbell, daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor; photo from NYT

Liza Campbell, daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor; photo from NYT

For example, Liza Campbell, pictured above, grew up on her family’s Scottish estate, complete with castle, knowing all the while that her younger brother would inherit it all.  (There is still actually a Thane of Cawdor–he’s not just a character from Shakespeare’s MacBeth). Her father always told her, “Your face is your fortune”–meaning that it was up to her to marry well since there was nothing else coming to her.

Now, laws to allow the oldest child to inherit, whether male or female, are making their way through the British legal system.  This means that both titles and lands could still be held together for a family, but having the all-important son would no longer be a requirement.  In Downton Abbey terms, Lady Mary would just inherit the whole kit and kaboodle, and she could marry whomever she pleased.

The ultimate source on titles in Britain, Burke’s Peerage, still publishes the guide found on many a British bookshelf.  Naturally, it’s now an interactive website, too.  Founded in 1826, Burke’s Peerage also lists the genealogical history of all the royal families of Europe and the presidential families of the United States.

Only in Great Britain, though, do titles mean anything in a legal sense.  Many Europeans use their hereditary titles, but they have no legal standing.  And unless the person in question inherited the lands and estates that used to go along with the title, there is no income either. Of course, the “death tax” wreaks havoc on those lucky enough to actually inherit real estate as well as titles.  Some people joke that royal titles in most of Europe are about as valuable as vanity license plates.  In Britain, though, inheritance among the aristocracy still means something.  So any change will have profound results.  Whether there should even be heredity titles–or a monarchy–are subjects of another whole debate.  Change comes slowly in a land as bound by tradition as Great Britain.

The article from The New York TImes is at

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/world/europe/son-and-heir-in-britain-daughters-cry-no-fair.html?_r=0.

Join me next time for more explorations into the history of Europe and the British Isles!

Thrifty Duchesses

Like every other Anglophile, I’m breathlessly waiting for Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, to give birth to a new royal heir.  In the meantime, I’m admiring her common touch–she is, after all, a commoner.  This week she made fashion news by wearing a maternity dress costing L17.50 (about $27), off the rack at a chain called Asos.  Naturally, thousands have been sold.  As far as I can see, she has not put a foot wrong in all the years she’s been Prince William’s main squeeze.

I admire another duchess from an earlier generation, too:  Deborah Devonshire.  She was born into a family of not-very-rich minor aristocrats, the Mitfords.  There were six girls and one boy, and very little money to support them all.  Only the son was properly educated; the girls were expected to marry well.  They begged to go to school and were put off. They were given London debutante seasons instead. But they were all beautiful, brilliant and creative.  So they made their own way in the world.

To make ends meet, Deborah’s mother sold eggs.  Her father dreamed of striking gold in Canada.  In spite of several trips where he personally dug for gold, it never happened for him.  Deborah was the youngest of the family and was considered a little dim as a child.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In my last post I described how Deborah became Duchess of Devonshire when the heir to the Cavendish title and property was killed in action in World War II, and then the sitting Duke died unexpectedly.  The dreaded Death Tax took effect:  the authorities demanded millions of pounds, reportedly about 80% of the total value of the inherited estate.

Deborah personally took charge.  The Cavendish family seat, Chatsworth, had always welcomed tourists.  After all, grand country homes were meant to be seen and admired.  Traditionally, the housekeeper conducted tours–for only the right sort of people, of course–and was allowed to keep the resulting tips.  Many housekeepers saved enough money to eventually open their own shops. (In Downton Abbey terms, think of Mrs. Hughes discreetly pocketing money from well-to-do tourists).  The housekeeper was responsible for vetting the tourists who rang the doorbell.  I’m thinking baseball caps, Bermuda shorts and fanny packs would not make it inside.

Anyway, when Deborah took matters in hand, the only facility to welcome tourists was a water tap outside.  That tap still exists.

Water tap outside Chatsworth

Water tap outside Chatsworth

But Deborah decided that people like to buy things, and they like to eat.  She created a restaurant and extensive gift shop, now so large and full of delights that it’s a destination in itself. She created a Farm Store (think a very exclusive Whole Foods, with everything in it produced on the grounds of the estate). She created a children’s farm, where city kids can learn how their food is produced. She oversaw a huge renovation of the grand house.  She created placards describing the house’s treasures. She began formally charging admission and hiring staff to guide tourists. She created guidebooks and eventually audioguides, with help from historians and art experts. She wrote about a dozen books, about the property and about her colorful life.

Today, a visit to Chatsworth can keep a visitor happy for an entire day.  One of my purchases at the gift shop on my last visit was a wonderful book all about the Mitford sisters, The Sisters by Mary Lovell.  Reading it is a fascinating history lesson.

SistersBook

At age 93, Deborah still presides–pretty much as CEO–over the thriving enterprise she created, starting at a time when all seemed lost for the noble Cavendish family.  Let’s hear it for duchesses with good sense and a common touch!