Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Last of the Notorious Mitford Sisters

Born in March of 1920, Deborah Vivien  Mitford, known as Debo, was the youngest of the six "colorful" Mitford sisters. 

From a child she loved living in the country and everything that came with it.  She was especially fond of chickens and dogs.  From the time of her marriage on she was always to surround herself with both.

Debo and her sisters never attended school and received only the most rudimentary education.  Their father, an acknowledged eccentric, did not believe an  education for women was necessary. 

Scandal and notoriety surrounded most of her sisters:  Diana was a Fascist and served time in prison; Jessica, known as Decca, was a Communist; Unity was friends with and "infatuated" by Hitler and later shot herself in the head over him.   Nancy, on a less notorious note, was a celebrated author.  Only Pamela, perhaps in an attempt to distance herself, lived a secluded and quiet life.

Debo is said to have lived the most normal life of the six and was known in the family as the "housewife Mitford."

In 1941, age 21, she married husband Andrew and in 1950 , when her father in law died, they moved onto the family land and took over its running.  Their new home was sprawling and Debo was heard to say that it was a "terrible place to housebreak a puppy."

The rest of her life was spent running their farm, keeping chickens, walking her dogs and enjoying the music of Elvis Presley.

To raise money and make the land pay for itself, she developed "cottage industries" that resulted in the selling of bread, cake, jam and chutney, as well as farm produce, meat and game in the farm shop.  Later, she was also to open a cafe, restaurant, catering and furniture making business.

Without formal education or training Debo was recognized as having a mind for business, a natural flair one might say.  Although her business endeavours were at first seen as quite eccentric, her neighbors and others in the position of needing to raise funds to keep their land and homes found themselves following her lead.

She has been described as being classy and classless; as behaving the way people should behave. She was, it is agreed, "wonderfully original".

A widow since 2004, Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, died on September 24, 2014 at the age of 94.  May she rest in peace after a job very well done.

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