Deborah Cavendish dies; duchess of Devonshire was last Mitford sister

Deborah Cavendish, 94, the dowager duchess of Devonshire who was the last of England's witty, unconventional Mitford sisters, died Wednesday, her son said. Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, announced his mother's death in a statement but offered no details.

Brought up in Oxfordshire, England, Deborah was the youngest of the six sisters, including the novelist and historian Nancy Mitford, and writer and social activist Jessica Mitford. Two other sisters were infamous for their right-wing politics. Unity was a friend of Adolf Hitler, and Diana was the second wife of Sir Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists.

Unmoved by her sisters' associations, Deborah told the Daily Telegraph in 2012 that Hitler made little impression on her when she joined her mother and Unity for tea with the Nazi leader in 1937.

"Well, I've never been very interested in politics, you see," she told the newspaper. "And the truth is that I didn't give it much thought. If you sat in a room with Churchill you were aware of this tremendous charisma. Kennedy had it, too. But Hitler didn't — not to me anyway."

Deborah Vivien Freeman Mitford was born March 31, 1920, and educated with her sisters at the family's country home.

Known as Debo, she was more focused on domestic life than her sisters, marrying Andrew Cavendish, who later became the 11th Duke of Devonshire. Together they transformed Chatsworth House from a deteriorating pile into one of the most-visited historical properties in Britain.

The vast estate includes a stately 17th century home featuring 175 rooms surrounded by 35,000 acres of land in the heart of a national park in Derbyshire, central England. She ran the estate's Chatsworth Farm Shop, selling local game, meat, eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables.


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