Dance cards, Lucian Freud portraits, exquisite couture dresses, a Mario Testino photograph and an Elvis telephone will form part of a special new exhibition at Chatsworth in honour of the Dowager Duchess’s 90th birthday.
‘Celebrating Deborah Devonshire’, which has been curated by the Dowager Duchess herself, will reflect her childhood in Oxfordshire as the youngest of the Mitford children, her marriage to Andrew Cavendish, who inherited the Duke-dom unexpectedly on the death of his brother, and her friendships with people as diverse as Evelyn Waugh, Jack Kennedy and Tom Stoppard.
The exhibition is part of Chatsworth’s most significant facelift since the 1830s: the outside of the 300-year-old building has been spring-cleaned; there will be improved visitor access and lighting; new displays, including an impressive stairwell of family portraits, a newly acquired full-length portrait of William lll and jewellery from the vaults, such as the seven-piece Devonshire Parure, worn in Moscow at the coronation of Alexander II in 1856.
‘Even for someone who has been before, a visit this year will be a revelation,’ promises the Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth re-opens on March 14 (01246 565300; www.chatsworth.org).