Auctions | March 3, 2016

Sotheby's London Sale of the Personal Collection of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire Soars to £1.8 Million

March 2, 2016: In a packed salesroom at Sotheby’s London today, hundreds of collectors gathered to witness the sale of the personal collection of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (1920-2014). Over 1000 participants drove the sale total to £1,777,838, over 3x the pre-sale estimate (£500,000-700,000).

The youngest of the Mitford Sisters, the Duchess became one of the most loved figures of the 20th-century. For half a century the chatelaine of Chatsworth, one of England’s greatest stately homes, she was an instinctive entrepreneur, patron of the arts, author, countrywoman and-famously-a great poultry enthusiast. Her friends included President Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Lucian Freud, Evelyn Waugh, Alan Bennett, members of The Royal Family, Hubert de Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta and Cecil Beaton.

The items offered at auction today came from The Old Vicarage, a charming 18th-century house in Edens or, a village on the Chatsworth Estate, where the Duchess spent the last ten years of her life.

The family of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire: “Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire was always interested in and excited by the auction process, so we can guess how much she would have enjoyed today’s sale. It was very pleasing to see her personal collection received so warmly at Sotheby’s. She would have loved the idea that many people from all over the world will now enjoy some of the pieces she lived with. We have been hugely impressed by the professionalism and enthusiasm of the team at Sotheby’s, and are very grateful for their efforts on our behalf.”

Henry Wyndham, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and Auctioneer for much of today’s sale: “Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire represented the last of a special era-I can’t think of anyone left who has quite the same charisma. She enjoyed the friendship of some of the most celebrated and interesting figures of the 20th-century. She knew the world, and everyone knew her. It was wonderful, but perhaps unsurprising, to see her collection received so rapturously today. I am sure the Duchess would have been quietly amused by the whole event, but most of all would have been pleased to see her belongings find brand new homes where they’ll be treasured.”

Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire’s archive of personal correspondence-letters, books, manuscripts and documents relating to the Mitford sisters-has been left to Chatsworth House Trust, together with her collection of couture clothing. These archives will be accessible to the public in due course.

Never a Bore: Deborah Devonshire and Her Set by Cecil Beaton”

The sale will be followed by “Never a Bore: Deborah Devonshire and Her Set by Cecil Beaton”, an exhibition of Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the Duchess and her glittering social circle, that will be shown at Chatsworth from 19 March 2016-3 January 2017.

The exhibition takes its inspiration from one of Beaton's most famous remarks: "Perhaps the world's second-worst crime is boredom; the first is being a bore." Beaton was an early house guest of the Devonshires when they moved to Chatsworth in 1959, and captured many candid and relaxed portraits of his friend, Deborah Devonshire. Combined with Cecil Beaton's insightful and witty commentary on many of his subjects, Never a Bore will recreate the essence of the Duchess's world and dazzling social set. This new exhibition presents around 65 photographs from The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, on loan from Sotheby's, along with other rarely-seen items from the Chatsworth archive. On display in the New Gallery, the exhibition is included in the normal house admission. For more in formation and ticketing options visit