Last of famous Mitford sisters dies at 94

Deborah, the dowager duchess of Devonshire, the last of the witty, unconventional Mitford sisters, died on Tuesday, her son said. She was 94.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 25, 2014, 00:23 AM IST

London: Deborah, the dowager duchess of Devonshire, the last of the witty, unconventional Mitford sisters, died on Tuesday, her son said. She was 94.

Brought up in Oxfordshire, England, Deborah was the youngest of the six sisters, but shunned the political alliances for which the Mitford girls were famous.

One of the sisters, Unity, was a friend of Adolf Hitler, while another, Diana, was the second wife of Sir Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists.

Untouched by the famous associations, Deborah told the Daily Telegraph in 2012 that she took tea with Hitler during a visit to Munich in 1937 with her mother and sister. He made little impression.

"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."

The striking "Debo" was more focused on a domestic life, 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 17th-century stately home featuring 175 rooms surrounded by 35,000 acres (14,000 hectares) of land in the heart of a national park in Derbyshire county, central England. She ran the estate's Chatsworth Farm Shop, selling local game, meat, eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables.

After her husband's death in 2004, she moved to a village on the Chatsworth estate.

Less-well known than her famous siblings, she was nonetheless an author in her own right.

She wrote "Wait for Me!: Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister" and "Home to Roost: And Other Peckings," among other books as well as "In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor."

Her son, the Duke of Devonshire, announced her death in a statement yesterday. No further detail was offered.

She is survived by her son and daughters, Lady Emma Tennant and Lady Sophie Topley.

She also leaves eight grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.