If you follow me on Facebook you have seen the posts I do on British country houses. (Or maybe not; Facebook is a bit arbitrary about which posts it shows people). I cull a photo from Wikimedia Commons and an anecdote or two about the wonderful stately homes that are such a feature of the British countryside – and of historical romance.
Real estate porn. Can’t be beat.
By any standards Chatsworth in Derbyshire is one of the best, both in beauty and fame. Most of us at least know it as Pemberley in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice.
The principal home (they have had several over the centuries) of the Dukes of Devonshire dates back to the Tudor era, but the house as we know it is largely the work of architects William Talman in the late seventeenth century and Jeffry Wyattville in the nineteenth. The grounds abound with splendid features. I’ve visited Chatsworth twice but not for many years and I am definitely in need of a refresher course.
The Devonshire branch of the Cavendish family has produced some fascinating characters: Georgiana, wife of the 5th duke (The Duchess); the 6th “Bachelor” duke (A duke who never married? We romance writers disapprove); the Marquess of Hartington who married Kathleen Kennedy but was killed before he inherited the dukedom (as did she). My personal favorite is the current Dowager Duchess, Debo, one of the famous Mitford sisters. Yes, two of them were Nazis (sorry ’bout that) but Jessica was a communist and Nancy Mitford is one of my favorite novelists of all time.
I’ve been studying Chatsworth lately because we used it for inspiration for AT THE DUKE’S WEDDING, an anthology of connected novellas by me, Ballroomie Katharine Ashe, and favored guests Caroline Linden and Maya Rodale. The stories take place at a big ducal house party at Kingstag Castle, which we moved to Dorset. We took some liberties with Chatsworth for the purposes of our plots – the inspiration is a loose one – but if you read At The Duke’s Wedding you are welcome to imagine scenes taking place in surroundings similar to the pictures accompanying this post.
You are all invited to the wedding and can sign up to R.S.V.P. here. The four authors will be introducing their characters at Lady B’s ball on June 13th. Meanwhile, what kind of scenes can you envisage in some of the places shown here?