The Dukes of Devonshire are one of the wealthiest and most illustrious aristocrats in England, with a magnificent collection based at Chatsworth House, and being featured in ‘Treasures from Chatsworth, Presented by Huntsman,’ an original video series produced by Sotheby’s. Episode 11 of the series focuses on the Devonshire Parure, and gives information which differs from the information we knew previously about the parure. We previously covered the Tiaras in the collection of the Devonshire’s HERE.
The parure was described by the famous Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, mother of the current Duke, in her book, Home to Roost, as: “consisting of seven monumental pieces of jewelry which, until you look closely at them, might have been pulled out of the dressing-up box. They are a bizarre combination of antique (Greek and Roman) and Renaissance cameos and intaglios carved from emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and semi-precious stones – cornelian, onyx, amethysts and garnets – set in gold and enamel of exquisite workmanship by C.F. Hancock of London. They were commissioned by the dear, old extravagant 6th Duke of Devonshire, ‘the Bachelor Duke’, for his niece, Countess Granville, to wear at the coronation of Tsar Alexander II in Moscow in 1856. This tiara and its companion necklace, stomacher, and bracelet are very prickly to wear. I know because I put them all on for a Women’s Institute performance when I was cast as ‘The Oldest Miss World in the World.’” The parure was also described similarly on the Chatsworth House collection website and on the Hannocks website.
However, in the episode from the ‘Treasures from Chatsworth’ series, which includes interviews by the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire, their daughter-in-law, Lady Burlington, and Hannah Obee, exhibitions curator at Chatsworth, the Duke describes the parure as having been commissioned for “the 6th Duke for his niece who was his female company when he went as ambassador to Tsar Nicholas II’s Coronation in Moscow” which took place in 1896.
The new description given by the Duke in the video differs from the description given by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and the official information given on two websites. I believe that the parure was made in 1856 because the 6th Duke (who commissioned the pieces) died in 1858, his nephew the Earl of Granville was the head of the British mission to the coronation in Moscow, and the style is very much of the renaissance revival jewelry made during the 1850s. I do wonder how they managed to mix up the dates and information for this Parure, when the rest of the video provides an excellent insight into the extraordinary jewel collection of the Devonshire’s. UPDATED– I have received confirmation by the Duke of Devonshire, which said “I was wrong, and as you suggest the earlier accounts are correct.”
The Tiara has only been photographed once, on Deborah Duchess of Devonshire for the aforementioned Women’s Institute performance as ‘The Oldest Miss World in the World.’ Interestingly, she poses in front of her Lucian Freud portrait which is also featured in the ‘Treasures from Chatsworth’ series.
UPDATED- In 2017, Lady Burlington wore the necklace from the Devonshire Parure for a Vogue photoshoot promoting “House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth” an upcoming exhibition at Chatsworth.
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