Today marks the Anniversary of the Death of Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire, who passed away on this day in 2014! The youngest of the infamous Mitford sisters who married 12th Duke of Devonshire and made Chatsworth into a glorious tourist destination, the Duchess possessed some spectacular Heirlooms of the Cavendish Family, but also added quite a few heirlooms into the collection, including these Insect Brooches.
The Dukes of Devonshire have an enormous collection of antique and renaissance carved cameos and intaglios, and the Duchess herself had unique passions, which included chickens and an obsession with Elvis Presley, so she accumulated a huge collection of Insect Brooches that began with a Yellow and White Diamond Butterfly Brooch to celebrate their Wedding in London in 1941, and followed by an Insect Brooch for every anniversary during their 63-year marriage. The Brooches rang in style from antique pieces as well as more modern designs.
The Duchess loved to wear her Insect Brooches on a variety of occasions, in many different configurations, often putting a dozen of them only a jacket or pinning a few insects onto her sleeves. An observer remembers:
I had the pleasure of meeting her a number of times when I worked in a London bookshop, an abiding memory was her perfect manners, kindness, the fact that over 80 she had amazing skin and the 6 huge jewelled bugs that were crawling up the arms of her jacket!
The Brooches had been exhibited at Chatsworth to mark the Duchess’ 90th Birthday in 2010. By the time of her death in 2014, the Duchess had given several of the Brooches to family members, but the following year, eighteen of the Insect Brooches were Auctioned at Sotheby’s.
Despite the sale, the family do retain many of the Insect Brooches, and in In 2017, the Countess of Burlington wore the necklace from the Devonshire Parure alongside some of the Insect Brooches for a Vogue photoshoot promoting House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth.
The Exhibition brought together many of the Insect Brooches from various members of the extended family, and they were displayed on books and plates depicting flora and fauna. There is no doubt that the Insect Brooches remain an integral part of the legacy of the late Duchess and will be seen again soon!