Back to the future

FOR many, the aristocracy is an anachronism, a tiresome remnant of this country’s feudal past with no relevance whatsoever to modern Britain.

Try telling that, however, to the thousands of young families who turn up regularly at Chatsworth House, family seat of the Duke of Devonshire and now a thriving commercial enterprise which attracts 30,000 visitors a month in peak season.

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And this weekend, this most magnificent of country houses, which has graced the Derbyshire Peak District for 300 years, will launch its 2012 season by revealing the restored and re-gilded exteriors of its southern and western facades, marking the culmination of the latest phase in Chatsworth’s £14m restoration. The aristocracy may have long since outlived its original function as a system of representation for the landless classes.

However, thanks to the enterprise of families such as the Devonshires, it has found another, garnering millions in earnings from tourism and generating business and wealth far beyond the confines of its stately homes.

It has learned that to adapt means to modernise and, by so doing, it finds itself more relevant in 21st-century Britain than it has been for a very long time.