Thousands turn out for the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s funeral at Chatsworth

Deborah Cavendish, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, has been laid to rest.

Chatsworth mourners gather for the funeral of the Duchesss of Devonshire. Photos: Simon Waller.
Chatsworth mourners gather for the funeral of the Duchesss of Devonshire. Photos: Simon Waller.

Her son, the Duke of Devonshire, and the Prince of Wales were present as the woman who transformed Chatsworth was buried at a family plot in the grounds of St Peter’s Church, in Edensor, this afternoon.

Earlier, the funeral service of the last of the famous Mitford sisters took place.

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The Duchess - known as Debo to her friends - passed away peacefully aged 94 last Wednesday.

Chatsworth mourners gather for the funeral of the Duchesss of Devonshire. Photos: Simon Waller.

Under bright skies, thousands of mourners from across Derbyshire and further afield descended upon Chatsworth estate to bid farewell to the shrewd businesswoman.

Members of the public lined the route as the funeral cortège left Chatsworth House and travelled to nearby St Peter’s Church, followed by the Duchess’s family and VIPs including Prince Charles and his wife Camilla as well as more than 600 staff from the stately home.

The Duchess’s wicker coffin was adorned with flowers.

The congregation packed into the 19th century church while a live video link broadcast the service to those gathered in the churchyard.

The service included readings, prayers and hymns, including Holy, Holy, Holy and All Creatures of Our God and King, while How Great Thou Art, sang by one of the Duchess’s favourite singers, Elvis Presley, was played.

After the service, family members and the congregation attended the burial of the Duchess, who was laid to rest alongside her husband, Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire.

Those who attended the service paid tribute to the Duchess.

Joyce Lum, of Chesterfield, a member of the Derbyshire Singers’ group, said: “She made Chatsworth what it is today.

“She was, and always will be, Chatsworth.”

Peter Bleakshaw, of Rowsley, added: “The Duchess was a marvellous person.

“She did a great deal for Chatsworth and indeed the rest of Derbyshire.

“She will never be forgotten.”

A celebration of the Duchess’s life is currently taking place in the Chatsworth garden.

The Duchess - the youngest of the six famous Mitford sisters who scandalised and delighted society in their day - and her husband inherited the vast Chatsworth estate when his father died in 1950.

Faced with astronomical bills for the house’s upkeep, the Duchess, who had no formal education, opened the building to the public and successfully turned a crumbling pile into one of Britain’s leading tourist attractions over 50 years.

Nicknamed the “housewife Duchess”, she was heavily involved in the day-to-day running of Chatsworth estate up until her 90s and was both highly respected and well-liked by her staff.

In a statement, the Prince Charles said: “She was a unique personality with a wonderfully original approach to life.

“We shall miss her so very much.”