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20 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 29 December 2009

Peter White meets Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, at her home in Derbyshire. She has lived there since leaving Chatsworth House, which she and her late husband Andrew, the Duke of Devonshire, lived for almost 50 years.

The Duchess has had macular degeneration for about five years and says the thing she most struggles with is reading. She says she is fortunate to have many friends and helpers at the house who read things to her, although sometimes what they read to her from the newspapers isn't always the bit she might choose. Magnifiers help her only for the odd word or two and she prefers to use people rather than gadgets to help her.

The Duchess talks about her life as the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters and tells Peter about the time she went to Austria with her mother to see her sister Unity, and together they were invited to have tea with Hitler in his flat. The Duchess said it was strange as she remembers he rang a bell, but nobody came. She also speaks of her passion for Elvis Presley and says she has visited his former home, Graceland, twice. She also has an Elvis novelty phone and a piece of his garden fence as souvenirs.

The Duchess thought her family was quite normal when she was younger, and only later reaslied that maybe it was a little different - one of the differences being that the man she called Uncle Harold was known to the rest of the country as prime minister Harold MacMillan. The Duchess takes Peter to see her hens, for which she also has a passion, and has owned her own hens since she was six years old.

  • Peter White with the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, and her hens

    Peter White with the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, and her hens

  • Peter White and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

    Peter White and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire



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