Derby

Dowager Duchess of Devonshire's possessions sell at auction for £1.7m

Duchess of Devonshire and a painting of a horse Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire and a painting of a horse by her friend Lucien Freud

Hundreds of possessions which chronicle the life of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire have sold for over £1.7m.

The Duchess, who was the last of the fabled Mitford sisters and lived at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, died aged 94 in 2014.

Elvis memorabilia, a rare signed copy of Brideshead Revisited and a Channel Tunnel machine blade were some of the items that went under the hammer.

Historian Maxwell Craven said the lot reflected her "terrific" personality.

Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption Two portraits of the Duchess were up for auction including paintings by Duncan Grant (left) and Morgens Tvede (right)

As well as jewellery and furniture, the Duchess' passion for art and literature shines through.

Portraits of her at different stages of her life feature along with correspondence from artists and writers such as Lucien Freud, Evelyn Waugh and, more recently, Madonna.

Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption Lucien Freud and the Queen - this print was dedicated to the Duchess by photographer David Dawson

Mr Craven, who knew the Duchess, said she had an affinity with creative people, which was rare for someone from the upper classes in post-war Britain.

He said: "She understood what artists were trying to say...and had these wonderful people from all backgrounds come to stay [at Chatsworth]."

Other highlights of the collection included a photograph of the Queen when she famously sat for Lucien Freud and a signed pre-publication copy of Brideshead Revisited - which sold for £52,500.

Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption The pre-publication copy of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited was expected to fetch up to £20,000 - but was sold for £52,500
Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption The collection included a signed Elvis picture, a book signed by Henry Kissinger (middle) and one to sent to her by Madonna

The Duchess also had a passion for popular culture, reflected in her collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia.

"She was very keen on Elvis," said Mr Craven.

"She was the right age in the 1950s, she loved the music."

Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption The Duchess was in her 30s when Elvis shook up popular music

Perhaps the most baffling item is an iron and steel tooth blade from the borer machine that broke through the final section of the Channel Tunnel.

It gets a name check in her 2011 book Wait For Me, where the Duchess wrote about an expedition under the sea where she met French tunnellers.

Image copyright Sotheby's
Image caption The iron and steel Channel Tunnel blade was purchased for £1,875

She said: "The machines were like something out of a giant's toy box and I still have - given to me as a memento of the day - one of the claws that played its part in opening up this underground highway to the Continent'."

The claw sold for £1,875.

The most expensive items sold were a diamond and ruby brooch gifted to the Duchess and a Japanese gilt-decorated lacquer guardian figure, which went for £62,500 each.

The auction took place at Sotheby's in London on Wednesday.

More on this story