A Curious Rendition?


Well, it is surprising, isn’t it – to find this Elvis artwork at the head of the grand staircase at Chatsworth House, Chatsworth being one of England’s most prestigious stately homes and the country seat of the Dukes of Devonshire.


Here’s more of the art work. It is pretty surreal, however it comes: whether in the original technicolour or in monochrome.  (I’m afraid I omitted to make a note of its creator). But now I discover that the likely reason for its presence is that the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, otherwise known as Debo to her friends, was a huge Elvis Presley fan and had a fondly kept signed photo of him on her wall.

Also when the Duchess died in 2014 at the age of 94, he was to play a big part in her simple funeral service, held in the Chatsworth estate church. She had chosen his recording of ‘How Great Thou Art’ to play her out as she was borne aloft in her woven wicker coffin stranded with ivy and autumnal hawthorn berry sprays. A surprising soundtrack perhaps in rural gentrified Derbyshire.

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Debo was the last surviving Mitford sister, a notorious brood of five ‘gels’, several of whom, in pursuit of love, bolted from deemed acceptable aristocratic marriages in order (between them) to embrace the full spectrum of political persuasion. Jessica was a communist; Diana ran off with fascist Sir Oswald Mosley; Unity pursued Hitler; novelist Nancy was a socialist and left her husband for a protracted affair with a French statesman; Pamela left her husband to live with an Italian horsewoman, while Deborah, in true English gentry style, married a future duke and spent her life developing Chatsworth House as a premier visitor attraction, including the pioneering of heritage shopping and the marketing of local produce.

You can find her final accompaniment ‘How Great Thou Art’ on YouTube.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: things musical

18 thoughts on “A Curious Rendition?

  1. Reminds me of the Richard Thompson song: “From Galway to Graceland”
    This is a well written – thought provoking – wonderfully illustrated post, Tish. Bravo

  2. I wonder when it was installed, as I don’t recall it being there in 1996.
    The Mitford tale is a saga unto itself, and is well told in Mary S. Lovell’s book, “The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family.”

    1. Happy New Year, Malcolm. And, as ever, thank you for the book hint. As to Elvis, here was a lot of new art in and around the house when we were there in 2017. Much of it, I think, was just passing through (i.e. on temporary loan).

  3. How interesting? We were at Chatsworth last year to see the Burning Man sculptures but didn’t go inside as we’d been previously. There seems to be an interest in blending modern art with old? As for the Mitfords, they’ve always fascinated me ever since I read The Pursuit of Love. Deborah always struck me as the most balanced and ‘normal’ of the bunch!

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