Last Mitford Sister Dead at 94

She drank tea with Hitler, became a duchess, and met JFK
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2014 10:17 AM CDT
Last Mitford Sister Dead at 94
A June 1, 1941, photo from files of Deborah Mitford, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in London.   (AP Photo/PA, File)

Deborah Cavendish, the last Mitford sister and the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, died yesterday at 94. But as the New York Times puts it, she led a "fairy-tale life." Born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford in 1920, she was the youngest and perhaps the quietest of several controversial children. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels witnessed sister Diana marry Britain's fascist leader, Oswald Mosley; sister Unity was obsessed with the Nazi leader—"like a Belieber, but for Hitler," as Jezebel puts it—and took a teenage Deborah for tea with him before attempting suicide. The BBC reports that after also rubbing elbows with Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy, Deborah later said both had "tremendous charisma. ... But Hitler didn't—not to me anyway."

At 21, Deborah married Andrew Cavendish, the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. She became a duchess accidentally after the first son and heir—who was married to JFK's sister—died in World War II. The couple inherited money, an Irish castle, and the 35,000-acre Chatsworth estate, which included a difficult-to-maintain 300-room mansion. Deborah eventually turned it into one of Britain's most popular rural tourist sites and a self-sustaining business. She would greet and direct tourists through the place herself and even fed her own chickens. She also wrote numerous books, including the 2010 memoir Wait for Me!, and kept a collection of Elvis memorabilia. Her son, Peregrine, has taken on the title of Duke of Devonshire. (Read more obituary stories.)

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