Chatsworth House

Holiday 2021 continues…

Chatsworth House

We were staying about half an hour from Chatsworth House, which we visited 10 years ago and enjoyed, so it was a good way to occupy a rainy afternoon in July. The house is now mainly famous for that scene with Colin Firth swimming in the lake in Pride and Prejudice, which is a little ironic considering the history of the house. It was also the home of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who entertained the aristocracy in the 1700’s, and was a sort of olden-days movie star—so perhaps the link to recent films is appropriate after all.

We set off after lunch, Emm stating that he didn’t much like old houses and deciding to stay at home. I don’t much like old houses either, but I dimly remembered that this one was worth seeing, and it made a change from long walks.

The house has the most impressive golden gates at the entrance (someone possibly had ideas above themselves) but we weren’t allowed to use them (hoping that isn’t a premonition) and we were directed through the park. We showed our tickets, which cost £24 each, and were timed. We were told not to arrive before our designated time, and the first available tickets were mid-afternoon, with no reduction in price despite the grounds closing at 5pm. I felt this was too expensive, but I wasn’t part of the planning committee, so tried to not complain (not very good at that).

The house is stuffed full of art. As you walk around, there are masterpieces by ancient masters, artifacts ‘stolen’ from ancient Egypt, and modern art, all jumbled together. I don’t like much modern art, but some of the older works were fabulous.

There was also a portrait of Georgiana, the Duchess whose life was in many ways like Princess Diana’s. The portrait is interesting because she has six toes. I don’t know why (I did ask, but the guides didn’t seem to know either). Maybe she really did have six toes, or maybe it was to represent her rather unusual life (she was forced to live with her husband and his mistress, and was pursued by the newspapers and was a great influencer of both fashion and politics in her day). She looked nothing like Kiera Knightly though, who plays her in the recent film of her life. I bought a copy of her biography in the gift shop (the Duchess, not Kiera). I’ll write about it in a later blog if it’s interesting.

The Duchess

We zoomed round the house fairly quickly, because old houses tend to all be quite similar (in my opinion). Too dim and crowded and full of tourists, so you never manage to get a sense of real people actually living there. They resemble museums. I don’t like most museums.

The gardens however, were lovely.  There was a big concrete block (it was actually granite) which was some kind of memorial to soldiers. It was called The Antithesis of Sarcophagi and I was busy saying what rubbish/not art/ugly it was, when Son 2 told me to peer through one of the little holes in the side. Inside was a jungle. Wow! It was brilliant, you felt as if you were peering at a whole rainforest, growing in a cube. Very clever. Sometimes modern art is brilliant (but mostly not).

Peering inside the granite block

The rest of the gardens were lovely too. There was a rock garden, with the biggest rocks you can imagine, and one very clever structure that was finely balanced and could be moved if you touched it. There was a walled garden, and long pathways, and a wild flower garden, and a lake and everything, really, that you might hope to find in the garden of a palace. I was tempted to pick myself a bunch of flowers (compensation for the £24 entrance fee even though we had limited time due to designated ticket system). But family told me they wouldn’t visit me if I was in prison, so I decided not to.

Rock Garden

It was an interesting afternoon (well, half-afternoon—I can’t quite get over the price of entry). If you know the present Duchess of Devonshire, perhaps you could mention the unfair pricing to her. The people who lived there in the past were good at changing things.

Hope you have a lovely day. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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