His father Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke, is best remembered for securing the future of the family’s historic stately home, Chatsworth House. Shortly after he died, The New York Times called him a ‘peerless homeowner’, praising his shrewd approach to managing the Cavendishes’ wealth and assets. That approach had enabled the 11th Duke to settle a multi-million pound inheritance tax bill while retaining ownership of Chatsworth.
When Peregrine Cavendish acceded to the dukedom, Chatsworth could hardly have been in better shape. In the 2013 documentary Secrets of Chatsworth, the 12th Duke describes himself and his relatives as ‘the luckiest people in the world’. The 300-room mansion and its environs clearly fill the Cavendishes with awe, just as they captivate hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Privilege, Happiness and Success
The 12th Duke, who’s now in his mid-70s, studied at Eton, one of England’s foremost private schools, and the University of Oxford. He therefore benefitted from one of the finest educations money can buy.
As a young man, he married Amanda Heywood-Lonsdale, the daughter of a Royal Navy commander and now Duchess of Devonshire. The aristocratic couple are parents to three children and have enjoyed more than 50 years together.
In his professional life, the 12th Duke has pursued his interest in horseracing. He held the position of Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot from 1997 to 2011. His services to the sport have led to him receiving two titles in the British honours system: Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. As a knight, he can use the title Sir, should he tire of being addressed as His Grace, the Duke of Devonshire!
Enjoying the Highest Aristocratic Title
Peregrine Cavendish is part of a particularly elite group in British society. According to Debrett’s, the leading authority on elite lifestyles, there are only 24 aristocratic dukes in Britain today.
Dukes are the highest-ranking aristocrats and usually come from powerful, landowning families. William III created the title Duke of Devonshire in 1694 to reward William Cavendish, who was previously an earl, for services to the monarchy.
The Duke of Devonshire is an hereditary title, which means it’s passed down through successive generations. The inheritor is usually the previous holder’s eldest son. The Cavendishes’ dukedom is enhanced by its association with one of Britain’s most beautiful regions, Devon, the home of our seated titles.
Celebrating the Treasures of Chatsworth
Many historic country houses have been handed over to the National Trust, the British conservation charity, and are no longer lived in by aristocrats. After all, the costs associated with maintaining aging mansions can be sky high. Chatsworth House is remarkable because it remains under the Cavendishes’ control. The palatial building is the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s home, as well as a tourist attraction. Their other residences include Yorkshire’s Bolton Abbey and Ireland’s Lismore Castle.
Chatsworth has been the Cavendish family seat for half a millennium and is incredibly grand – even the window frames are gilded! Highlights include the Painted Hall’s stunning frescoes, the Grand Dining Room’s red and gold splendour, and the mirror-like Canal Pond. What’s more, the Devonshire Collection ‘is widely celebrated as one of the most significant collections of art and objects in Europe’, remarks Sotheby’s.
The 12th Duke has a long-standing relationship with the auction house, and together they created Treasures from Chatsworth, a breathtaking exhibition, in 2019. With an estimated fortune of £895 million, the aristocrat can certainly afford to indulge his passion for art. Chatsworth features works by Rembrandt, Picasso, Lucien Freud and others.
With Aristocratic Privilege Comes Responsibility
The 12th Duke of Devonshire enjoys many advantages. However, it’s important to acknowledge the considerable weight on his shoulders. As the Chatsworth website notes, the Cavendish family’s home ‘requires constant care and attention’. In addition, the 12th Duke must oversee the management of the extensive gardens, farmland, etc. and his other residences.
He’s extremely fortunate, but his existence isn’t carefree. Preserving his family’s heritage must never be far from the 12th Duke’s thoughts.
Your Chance to Become a Duke or Duchess
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