"Will you tell me how long you have loved him?"
"It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."
The ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire, Chatsworth House inspires many questions. Chief among them probably concerns the name of its owners since the house is situated in Derbyshire, although this may be followed in short order by demands to know where Devonshire is even located, if Mr Darcy ever lived in the house and whether he has a great great great great grandson.
The short answer to the first query is that the residing family became the Dukes of Devonshire because they had previously been the Earls of Devonshire. The longer answer stems from the fact there was already an Earl of Derbyshire when the first Earl, one William Cavendish, was awarded the title in 1618. Despite the name sounding promisingly likely, Devonshire as a UK county does not exist, with the nearest match in the south west of the country known simply as 'Devon'.
The Cavendish family first reached notoriety in the history books when Sir William Cavendish (grandfather to the first Earl of Devonshire) married the social mountaineer and close associate of Queen Elizabeth I, Bess of Hardwick as his third wife and her second husband. It was here that Chatsworth House began its roller coaster existence on the whims of the monarchy, since Bess built the first house (later to be greatly restructured multiple times) on money made in the service of Henry VIII in the 1550s and 60s.
The 3rd Earl of Devonshire --perhaps remembering his abode's royal connections-- nearly lost Chatsworth by supporting the wrong side in the English Civil War. However, the family gained its dukedom only one generation later when the 4th Earl, another William, supported ousting the Catholic King James II from the throne in favour of William and Mary of Orange. He promptly rebuilt Chatsworth in celebration.
Since 2009, the peerage has been held by the 12th Duke of Devonshire, who somehow resisted being called William in favour of Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish; make of that what you will. The family continue to reside in Chatsworth House, although a large section is open to the public. Additional notable family members (and indeed, the reason I had first heard of the family name) are Henry Cavendish and another William, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, for these are for whom the Cavendish Physics Laboratory in Cambridge is named due to their financial contributions (in the latter's case) and scientific contributions (in the former).
Despite these notable achievements, the real question now is whether any of the Dukes of Devonshire bore a resemblance to Mr Darcy.
Situated in the correct area of the country for Austen's tale, Chatsworth House was chosen to represent Pemberley in the 2005 film adaption of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In truth, Chatsworth is an ambitious property for Darcy who, with his £10,000 annual income, is short by a factor of 10 compared to the residing 6th Duke of the day, astoundingly named William. It is this fact that prevented the Duke marrying his own Lizzy Bennet while Darcy succeeded.
In an exhibition inside the house, a rather charming comparison is drawn between the standoffish Fitzwilliam Darcy and the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Both men were rich, orphaned at a young age and (slightly creepily) had a sister named Georgiana with a fortune of £30,000. They were also both raised alongside random boys taken in by their father and mentioned explicitly in said father's will. In Darcy's case, it was the irrepressible Wickham, his father's godson, while the 6th Duke was brought up with his half-brother, Augustus Clifford.
While the Duke won in the financial stakes department, his higher status meant that he was unable to marry his mistress, Elizabeth Warwick. Like her namesake, Elizabeth Bennet, Warwick's family connections were poor, leaving her to be the Duke's mistress for 10 years until he converted to Evangelicalism and left her to save his soul.
The most recognisable room inside Chatsworth from the movie is the hall of marble sculptures although the ceiling in the Painted Hall is also seen as Lizzy dawdles near the entrance.
The later Dukes of Devonshire were great collectors and their home is a mishmash of objects, including large amethyst geodes and an Egyptian figure of the goddess, Sekhmet. If I were honest, I'd say the clashing styles combined with the heavy Baroque artistry is slightly suffocating.
OK, I found it kind of hideous.
… and oddly facinating.
But mainly hideous.
That said, there are gems in the house including the room where Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner during Bess of Hardwick's time. There is also a door leading to what appears to be a second door, with a violin hanging from it by a hook. This is a painted illusion, however, and both the door and violin are flat. In another room, the ceiling painting depicts Atropos, the least favourite of the Three Fates in Greek mythology, who cuts the cord to end the life of a mortal. The story goes that the Fate resembles the housekeeper of the day, Mrs Hackett, who annoyed the artist, Antonio Verrio by not providing his demanded Italian food.
At the end of the visit, the only thing left to do is to standing in front of Chatsworth's newly gold gilded windows and announce:
"You are mistaken, Mr Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, that as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner."
Or decorated slightly differently.