Can you imagine spending Christmas in a stately home? Chatsworth House in Derbyshire would be the one for me. With the house beautifully themed and decorated all through December, wouldn’t it be wonderful to close the gates on Christmas Eve and have it all to yourself, just for a little while? With a select few friends, of course.
Ideally I suppose there should be a carpet of snow, so you could hop, skip and jump your footprints into the lawns. Which fire to drink your mug of hot chocolate by afterwards could be a big decision. Of 126 rooms, almost 100 are never seen by the public. Think of the game of Christmas hide and seek you could play!
Come on! Let’s go inside, shall we? The house has been the family home of the Cavendish family since 1549. A lady called Bess of Hardwick determined to settle in her native county, with her Suffolk born husband Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King’s Chamber. The riverside house was Bess’ project, carried on even after her husband died and she remarried.
Of course the house has changed greatly since it was first built, and, in the manner of all grand mansions, has a colourful history. Mary Queen of Scots is known to have stayed here, whilst a prisoner. In 1608, when Bess died, the house passed to her eldest son, but was purchased from him by his brother, William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, for a measly £10,000.
And that applies to almost everywhere you look.
Over time the house was added to and altered. After World War II, the upkeep proved impossible. Debt and death duties had accrued, and in 1946 a trust was established to administer the estate. Today the house has a separate trust, and visitors pour through the gates, especially at Christmas. The current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire are happy to be able to maintain and share their family home in this way.
Opulence doesn’t even begin to describe it.
I expect you guessed, I came here to see “Narnia”. And now I’m waiting for Boxing Day when “Death comes to Pemberley” will be screened on TV. It was filmed in part at Chatsworth. Based on the novel by P.D. James, it is a fictitious continuation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. Fittingly this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s novel. I find that quite amazing.
It may not be in a stately home, but wherever you spend it, I hope your Christmas is beautiful.