Friday, June 17, 2016

Blast from the Past: What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Visit the Homes of the Rich and Famous

[Five years ago around this time, I was with Marissa on my way to visit Newport and Cape Cod. Today? I'm on vacation, having stopped to tour Plymouth with Marissa! More on that soon. But for now, enjoy this blast from the past.]

Anyone ever bought a map to the homes of the stars in Hollywood? Or driven by the biggest house in town just to dream? In the same way that Marissa and I ogled the Newport Mansions of America’s Gilded Age, so young nineteenth century lads and lasses traveled during the summer to visit Great Houses of the wealthy and titled. You may recall that in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet travels with her aunt and uncle to visit the north of England and ends up touring Pemberley, the home of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Some think the inspiration for Pemberley was Chatsworth, home of the Dukes of Devonshire. In the nineteenth century, the house was open for people to tour, and once a month the staff even served dinner to all who were there.

Chatsworth is a stunning home, remodeled and contoured over several centuries even by the nineteenth century. It boasted a conservatory made from wood, iron, and glass that covered nearly an acre and was filled with exotic specimens from as far away as the Americas and the Orient, contoured gardens designed by the famous landscape architect Capability Brown and improved upon by Joseph Paxton, and a statue gallery with works from Greece and Rome. It was also filled with priceless artwork, pottery, and other collections. So, allow me to give you your own mini-tour:

The sculpture gallery

A dining room

The formal gardens

However, one of the other attractions for a good part of the nineteenth century was Chatsworth’s owner. William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, was called the Bachelor Duke. He rose to his title at the tender age of 21 and was handsome, charming, and generous. I can’t help but wonder how many young ladies wandered through his home hoping for more than a glimpse of the eligible gentleman. Their hopes were dashed for two reasons: the duke owned seven other stately homes and a thriving political career, so wasn't often in residence, and he never married. Some say he was in love with Caro Lamb, Lord Byron's infamous mistress. On his death, his estate passed to a cousin.

Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous!

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