The Duke of Devonshire
The 12th Duke of Devonshire might have proclaimed the aristocracy “dead”, but the state of his palatial family seat, Chatsworth House, indicates it is alive and well. He has spent the past decade – and £32.7m – restoring the 297-room neoclassical building to its former splendour: regilding the window frames and finials in 24-carat gold and returning the sandstone of the facade to its original honey yellow.
To celebrate the space in style, the 73-year-old 12th duke, otherwise known as Peregrine Cavendish, is exhibiting ball gowns, wedding dresses and other outfits worn by some of the most glamorous women of the past 500 years. Supported by Vogue, the event at his Derbyshire estate gives an insight into such icons as JFK’s sister Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy and the writer Nancy Mitford, whose youngest and longest surviving sister, Deborah, was the duke’s late mother. The aristocrat, nicknamed "Stoker" by family and friends, remains busy: he is chancellor of the University of Derby and a director of the auction house Sotheby’s.
His wealth shows no sign of diminishing. While the family sacrificed many of its art treasures to fund the Chatsworth restoration, the remaining masterpieces by Raphael, Van Dyck and Rembrandt are easily worth £900m (although their valuation is halved to allow for tax). With land prices still rising, the duke’s 36,000 acres at Chatsworth, the 30,000-acre Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire and Co Waterford's Lismore Castle in Ireland are easily worth £270m. Other assets include Pratt’s, the London club, some Eastbourne property plus small estate and farming companies.