The Pursuit of Love - and the Derbyshire link to new TV series

Aristocratic characters living in beautiful stately homes in the new television drama The Pursuit of Love must make Derbyshire viewers think of Chatsworth House.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 9:21 am
Emily Beecham (Fanny) and Lily James (Linda) in BBC 1's The Pursuit of Love. Photo credit: Theodora Fims & Moonage Pictures Limited/ Robert Viglasky.

And Chatsworth’s current Duke of Devonshire was the nephew of Nancy Mitford, author of the best-selling book which inspired the BBC1 adaptation starring Lily James, Dominic West and Andrew Scott.

Nancy’s comical story of love and passion in an upper-crust English family between the two world wars was published in 1945 and was the first in a trilogy.

As the eldest of six Mitford girls, Nancy’s books gave her the edge as the most high-profile writer among the sisters. She published several witty novels about life among the wealthiest members of society even though she had no training in writing.

Nancy Mitford, aunt of the Duke of Devonshire, wrote The Pursuit of Love. Photo by Getty Images/Reg Lancaster.

Nancy was part of the Bright Young Things, a group of Bohemian aristocrats and socialites on the London scene in the Twenties, rubbing shoulders with poet Edith Sitwell whose family lived at Renishaw Hall.

The youngest of the Mitford sisters was Deborah, who moved to Chatsworth with her husband Andrew Cavendish in 1959. Between them, they transformed the fortunes of the stately home, embarking on a refurbishment programme of the house which hadn’t been touched since before the Second World War. Deborah launched a farm shop to sell produce from the Chatsworth estate. Chatsworth House, which is now occupied by the couple’s son, Peregrine, who is the 12th Duke, has become one of the most visited stately homes in the country and its farm shop goes from strength to strength.

Like her oldest sister, Deborah was a published author and wrote a dozen books about her life at Chatsworth and cookery.

Deborah passed away in 2014, the last of the Mitford sisters to die.

Deborah, mother of the current Duke of Devonshire, was the youngest Mitford sister.

Arguably the most notorious sister was Diana, who was married to an heir to the Guinness brewing dynasty when she began an affair with British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. Diana would go on to marry Oswald in a ceremony witnessed by Adolf Hitler. Oswald and Diana were later jailed for three years for their political leanings.

Unity Mitford was also part of the British Union of of Fascists movement and became part of Hitler’s inner circle of friends. She shot herself in the head in a failed suicide attempt when Britain declared war on Germany and suffered brain damage for the rest of her life.

Jessica, who was nicknamed Decca, eloped with her cousin and fought the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. She then moved to America, where she wrote two books, and later became a pop singer fronting Decca & The Dectones.

Pamela, the second eldest Mitford sister, transitioned from debutante to country girl, shunning London’s bright lights to become a poultry expert. She lived in Tullamaine Castle in Ireland with her millionaire physicist husband Derek Jackson, whom she split from after 15 years of marriage.

Family photo call of the Mitford family in 1934 at Swinbrook House. taken from the book The Mitford Girls, by Mary S Lovell. From left, Lady Redesdale, Nancy, Diana, Unity, Thomas, Pamela Mitford, Jessica, Lord Redesdale and Deborah who later became Duchess of Devonshire.

Brother Tom completed the Mitford siblings. He was 36 when he was killed in action during the Second World War while stationed in Burma.

Filmed in Bath, Bristol and Paris, the remaining episodes of The Pursuit of Love will be shown on May 16 and 23.

The Duke of Devonshire and Chatsworth estate have declined to comment on the television adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s book.

The Duke of Devonshire has declined to comment on the television adaptation of his aunt's book, The Pursuit of Love.