Recognise him? Of course you do, it’s old Vic the 9th Duke of Devonshire in his ceremonial gear as Governor General of Canada. They get around these aristocrats. And it’s that thought that’s got me thinking. I do have a tendency to ponder on the bigger issues in society.
Now a Duke is the highest rank in the aristocracy beneath the Royal family, and from what I can see there are 3 basic ways in which it is bestowed. Firstly as a gift from a grateful nation, like those awarded to the Dukes of Wellington and Marlborough for their successful military campaigns. These seem absolutely worthy to insignificant Mr me though it does seem completely unjust that Horatio Nelson’s outstanding achievements were ‘only’ recognized with a Viscountcy don’t you think? Did you also know that Churchill declined a Dukedom when offered by the Queen after his leadership during WWII?
The second route is by marrying in to the Royal family or being progeny or closely related to it, like the Dukes of Edinburgh, York and Kent. These fluke dukes aren’t my particular favourites.
But it’s the third category which is special I believe. The majority of this country’s oldest and principal Dukedoms were bestowed upon the bastard offspring of the ruling monarch and his mistress(es). And as well as titles they received lands and wealth. That’s our noble background; a system of class largely based on the antics of King Dick.
But that’s not an original observation of course. What I have noticed however is another thing our Dukes have inherited from monarchs with a wandering eye; a tendency to, well, wander. Take Victor above and his clan. Now wouldn’t you think that the Duke of Devonshire would live in a grand place overlooking Dartmoor or Torquay? In fact the old chap’s family seat is Chatsworth House near Chesterfield which, last time I looked, is in the middle of Derbyshire. Now that strikes me as a little bit odd. And that’s the kind of thing I reflect on. Here’s the thing; he’s not alone. The Dukes of Norfolk are not seated in Norwich but in Arundel, W Sussex. The Duke of Westminster’s principal home is located near Chester whilst the Duke of Wellington’s title derived from Somerset but the family seat is Stratfield Saye House near Basingstoke. Finally, the Duke of Beaufort whose title comes from the name of a castle near Champagne in France is shacked up in Chipping Sodbury, which is as quintessentially English (and un-French) as it gets.
Now I know these are historical titles and things change and people move over time but if the monarch’s going to bestow estates and a title as grand as a Dukedom on somebody then the bearer ought to be obliged to live where the title suggests. It seems only right to me.