For some the title Duchess evokes the grandeur of stately homes but for others it’s about unearned privileges. But above all, it is a title that many feel is historic with little relevance in today’s society. However, in April 2011 the title was taken out of its antechamber, dusted off and deposited firmly in the High Street and on the internet: giving an old title to a young lady as twenty-first century as Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was to make it topical, even desirable, again.
But despite the Queen awarding Prince William a dukedom, the future for dukes, especially non-royal, is not bright. There are only twenty-four non-royal dukes left in Britain today: they, and therefore their duchesses, are an endangered species. Yet little is known about these women or what their relevance is in today’s Britain.
In this unique book ten of Britain’s remaining non-royal duchesses talk of their lives and their roles in the twenty-first century. Most never speak publicly; those who do seldom speak about themselves. To be granted an interview was therefore a huge privilege. Each Duchess has also selected a favourite predecessor in the role, providing a colourful gallery from the 17th to the 20th century.
At a book signing with the Duchess of Northumberland on 6 December 2014 at The Alnwick Garden
Jane’s book on display at Woburn Abbey, signed by the Duchess of Bedford: in front of Woburn Abbey (2015). Pictures by Trevor Morecraft
See Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine extract, published 31st August 2014: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2735804/Duchess-Originals.html