Recently we were invited to attend the book launch of ‘Duchesses Living in 21st Century Britain’ by Jane Dismore. The launch was held at Hatchards Piccadilly, the oldest bookshop in London who are proud to be the booksellers to the Royal Households. Only a minutes walk from Jermyn street, it’s a brilliant bookshop to visit.
In this unique book, ten of Britain’s remaining non-royal Duchesses talk of their lives and roles in the 21st century. The book gives an insight into modern day aristocracy.
For some people the title Duchess evokes the grandeur of stately homes but for others it’s about unearned privileges. Although historic, it seemed to have little relevance in today’s society. But in April 2011 the title was taken out of its antechamber, dusted off and deposited firmly on the High Street and the internet. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was to make it topical, even desirable.
Jermyn Street: Duchesses – Living in 21st Century Britain – Jane Dismore
Despite the Queen awarding Prince William a dukedom, the future for non-royal Dukes is not bright. There are only twenty-four left in Britain today. They and their duchesses are an endangered species. Yet little is known about these women. Most never speak publicly; those who do seldom speak about themselves. To be granted an interview was therefore a huge privilege.
Each has also selected a favourite Duchess in her title from the past, which provides a fascinating gallery from the 17th to the early 20th century and a comparison with today.
“There are Britain’s well-known royal duchesses, whose husbands are dukes as members of the Royal Family. Then there is a tiny group of women who sit at the top of the aristocratic tree with their dukes, just one branch down from royalty. These non-royal duchesses are just as much a part of Britain’s heritage, the dukedoms having been awarded by monarchs since the 16th century, but they are a dying breed. It is unlikely that any more dukedoms will be created outside the Royal Family and without a duke there is seldom a duchess: history has shown how rare it is for a duchess to be created in her own right.”
Extract from the opening chapter of Duchesses by Jane Dismore.
Hatchards Piccadilly (187 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE)
Duchesses Living in 21st Century Britain by Jane Dismore