Christine Robinson entered service in 1974 and has spent more than 40 years at the heart of Chatsworth, one of Britain’s greatest country estates and the Peak District home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Her new book, ‘Chatsworth: The Housekeepers Tale’ (published 1 November, review copies available on request) goes behind the scenes to tell the inside story of her life alongside the Devonshire’s, and more than 200 years of unbroken service given by her family since her great, great grandmother started work hauling stone to Chatsworth in the early 1800s. The book also includes more than 60 photographs, with some dating back to the 19th century.
Christine has risen through the ranks to become Head Housekeeper, and has witnessed first hand many of the great changes at Chatsworth as it recovered from the crippling death duties of the post war years to become one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions. She worked closely for many years with the principal architect of that transformation, the late Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the last of the famous Mitford sisters, who sadly passed away on 24 September 2014, aged 94.
Her account recalls four decades at Chatsworth covering the day to day life of a great house, both upstairs and downstairs, with its regular visits from the great and the good. Christine was heavily involved in preparations for the visit of Her Majesty the Queen this summer while film stars such as Keira Knightley, Sir Antony Hopkins, senior politicians from all parties, and artists the calibre of Lucien Freud and Dame Elisabeth Frink have all been visitors in recent years.
The 20 chapter book illustrates the house’s colourful history, beginning in the 20th century when Christine’s grandmother and great grandmother worked in the kitchen while the 8th Duke hosted lavish parties for King Edward VII. Other chapters cover the practical details of caring for the house, descriptions of its spectacular parties including wedding anniversaries and tercentenary celebrations, and the arrival of the current Duke and Duchess.
Now living with her family in the estate village of Edensor, Christine started at Chatsworth with a holiday job alongside the housekeeping team in 1974. Graduating with a History degree from Newcastle University three years later, she was then offered a permanent position and worked her way to become Head Housekeeper in 2006.
Christine Robinson’s responsibilities as Head Housekeeper include Chatsworth’s visitor route, all office and attic space, the estate’s holiday cottages and much more. Her book features a wide array of personal anecdotes on her life at Chatsworth alongside the Devonshire family.
Christine Robinson said: “After years spent gathering my thoughts, I hope the book will give readers an insight into what life at Chatsworth is really like from someone who has seen it from behind the scenes.”
The Duke of Devonshire added: “This is a beautifully written book, full of stories and facts new to me, and therefore highly likely to be new to almost every reader. For these alone it is worth reading.”
Already endorsed by TV presenters Alan Titchmarsh and Adam Henson, the book also includes a foreword by the 12th Duke of Devonshire, as well as a collection of 20 enchanting line drawings by Christine’s colleague Janet Bitton.