Apparently when Adele Astaire first met her in-laws-to-be, she cartwheeled over to them to break the ice, and everyone loved it. That’s some entrance.
Adele was the older sister and dance partner of Fred Astaire. ‘Astairia’ had gripped the British aristocracy throughout the 1920s, and high society couldn’t get enough of the American stars. Vogue fell in love with Adele, a pocket-rocket with “the energy of a hurricane” – she was even more famous than Fred at this point.
Chatsworth’s answer to Meghan Markle
In 1932, Adele married Charles Cavendish, the son of the ninth Duke of Devonshire. Adele was so well-known, in fact, that the wedding had to take place in secret at the Chatsworth Estate chapel. Move over Meghan Markle!
The public lapped up the details of this trans-Atlantic romance: Adele had famously kept putting off accepting Charles’s proposal until she had one more hit show. In the end, she proposed to him instead. In New York. At a speakeasy. During Prohibition. What a badass!
Famed for her contrast of flapper dresses with manly suits, Adele’s couture wedding dress was beige, mid-length, with blue furs, made by American design house Mainbocher.
Adele quit dancing as a married woman, leaving brother Fred to find superstardom with a new partner, Ginger Rogers. Adele would never dance again on stage, but she did dance with American soldiers at the Rainbow Corner, the Red Cross canteen in London where she worked during World War Two. She could even be found working the land on the Chatsworth Estate as part of the war effort.
Lismore Castle – ‘Built by King John, Plumbed by Adele Astaire’
But Adele never moved into Chatsworth, as Charles died before he inherited the title of Duke. They instead lived together at one of the other family homes, Lismore Castle in Ireland.
Adele revelled in her new country-house life. She learned Irish crafts and – as a sign of her strong independent spirit – even set about putting new bathrooms in, along with a new garden swimming pool. Even when her husband died in 1944 and she moved back to the States, she still spent her summers there. She wrote the line “I thought he’d never leave” beneath a note from Fred in the castle’s guest book.
Even though she never lived at Chatsworth, Adele always had the same bedroom whenever she came to visit. In the run-up to the 2017 ‘House Style’ exhibition, Lady Burlington (one of the curators) discovered some old copies of Vogue in that same room, with Adele’s hand-scribbled notes in the margins.
“She was the whole show, she really was,” said brother Fred in a 1981 acceptance speech. It definitely sounds like it.
(Believe it or not, but Fred Astaire is buried in a neighbourhood of Los Angeles called Chatsworth, which took its name from Chatsworth House. Some of Adele’s ashes are buried there, too: the rest was scattered by her husband Charles’s grave at Lismore.)
Feel like cartwheeling into our boutique? (Walking in is fine too.)