Last Mitford girl bemoans demise of the stiff upper lip

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As the last of the Mitford sisters, Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire has known her fair share of tragedy and upheaval.

Yet the redoubtable duchess has hit out at the "sloppy-sentimental" culture of "self-pity and self-esteem" which has overtaken modern society, and lamented the demise of Britain's traditional stiff upper lip.

The duchess, who will celebrate her 90th birthday in March, said she did not see the point of dwelling on misfortune. The wartime generation just got on things. "Grief - it is part of life. The disaster of someone dying was talked about for a bit and the person was mourned, but you didn't go on about it and take pills and have to be counselled.

"Money and illness and sex were not talked about in those days and they are the only things people talk about these days, aren't they?

"Self-pity and self-esteem, which are now the key things in schools, were not allowed. Self-esteem? Nanny used to say, 'Who's going to look at you?"

The Mitford sisters famously wrote hundreds of letters to one another, with a lightness of touch which sometimes seemed at odds with the events they discussed.

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