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  • - [Announcer] Queen Elizabeth drives to her coronation.

  • - [Michael] At the Queen's Coronation in 1953,

  • the aristocracy of the kingdom assembled,

  • and at the top of the pile were the dukes.

  • Excluding the royal dukes,

  • titles given to the immediate family of monarchs,

  • there were then 28 non-royal dukes.

  • At the sacred moment that the Queen was crowned,

  • they also were entitled to don their coronets.

  • - [All] God save the Queen.

  • God save the Queen. God save the Queen.

  • - [Announcer] And the trumpets sound.

  • (upbeat fanfare music)

  • - [Michael] Dukedoms are created by the monarch

  • for reasons ranging from a grateful nation

  • rewarding a major war leader,

  • to a king acknowledging his illegitimate son.

  • The title then passing down the generations.

  • - I'm Duke of Atholl, Marquis of Tullibardine,

  • Earl of Strathtay and Strathardle.

  • Viscount Balquhidder, Balvenie, and Gask.

  • Lord Murray.

  • Thane of Glentilt

  • And...

  • I think I've missed one out, but there are a lot of them.

  • - This is the list of my titles.

  • Duke of Montrose, Marquess of Montrose,

  • Marquess of Graham,

  • and Baron Graham of Belford.

  • - [Michael] You're all those?

  • - Yeah.

  • - So, I'm the Duchess of Rutland,

  • the 11th Duchess of Rutland

  • and this is my home, Belvoir Castle.

  • - If I'd been born a boy, I would have been my father's heir

  • and the 12th Duke of Leeds.

  • - [Michael] But you weren't?

  • - But I wasn't.

  • - [Announcer] The crowned Queen.

  • - [Michael] The last dukedom to be created

  • was by Queen Victoria in 1889

  • and it is inconceivable that there will ever be any more.

  • So, as they gradually become extinct,

  • there are now only 24 non-royal dukes,

  • what will become of those that remain?

  • Do they still have power and wealth?

  • What is it to be a duke in the 21st century?

  • (majestic music)

  • Dukedoms still own in excess

  • of one million acres of Britain today.

  • The classic image of a duke's stately pile

  • is Blenheim Palace,

  • home to the Dukes of Marlborough for over 300 years.

  • The dukedom was created in 1702 for John Churchill,

  • a wily statesman and soldier,

  • who won a series of battles against the French.

  • His greatest was the Battle of Blenheim.

  • Until the Second World War,

  • Blenheim Palace continued to run pretty much unchanged.

  • (bell tolling)

  • Driving in today is someone who actually lived

  • that "Downton Abbey" life.

  • She was born Lady Rosemary Spencer-Churchill,

  • the daughter of the 10th Duke of Marlborough.

  • (car horn honking)

  • No distant car park for her.

  • When her father succeeded to the title,

  • Lady Rosemary was a lively five-year-old.

  • - [Lady Rosemary] Right, shall we go along here?

  • - [Michael] There were no pesky red ropes in those days.

  • - Yes, this I recollect very well

  • because there used to be a piano here

  • and we had to practice the piano.

  • And there was a dagger under this picture of my grandfather,

  • my grandmother, and my father.

  • And the dagger was there so that, if there was a fire,

  • the pictures could be cut out of their frames very quickly

  • and thrown out of the window.

  • But, of course, this was fascinating for a child.

  • Instead of playing the piano,

  • I used to play with the dagger.

  • Oh, I think it's still there behind the chair.

  • I don't know if we're allowed to do this, but I think...

  • There it is, you see.

  • It's a huge knife.

  • It was just home, you know.

  • You just happened to live here

  • and you didn't think it was really very extraordinary.

  • - [Michael] When you were a child,

  • how many servants were there?

  • - Indoors there were 36, I think.

  • All the footmen were very tall.

  • My mother liked them to be six-foot tall.

  • As the average height of a male in those days

  • was about 5'3" they were quite difficult to come by,

  • but they were all about six foot.

  • - [Michael] Why did she like them so tall?

  • - Well, I mean, in a house like this

  • you didn't want a lot of midgets walking about, did you?

  • You know, they didn't sort of look right.

  • Everything's on a slant. I hate furniture on a slant.

  • I don't know why people have to put it on the slant.

  • - [Michael] Would you rearrange it?

  • - Yes, I would.

  • I just hate things on a slant.

  • Oh, these are the invitations to the coronation.

  • - [Michael] In early 1953, Lady Rosemary was selected

  • to become a maid of honor to the Queen.

  • Presumably, your qualifications, Lady Rosemary,

  • were not only beauty and height,

  • but being the daughter of a duke?

  • - Yes, yes. (laughs)

  • Yes, I had a head start

  • 'cause there weren't any other duke's daughters.

  • No, there was a marquess.

  • There was Jane Vane-Tempest-Stewart,

  • but otherwise, they were mostly earls, I think.

  • - [Michael] Way below you?

  • - Way below, yes. (laughs)

  • I believe one or two people were rather cross

  • and Cook told me, who shall be nameless,

  • somebody was rather cross

  • that her daughter hadn't been asked.

  • - [Announcer] From the roaring of the multitude

  • into the quiet solemnity of the great abbey

  • steps Her Majesty.

  • - [Lady Rosemary] Ah, yes, there we are,

  • all going into the abbey.

  • I'm at the back on the right-hand side.

  • (upbeat fanfare music)

  • I've never seen this before.

  • There I am on the left.

  • - [Announcer] The peers of the realm.

  • - There's the dukes.

  • My father would have been there

  • but I don't know quite where.

  • - [Michael] Did you not discuss it with your parents?

  • - [Lady Rosemary] No, not at all.

  • - [Michael] Did they say they saw you?

  • - No.

  • They obviously did 'cause they would have been

  • fairly up the top of the pile, so to speak,

  • but, no, I don't think we discussed it really at all.

  • - [Michael] Do you find that odd?

  • - (sighs) No, I don't think one did find it odd.

  • You didn't find it odd in those days

  • 'cause you had lots of sort of very grand things

  • that happened all the time.

  • I never remember discussing it with my parents at all.

  • (crowd cheering)

  • Here we are on the balcony. It was amazing.

  • - [Announcer] The final scene.

  • - The others, I think,

  • all went out around London afterwards, but I had to get home

  • because my mother was roasting an ox

  • in the park for Woodstock.

  • There's my mother carving the ox.

  • I'm there, cutting up the meat.

  • (majestic music)

  • - [Michael] That world has, in some ways, disappeared.

  • Lady Rosemary's brother was duke for 42 years.

  • His son succeeded to the title last year.

  • But how are the other dukedoms faring?

  • (upbeat bagpipe music)

  • Blair Castle is at the center of a vast ducal estate

  • of over 140,000 acres in the Scottish Highlands.

  • - [Officer] Lower arm!

  • Present arm!

  • - [Michael] Assembling today

  • is the only private army in Europe.

  • (officer yells)

  • (upbeat bagpipe music)

  • The Duke of Atholl

  • was given the right to possess such a thing

  • by Queen Victoria in 1844,

  • and today the Atholl Highlanders regiment