Bess of Hardwick
Born in 1527
Died in 1608
Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608) Countess Shrewsbury, Lady Chatsworth, was one of the most powerful women in Tudor England. Thanks to a series of successful marriages she ended up as the richest person in the country after Queen Elizabeth I. Born Elizabeth Hardwick, the daughter of a rather humble country squire, in 1527 in Derbyshire, she rose through society to such an extent that her eldest son became the first Duke of Devonshire, and she is one of the present Queen’s ancestors. Mary Queen of Scots was left in Bess’s care between the years 1569 and 1584 at the request of Elizabeth I.
Bess is most famous for the buildings she commissioned: the majestic Chatsworth House which she brought to the Cavendish family, and the imposing Hardwick Hall, both in Derbyshire. Hardwick Hall was designed by Robert Smythson and demonstrated her wealth with the famously excessive use of then very costly glass. It has been described as “more glass than wall.”
People in Tudor days wed young and Bess was no exception. She was married for the first time at 12 to 14-year-old Robert Barlow, although the marriage was not consummated and he died shortly afterwards, leaving her a third of the revenues from his estate. She married three more times and had eight children.
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