BESS OF HARDWICK: First Lady of Chatsworth


BESS OF HARDWICK: First Lady of Chatsworth

MARY S. LOVELL    Book Number: 82666    Product format: Paperback

How did Bess, born in 1527 to a gentleman farmer and his wife, rise to become a wealthy, powerful woman who numbered Queen Elizabeth I amongst her friends? In this well-researched and highly readable biography, we hear not only of her more-recorded later life, but learn of her early life, too, after a series of serendipity moments led the author to caches of undocumented papers. Bess was first widowed when she just sixteen; it was unlikely the marriage was consummated as her husband was two years younger, and she went on to marry three more times, bearing eight children and living until she was 81, a great age for the time. Widow Bess first remarried at the age of 19 to William Cavendish, who was more than twice her age and Treasurer to the boy King. By doing so she gained a title, became chatelaine of two fine houses and could communicate with members of the Court as an equal. Particularly fascinating about this account are the day-to-day details from the household records. 'Given for six yards and half of satin, for a gown for Cate' (her stepdaughter) or 'Paid to Reynes the goldsmith for my buttons, seven pounds, seven shillings and six pence'. Bess purchased the best linens, velvets, satins, silks and lace for the family's clothing, while to decorate her own gowns she frequently spent money on bone work (bands of material encrusted with embroidery of black silk, or silver and gold wire or thread). In 1551 William paid Roger Worde, a master mason, twenty shillings to design him a 'fine new house' at Chatsworth, though he and Bess probably didn't envisage the house taking 30 years to complete. After Cavendish's death, her third husband was poisoned by her brother. Her fourth marriage was to the powerful George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Earl Marshall of England. Interwoven with details of Tudor royalty and great names of the era. Softback. 556pp. Illus.
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ISBN 9780349115894
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