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New perspectives
Editor: Lisa Hopkins

Bess of Hardwick was one of the most extraordinary figures of Elizabethan England. She was born the daughter of a country squire. By the end of her long life (which a recent redating of her birth suggests was even longer than previously thought) she was the richest woman in England outside the royal family, had risen to the rank of countess and seen two of her daughters do the same, and had built one of the major ‘prodigy houses’ of the period. While married to her fourth husband, the earl of Shrewsbury, she had been gaoler to Mary, Queen of Scots, and her granddaughter by her second marriage, Lady Arbella Stuart, was of royal blood and might have been succeeded to the throne of England. This wide-ranging collection, which draws on the recent edition of her correspondence, brings out the full range of her activities and impact. It contains a biography, analysis of her language use, consideration of the roles of her servants and the management and nature of her households (including the complex and allegorical decorative scheme of Hardwick and its famous embroideries), and a new appraisal of the relationship between Bess and her granddaughter Arbella.

Alan Bryson

1 Bess of Hardwick, a life Alan Bryson Elizabeth hardwick was probably born no earlier than spring 1527 at Hardwick Hall in the parish of Ault Hucknall in Derbyshire.1 She was one of six surviving children of John Hardwick (1495/6–1528) and his wife, Elizabeth (1499/1500–70x73), who was from nearby Hasland. Both parents were gentry, and the Hardwick family had held land in eastern Derbyshire since the thirteenth century. At the end of his life John owned over 500 acres worth £20 14s 4d a year, most of it around Hardwick itself, with about 100 acres at Morton in

in Bess of Hardwick
Susan Frye

7 Bess of Hardwick’s gynocracy in textiles Susan Frye Working in the medium of textiles, Bess of Hardwick created the most ambitious known artwork by an English woman in the early modern period. One remarkable element of Bess’s oeuvre is her definition of women’s rule or ‘gynocracy’ as produced within her country house of Chatsworth, and in the hangings with which she and her workshop furnished it. Throughout the house itself, and particularly in her eight opulent, tapestry-sized hangings in the ‘Noble Women of the Ancient World’ and the ‘Virtues and Their

in Bess of Hardwick
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Building a woman’s house
Sara L. French

5 Hardwick Hall: building a woman’s house Sara L. French Hardwick Hall is one of the best-preserved Elizabethan houses in Britain, a tantalising glimpse into the life of one of the period’s most prolific builders. Bess of Hardwick is legendary for her multiple marriages, political manoeuvrings and association with both Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Her construction of Tudor Chatsworth, Oldcotes and Hardwick Hall as well as the renovation of Hardwick Old Hall must be ranked as her greatest achievements. Bess’s influence on the innovative design of

in Bess of Hardwick
The countess of Shrewsbury and the Lady Arbella Stuart
Sara Jayne Steen

8 A difficult and volatile alliance: the countess of Shrewsbury and the Lady Arbella Stuart Sara Jayne Steen Like many early modern women, Elizabeth Talbot, countess of Shrewsbury, and the Lady Arbella Stuart, her granddaughter, have been assessed negatively over the centuries, and often in gendered and oppositional terms: Bess of Hardwick was too ambitious and single-minded for a woman, and Arbella was too romantic and naive for a claimant. With increased access to their letters in recent decades, however, more complex portraits are emerging. Because the two

in Bess of Hardwick
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Lisa Hopkins

Conclusion Lisa Hopkins Over the course of her long life, Bess of Hardwick established a dynasty, changed the landscape of Derbyshire, and might even have seen her granddaughter become queen of England. She was the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots and the friend of Elizabeth I, and though she never left England herself, her son travelled to Constantinople and her correspondents kept her informed of events all over Europe. The essays in this collection have also shown that she was a vigorous and prolific letter-writer, an accomplished arranger of interiors, and

in Bess of Hardwick
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Lisa Hopkins

William Conquerer hee may well bee named And it is true his sword hath made him great Thus his wise acts will ever him full speak. 2 Bess of Hardwick: new perspectives In both its accuracies and its inaccuracies, this poem offers a neat summation of what was known and thought about Bess of Hardwick during her own lifetime and in the generation or so after her death. In the first place, the title is incorrect: Bess was not Jane’s grandmother but her great-grandmother, since Bess’s son Charles was the father of Jane’s father William (the ‘William Conqueror’ of the

in Bess of Hardwick
Felicity Lyn Maxwell

lives of their many dependants. As Alan Bryson’s chapter in this volume and previous biographies of Bess of Hardwick have indicated, the fifteen-year custody of Mary Stuart put a severe strain on the couple’s resources and contributed to deepening distrust between husband and wife. Mary’s presence in Shrewsbury’s household from 1569 until 1584 politicised and considerably complicated domestic dynamics, as she was mistress and queen over her own servants and lived in semi-regal style, mainly at Shrewsbury’s expense, without being either the mistress of the house or the

in Bess of Hardwick
Telling stories from the Cavendish financial accounts
Alison Wiggins

of the Cavendish household between September 1548 and May 1550 (now Folger Shakespeare Library MS X.d.486). This book of financial accounts was written mostly in the hand of Elizabeth Cavendish – the woman known to posterity as ‘Bess of Hardwick’ – but included entries written in the hands of her husband Sir William and of their steward Francis Whitfield. The book does not conform to our modern expectations of a set of financial accounts: there was no attempt to ‘balance’ the numbers, sum totals were not always provided and, where they were, by Sir William, they

in Bess of Hardwick
Jessica L. Malay

question – who exactly was ES? The ruins of the adjacent Hardwick Old Hall will provide few answers to the uninitiated. And yet, very quickly during any visit to Hardwick New Hall the presence of the woman now known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’ becomes quickly palpable, and indeed artificially heightened. It was this artificiality that Lindsay Boynton complains of in 1971. She spends some paragraphs in her introduction to Elizabeth Hardwick’s 1601 inventory of Hardwick New Hall trying to dispel the myth that this house is an ‘Elizabethan house of which the interior is virtually

in Bess of Hardwick