Devices and Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England


Born in 1521, Bess of Hardwick, property tycoon, businesswoman, money-lender and four-times wife, lived an astonishing 87 years. Through canny choices and a will of steel she rose from country squire’s daughter to Dowager Countess, establishing herself as one of the richest and most powerful women in England, second only to Queen Elizabeth. Bess forged her way, not merely by a judicious choice of husbands, but by shrewd exploitation of whatever assets those husbands brought her. In this biography, Kate Hubbard examines Bess’s life as a builder within the context of the Elizabethan building world, dominated as it was by men. She traces the buildings of Hardwick, but also of other houses that Bess knew, visited and coveted; Longleat, Holdenby, Theobalds. Throughout, it seeks to locate Bess within Hardwick, the lasting monument she left behind her.