Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bess of Hardwick

Original image from

(1521 - 1608)
A much married woman
  • Her full name, upon death, was Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury.
  • Born relatively poor, Bess married her first husband, 14 year old Robert Barlow, and upon his death inherited one-third of the revenues of the Barlow Estate.
  • Her next marriage to Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the Kings Chamber, elevated her to the gentry and she became Lady Cavendish.
  • Sir William was twice Bess’s age and was in charge of the dissolution of monasteries. This is where the couple obtained much of their wealth before Sir William’s death in 1557.
  • Bess’s third marriage was to Sir William St Loe who left everything to her upon his death, to the detriment of his own children.
  • Bess was now, in 1564, one of the wealthiest women in England. Her annual income was approximately £60,000 ($13.8 million today).
  • Her fourth marriage was to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, which made her Countess of Shrewsbury.
  •  The Early and Countess of Shrewsbury were tasked by Queen Elizabeth I to act as ‘guardians’ (or more likely as ‘guards’) to Mary, Queen of Scots, during the early part of her captivity in England.
  • When the Queen of Scots was removed from their care, George and Bess separated under speculation that Mary had strained their relationship.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is a descendant of Bess of Hardwick.
This post is part of my "Well behaved women rarely make history" series.

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