Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Tudor Girl from Derbyshire - Part 1

Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury - 'Bess of Hardwick' - National Portrait Gallery
In the year 1527 Elizabeth was born at Hardwick, Derbyshire - the fifth daughter of a Squire and Yeoman Farmer. From minor gentry she rose to become the richest women in Elizabethan England next to the Queen and was widely known as 'Bess of Hardwick'.  She was a young girl when her father died, and her mother remarried. Bess was placed in service to a local prominent household - Sir John and Lady Zouche of Codnor Castle. Whilst there she met her first husband, a wealthy youth called Robert Barlow. They married when she was 15 and he was 13 but he had a terminal illness and died within a year, the marriage was unconsumated, but he left her a third of his income and a widow's pension.
Five years later she met and married wealthy William Cavendish of Suffolk, they had 8 children, bought the Chatsworth estate for £600, and Bess became a Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth 1. Ten years after their marriage William died leaving Bess a widow once more. Two years passed and she married Sir William St. Loe, who was Captain of the Guard to Queen Elizabeth - he was so enamoured with Bess that he endowed her with his estates and disinherited his own kinsfolk when he died five years later. 
Three years on and her final fourth marriage was to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewbury - an extremely rich and powerful man who was made the guardian of Mary Queen of Scots. Bess separated from Talbot accusing him of an affair with Mary, which she was later made to retract by Queen Elizabeth and her Council. Lord Shrewsbury died soon after, and she inherited his iron works, smithies and glass works, along with Bolsover Castle and its coal pits. She had parks in Staffordshire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire used for pasture, along with minerals and timbers, and she gained a large widow's settlement.  
Bess was now extremely wealthy but also very shrewd, she had ambitions that her granddaughter, Arbella, would one day become queen. One of her sons from their Cavendish father became the Duke of Devonshire, but her daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, married Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox which gave their daughter Arbella an excellent claim to the English throne through the Stuart line especially as Queen Elizabeth I was without issue.

Now a widow in her late fifties Bess set about building Hardwick Old Hall on the spot where her father's modest manor house had once stood, but with her even greater wealth she abandoned it in favour of Hardwick New Hall which she had built literally over the garden wall from the incomplete building.

Hardwick New Hall took seven years to complete.  It is one of the finest Elizabethan houses with it's six towers filled with huge glass windows. Glass was a great luxury during the mid C16th and was only available to the aristocracy or the very wealthy, but of course Bess also had at her disposal her very own glassworks too
Bess lived to the ripe old age of 80, a very long life in the c16th - but more on Hardwick where she lived for her last 20 years in the next post.  
Forgive me my digression, but it is tempting to compare 'Bess of Hardwick' to US President candidate Donald Trump. Both risen from provincial origins, married several times, with a brood of children. Formidable Bess had 4 husbands and 8 children, Trump 3 wives and 5 children - he still has time to catch her up! Both built themselves impressive towers filled with glass as statements of both their new found power and great wealth. Bess emblazoned each apex of her six towers with her cipher carved in stone (ES and crown stands for Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury) Donald Trump's glass towers are adorned in large gold lettering proclaiming 'TRUMP'.
Bess nearly became the grandmother of a queen, but could Donald Trump become President?

48 comments:

  1. Can Trump become president, win the White House and be more comparable to Bess of Hadwick? Who knows... But I found your approach extemely interesting Rosemary. And yes, your photos continue to amaze me, such beautiful they are!
    Have a nice day,
    Olympia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pleased that you found it interesting Olympia - 400 years apart but it did strike me that some similarities existed in their rise to great wealth and ambition.

      Delete
  2. What a fascinating story and a wonderful post.

    My guess is... The like comparisons of Bess and Trump wouldn't extend to behavior. I have a feeling Bess was not a crude sort of person and much better behaved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Bess would have known from a very young age what was expected of her from a behavioural point of view but she was a very shrewd operator.

      Delete
    2. Shrewd indeed. She might have had some impressive after dark talents too. :-O

      Delete
  3. Bess does look like a strong character, in both her portrait and her story, and even her beautiful Hall seems to match her in personality! What an interesting comparison to Trump and his very glassy Tower you have made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that it was Bess's cipher on top of all the towers that brought Donald Trump to my mind. Hardwick is the only historical grand house that I know of in this country that proclaims the owners identity so blatantly from it's 'roof tops'.

      Delete
  4. She was a redoubtable woman, but poor Arbella paid a high price for her grandmother's ambitions, much like Diana Spencer I suppose. We visited Hardwick Hall last spring and although incredibly imposing, it had a cold and unloved feeling about it. Bess would have been horrified to find herself so close to the M1 now too, I think. As for The Donald, heaven forbid!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we visited the sun was shinning in the windows - I loved all of the embroideries and the grand stone stairway, but have yet to sort my photos out.

      Delete
  5. Dear Rosemary, I was spellbound and right to the end. Loved it all. To have 8 children in 10 years of marriage is a feat all by itself. Having picked only wealthy husbands was probably her most successful endeavor. You have made my day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gina - I am so delighted that you enjoyed reading about Bess. I am always concerned that too much information may make for a boring read, but some of the details bring the story to life, so thank you very much. Life must have been very difficult for women then, 8 children was by no means uncommon. She must have given birth and then found herself pregnant again within weeks. It probably felt like a 10 year pregnancy.

      Delete
  6. Bess of Hardwick began my fascination with Chatsworth and Derbyshire. So in some way she is responsible for my moving to the Peak District. Lovely post.

    Jean
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you know I am Derbyshire born and bred so Bess has always been an historical figure known to me for all of my life.
      I hope that you enjoy your new life in my old haunts.

      Delete
  7. What an incredible story! Are there any good books or movies about her life? As to Trump, it is a nauseating feeling to even imagine that as an outcome. In fact, I rarely allow my mind to go there because it is too horrifying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Marica - sadly I don't think that there has ever been a film about Bess but really there should be as it would make riveting viewing. There are some books about Bess of Hardwick by Mary S Lovell which can be picked up really cheaply on Amazon. I saw one here for only $0.47:-
      http://www.amazon.com/Bess-Hardwick-First-Lady-Chatsworth/dp/0349115893

      Delete
  8. 'Bess of Hardwick' that must have been a very shrewd lady. Even on her portrait she looks as if she knows what she wants. And marrying on her 15th with someone of 13 years old, is n't it amazing, we cannot imagine nowadays. Great story I enjoyed reading and the comparison with Trump, I could not help laughing, but I really don't hope he will ever become President of the US.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Life was not a bundle of laughs for women at that time so Bess stands out as being an extremely strong and capable women.
      I am glad that you enjoyed the Bess versus Trump, he would have his hands full if she was still around today.

      Delete
  9. The more times one can become a Merry Widow, the better! Or should I say, the more profitable!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She chose wisely gaining great wealth and even a title on her ascendancy.

      Delete
  10. Some women in the old times were quite assertive, she had a remarkable life with all the marriages and builing that house!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Life was difficult for women then so she must have been very strong and determined in her endeavours.

      Delete
  11. I've always found Bess of Hardwick interesting. I imagine she was pretty tough. I wonder if I would have actually liked her. If she is to be compared with Donald Trump - I think I know the answer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That I cannot answer Wendy - however, I very much doubt that their personalities would be similar, just their great wealth, ambitious natures, and interest in further their status.

      Delete
  12. I've met a few ruthless and manipulative women in my time. In all cases they have had lonely ends. I wonder if Bess had any regrets. As for Trump, Canada is awash with requests from horrified U.S. citizens for immigration information .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is interesting Susan I had no idea about US citizens requesting immigration information from Canada - lonely in her old age, I think that she probably was.

      Delete
  13. Dearest Rosemary,
    The story about shrewd and calculated Bess is quite interesting indeed. She was in my opinion ONLY after wealth!
    As for the comparison to our American Donald J. Trump, being the leader in the presidential race, she by no means can measure up to his generosity!
    And you foreigners, seem to only follow the liberal media that is still brainwashing you.
    Can't you do some research for yourself? Instead of blindly following the 'masses'?
    As an American citizen I'm not so concerned about Donald J. Trump as you are.
    Read e.g. this article about a widow in my State of Georgia whom he has helped in 1986; yes long time before his candidacy and just being genuine. http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2015/12/26/that-time-when-donald-trump-saved-a-georgia-farm/
    Donald Trump Puts Jennifer Hudson & Family Up For Free In Chicago Hotel (after 3 of her family members were murdered) http://bit.ly/1szah8w
    Also his way of contributing GENEROUSLY to charities; all his life. His very successful book's proceeds went entirely to charities. The Young Donald Trump: //youtu.be/qmClYIQqEn8
    200 Stranded Marines Needed A Plane Ride Home, Here's How Donald Trump Responded: http://bit.ly/27RwuPV
    From the Apprentice to God, Donald Trump Acts like a Saint! http://bit.ly/1sOwy33
    The media for sure is not showing this: Donald Trump - What They Don't Want You To See - https://youtu.be/59aJn8Lk9zM
    History will prove it to those that are too ignorant for acknowledging the truth.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mariette - I made no political or personality judgements in this post regarding Donald Trump whatsoever. My points were the way in which he attaches his name in big bold lettering to his buildings in a similar manner to c16th Bess, their wealth, and their rise from provincial beginnings.
      Thank you for bringing to my attention some of Donald Trump's charitable works which I also knew about when he was interviewed on a Piers Morgan show recently.

      Delete
    2. Dear Rosemary,
      Sure, your very last sentence did activate these comments above, some were very negative and that coming from 'foreigners' that are not even involved. As for some liberals wanting to flee to liberal Canada; that's just fine!
      Piers Morgan has done a great job on his interviews, he at least is very balanced and not so much a puppet of the liberal media. Hats off to Piers!
      Hugs,
      Mariette

      Delete
  14. Beautiful pictures Rosemary and Bess must certainly have been a strong and inspiring woman in what definitely was a mans world in every way.
    I love how I always learn new things when I read your blog posts and discover new places. You're a true pearl in the blogworld sweet Rosemary.♥

    Take care my dear.♥

    Charlie
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you dear Charlie - your kind comment does my heart good, and your recent news is so uplifting. Enjoy these lovely late Spring days♡

      Delete
  15. She sounds fascinating and though obviously shrewd, I think she must have had a lovable nature, men didn't marry her for her money and she wasn't a true beauty.
    Heaven help us all if the Donald gets elected, contrary to what the lady above says and I don't have to read the liberal press, I don't read any press, to know that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, she was a shrewd women but that doesn't make her unlikeable or unloveable, you are right.

      Delete
  16. Married so young but that is how it's written for many a bride back in those days - way back when!
    Once in the circle of wealth it appears Beth knew how to have her money handled well, she could have wasted it, but she had good common sense.
    Good luck to her...interesting story Rosemary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her first marriage was one of convenience, an heir for young Robert's money was required and Bess fitted the bill. The second marriage to Cavendish was considered to be very happy but he was a lot older than her and died, it was by him that she had all her children. Her next husband was besotted with her, and the fourth one she suspected of having an affair with Mary Queen of Scots.

      Delete
  17. What an interesting story. She sounds like she was a determined lady. her house of many windows must have been light and bright, but I am sure she could afford a window washer.
    Your comparison is amusing. I try not to dabble in politics. hard to judge for yourself the real nature of a person. Unless you have met them in person. So we only have the reporting of others.....to judge them. Yes,he may have done some good deeds.
    Good deeds are their very best if they are anonymous....and not self serving. Come November I guess the people will speak...by voting. I am hoping Tom doesn't move us the Canada.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you don't have to move to Canada either - it was the big lettering that led me astray when thinking of the two of them. I do not wish to dabble in politics either, but 'good deeds' is not a criteria for running a country.

      Delete
  18. Bess of Hardwick sounds an amazing woman particularly for the time that she lived in when it must have been difficult for women. The decoration on the top of the hall is quite amazing. Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no doubting whose house this is - she was a remarkable women for that period when women were treated so differently from today. I love her confidence and panache.

      Delete
  19. Wonderful castle, and so beautiful photos of it. We don't have anything like this.
    Hugs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am delighted that you enjoyed seeing Hardwick Orvokki - thank you

      Delete
  20. Bess of Hardwick's life impressed me during school history lessons and even more so when I've read further in recent years. She was a shrewd woman. I've still to visit Hardwick Hall. Perhaps this year? Still, we do have the Shrewsbury Chapel in Sheffield Cathedral and that's a place where I can go often. Fascinating times and people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was very unusually for that period an emancipated women and hundreds of years ahead of her time too.

      Delete
  21. I first encountered Bess of Hardwick in a biography of Queen Mary. I remember seeing that beautiful portrait in another book, found after I visited Derbyshire. I'd love to see Hardwick Hall - and even more, I'd like to see the original portrait with the lustrous pearls.
    Your comment comparing Bess with The Donald, and the subsequent responses all made me smile. We are all entitled to our own opinions, and what happens in the US is felt across the globe, so I think we're all well entitled to an opinion regarding Mr Trump as potential presidential material. Last week we had guests from the US who were making serious inquiries about moving to Canada. It won't be the first time, as there was a mass movement during the Vietnam War.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ......and I meant to say, before getting carried off on a tangent........you always pick the most interesting topics. I look forward to your posts.

      Delete
    2. Thank you kindly H - There is so much more to Hardwick than just the house as Bess was such a unique Tudor women. Although from Derbyshire gentry folk She founded a dynasty includidng the Dukes of Devonshire, Dukes of Portland, Dukes of Newcastle, and through the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, members of the present Royal Family.
      I am so pleased that you enjoyed this post, I sometimes wonder whether I let myself get too carried away with these subjects but it is good to know that you look forward to them.

      Delete
  22. Bess looks so formidable. I was so amazed for her rising up through her marriages to such high in the noble society. Only good fortune doesn’t bring that and I came to understand “shrewdness” written in the comments. She seems to have possessed all the things we think to be blessed including her longevity and talent. The ornaments on the top of the Hardwick New Hall add a lot of charms to the seemingly simple but beautiful design of the hall. Was this site used for the BBC film Pride and Prejudice, which is one of my favorites. I enjoyed your photos of its garden and interior in the part 2.

    Yoko

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Yoko - Chatsworth House, one of the other properties that Bess built was used for Pride and Prejudice. The more I learn about Bess the more I understand what a remarkable women of her time she was.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh