Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Bess of Hardwick

Picture of Bess of Hardwick

Picture of Bess of Hardwick

Short Biography of the life of Bess of Hardwick - Wealthiest Woman in Elizabethan England
The following biography information provides basic facts and information about Bess of Hardwick:

  • Nationality - English

  • Nationality - English
  • Lifespan - 1527-1608
  • Born: In 1527 in Hardwicke in Derbyshire
  • Religion - Catholic
  • Married: Bess of Hardwick married four times
    • 1541: Bess Of Hardwick married Robert Barlow
    • 1547: Bess married Sir William Cavendish
    • 1559: Bess married William St. Loe
    • 1567: Bess married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury
  • Died: Bess of Hardwick died 13th February, 1608 at the age of eighty
  • Family connections of Bess of Hardwick - Her daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, married Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, and was mother of Lady Arbella Stuart ( the granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick).
    • Charles Stuart was the brother of Lord Darnley the late husband of Mary Queen of Scots, who had both Royal Tudor and Stuart blood in his veins
    • Arbella Stuart was niece to Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to Elizabeth I - claiming descendancy from both the Stuart and Tudor lines
  • Famous for : Marrying four husbands, each one richer than the last, and as a moneylender,  property dealer, exploiter of iron works, coal mines, and glass works who ended up the richest woman in England after the Queen. She built Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall
  • Character of Bess of Hardwick : Shrewd, Charming, Scheming, Powerful and Ambitious

Short Biography, Timeline, Facts & History about the life of Bess of Hardwick - Wealthiest Woman in Elizabethan England
The following are additional facts about the bio, timeline, life and history of Bess of Hardwick:

  • 1527: Bess was born at and named Elizabeth Hardwick. She was the fourth daughter of John Hardwick and Elizabeth Leake. Her father died when Bess was young and she was left just a small dowry
  • 1539: Bess went into service in the household of a great Derbyshire family, Sir John and Lady Zouche of Codnor Castle
  • Whilst in service Bess met her first husband,  a wealthy young man called Robert Barlow
  • 1541: Bess married Robert Barlow
  • 1542: Robert Barlow died leaving Bess a third of his income as her widow's pension
  • Bess then went to serve in the household of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon (the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk) and the parents of Lady Jane Grey
  • 1547: Bess met her second husband. Wealthy William Cavendish of Suffolk (1505 - 1557)
  • 1547 August 20: Bess married William Cavendish. The marriage between Bess and William Cavendish was believed to be a happy union
  • Bess and William had eight children, only four of whom survived childhood
    • Henry Cavendish
    • William Cavendish Earl Of Devonshire
    • Charles Cavendish
    • Elizabeth Cavendish
  • 1549: Bess and William Cavendish bought the Chatsworth estate for a total of 600
  • Bess became a Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth I
  • 1557: William Cavendish died leaving Bess a widow once again
  • 1559: Bess married Sir William St. Loe, who was Captain of the Guard to Queen Elizabeth
    • Sir William St. Loe was so enamoured of Bess that he endowed her with his estates, and disinherited his own kinsfolk
  • 1564: Sir William St. Loe died leaving all his possessions to Bess and her heirs
  • 1567: Bess married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury - an extremely rich and powerful man
  • 1569 - 1584: George Talbot was made the guardian of Mary Queen of Scots
  • 1574: Bess's daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, married Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox. Charles Stuart was the brother of Lord Darnley the late husband of Mary Queen of Scots, who had both Royal Tudor and Stuart blood in his veins. Bess engineered this marriage knowing that any children of Charles Stuart would have an excellent claim to the English throne
  • 1575: Elizabeth Cavendish gave birth to her daughter - Arbella Stuart
  • 1576: Charles Stuart, father of Arbella Stuart died
  • 1580: Bess separated from her husband George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, amidst public accusations, made by Bess, of an affair between her husband and Mary Queen of Scots - which Bess was later forced to retract by Queen Elizabeth and the council
  • 1581: Elizabeth Cavendish, mother of Arbella Stuart died
  • 1581: Arbella Stuart was then raised by her grandmother Bess of Hardwick. Queen Elizabeth I had indicated that Arbella might be named her heir and Bess raised Arbella extremely strictly - believing that her granddaughter was destined to become the next Queen of England
  • 1583: Bess was ambitious and arranged the betrothal of the 8 year old Arbella to Lord Denbigh, the two year old son of the Earl of Leicester and Lettice Knollys. Queen Elizabeth was furious but Lord Denbigh died the following year
  • 1590: George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury died. The marriage between himself and Bess had been a bitter and unhappy one. He had described Bess as "that sharp bitter shrew"
  • Bess became the richest woman in England, second only to Queen Elizabeth
  • Bess built her magnificent home called Hardwick Hall - and was referred to as Bess of Hardwick
  • The relationship between Bess and Arbella completely deteriorated. Arbella was so restricted by Bess that she felt like a prisoner
  • 1592: A marriage of Arbella to Raunutio Farnese, a son of the Duke of Parma, was discussed, but the Duke of Parma died shortly after, leaving all plans of marriage for Arbella shattered once again
  • 1602: Arbella longed for marriage and began to plot her own marriage and her escape from Bess and Hardwick Hall
  • 1603: Arbella's escape plan failed but Queen Elizabeth intervened and Arbella was sent away from Bess to live under the protection of the Earl of Kent
  • 1603: Queen Elizabeth I died and James of Scotland was made King Kames I of England
  • Bess continued with her building projects until her death at the age of eighty
  • 1608 - Bess of Hardwick died on 13th February at Hardwick Hall
  • He granddaughter Arbella never became Queen of England
  • But Bess of Hardwick did become an ancestor of the Queen Elizabeth II
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