Elizabeth (Bess) Cavendish (Hardwick) (c.1527 - 1608) MP

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Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury's Geni Profile

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Nicknames: "Bess of Hardwick"
Birthplace: Ault Hucknull, Hardwick, Derby, England
Death: Died in Hardwick Hall, England
Occupation: Lady in Waiting to Qn Elizabeth, http://www.thepeerage.com/p10319.htm#i103186
Managed by: Ofir Friedman
Last Updated:

About Elizabeth (Bess) Cavendish (Hardwick)

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (July 27, 1527 – February 13, 1608[1]), known as Bess of Hardwick, was the third surviving daughter of John Hardwick, of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. She was married four times, firstly to Richard Barlow, who died in his teens; secondly to the courtier Sir William Cavendish; thirdly to Sir William St Loe; and lastly to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, sometime keeper to the captive Mary, Queen of Scots. An accomplished needlewoman, Bess hosted Mary at Chatsworth House for extended periods in 1569, 1570, and 1571, during which time they worked together on the Oxburgh Hangings.[2] In 1601, Bess ordered an inventory of the household furnishings including textiles at her three properties at Chatsworth and Hardwick, which survives, and in her will she bequeathed these items to her heirs to be preserved in perpetuity. The 400-year-old collection, now known as the Hardwick Hall textiles, is the largest collection of tapestry, embroidery, canvaswork, and other textiles to have been preserved by a single private family.[3]

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Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury ([Unknown Date] 1527 – 13 February 1608, known as Bess of Hardwick, was the third surviving daughter of John Hardwick, of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. She was married four times, firstly to Robert Barlow, who died in his teens; secondly to the courtier Sir William Cavendish; thirdly to Sir William St Loe; and lastly to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, sometime keeper to the captive Mary, Queen of Scots. An accomplished needlewoman, Bess hosted Mary at Chatsworth House for extended periods in 1569, 1570, and 1571, during which time they worked together on the Oxburgh Hangings. In 1601, Bess ordered an inventory of the household furnishings including textiles at her three properties at Chatsworth and Hardwick, which survives, and in her will she bequeathed these items to her heirs to be preserved in perpetuity. The 400-year-old collection, now known as the Hardwick Hall textiles, is the largest collection of tapestry, embroidery, canvaswork, and other textiles to have been preserved by a single private family.

Born Elizabeth Hardwick, at the age of twelve she was sent to live in the London household of Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche at Codnor Castle, where she contracted the first of four marriages, to 14-year-old Robert Barlow, heir to a neighbouring estate, and became Elizabeth Barlow. However, they were too young, and he too sick, to consummate their marriage before he died. As Robert's widow she was entitled to one-third of the revenues of the Barlow estate. It is thought she lived at the manor house Barlow Woodseats Hall during this period, before his death in 1544.

Second marriage

She remained single until 20 August 1547, when she married the twice-widowed Sir William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King's Chamber, who had two daughters and was more than twice her age, and became Lady Cavendish. Probably acting on her advice, Sir William sold his lands in the south of England and bought the Chatsworth estates in Derbyshire

Eight children were born of the ten-year marriage, two of whom died in infancy. Of the six who survived three were sons (Henry 1550-1616, William 1551-1626 and Charles 1553-1617) and three daughters (Frances b.1548, Elizabeth 1555-1582 and Mary 1556-1632). William was the forebear of the Dukes of Devonshire and Charles of the Dukes of Newcastle. Queen Elizabeth I was godmother to their first son, Henry, and Queen Mary I was godmother to their third son, Charles. Sir William Cavendish died on 25 October 1557, leaving Bess widowed a second time.

Third marriage

In 1559, Bess married her third husband, Sir William St Loe (St Lowe, Saintlowe, or Sentloe), Captain of the Guard to Queen Elizabeth I, Chief Butler of England, and owner of large West Country estates at Tormarton in Gloucestershire and Chew Magna in Somerset, whose principal residence was at Sutton Court in Stowey, and became Lady St Loe. When Sir William died without male issue in 1564/5, in suspicious circumstances (probably poisoned by his younger brother), he left everything to Bess, to the detriment of his daughters and brother. In addition to her own six children, Bess was now responsible for the two daughters of Sir William Cavendish from his first marriage, but Sir William St Loe's two daughters were adults and already well provided for.

Sir William St Loe's death left Bess one of the most eligible women in England. Not only was she a Lady of the Bedchamber with daily access and the favour of the Queen, but her income was calculated to amount to £60,000, (£13.8 million as of 2010),[6]. In her late 30s, she still retained her looks and good health, and a number of important men began courting her.

Fourth marriage

With the approval of Queen Elizabeth, who was not by habit a matchmaker, Bess was married in 1568 for the fourth time to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the premier aristocrats of the realm, with seven children from his first marriage, and became Countess of Shrewsbury; two of his children married two of hers in a double ceremony in February 1568. Bess's daughter Mary Cavendish, aged 12, married Shrewsbury's eldest son Gilbert, aged 16; Bess's son Sir Henry Cavendish, aged 18, married Shrewsbury's daughter Lady Grace Talbot, aged 8.

The Stuart connection

In 1574 Bess took advantage of a visit of the Countess of Lennox to marry her daughter Elizabeth to Charles Stuart, the younger son of the Lennoxes and brother of Henry, Lord Darnley, the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. The marriage ceremony took place without the knowledge of Shrewsbury, who — though he was well aware of the suggested match some time prior to this event — declined to accept any responsibility. As the Lennox family had a claim to the throne, the marriage was considered potentially treasonable as no royal assent had been obtained. The Countess of Lennox, mother of the bridegroom, went to the Tower for several months, and Bess was ordered to London to face an official inquiry, but she ignored the summons, and remained in Sheffield until the row died down. The child of the marriage was Arbella Stuart, who had a claim to the thrones of Scotland and England.

For many years (1569–1584), the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury acted as 'guardians' to Mary, Queen of Scots, when the Queen was imprisoned on one or another of their estates, but it was not until Mary was removed to another jailer, Sir Amias Paulet, that she got into the trouble that cost her life. Around the same time Mary was removed from his custody, Shrewsbury and Bess separated for good — they had been apart off-and-on since about 1580, and even Queen Elizabeth had tried to get them to reconcile. Mary seems to have aggravated, if not created, their problems by playing them off against each other. The Countess believed he had been in a relationship with Mary, a charge which has never been proved or disproved, but seems unlikely given Shrewsbury's disposition and increasingly poor health. On his death in 1590, Bess became Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury.

A BBC documentary claimed that Bess very much desired Arbella to become Queen, but it is fact[citation needed] that Bess was forced by order of the Queen to keep the girl away from Court and closely supervised in rural Derbyshire. Arbella blamed her grandmother for this, and the two fell out irrevocably when Arbella attempted to run away and marry a man who also had claim to the throne. Bess cut Arbella from her will and begged the Queen to take her granddaughter off her hands. Arbella's royal claim was never recognised but Bess eventually ended up with a descendant on the throne: Queen Elizabeth II.

Bess became famous for her building projects, especially two of them: Chatsworth, now the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire (whose family name is still "Cavendish", because they are descended from the children of her second marriage), and Hardwick Hall, of which it has been said for more than 400 years now: "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall", because of the number and size of its windows. She was interred in a vault in Derby Cathedral, where there is a memorial to her. All three sites are popular with visitors, as is Old Hardwick Hall, Bess's birthplace.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bess_of_Hardwick

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-------------------- Elizabeth Hardwicke was born on 27 July 1527.1,3 She was the daughter of John Hardwicke.1 She married, firstly, Robert Barley, son of Arthur Barley, in 1543.4 She married, secondly, Rt. Hon. Sir William Cavendish, son of Thomas Cavendish and Alice Smith, in 1547.1 She married, thirdly, Sir William St. Loe, son of Sir John St. Loe and Margaret (?), circa 27 August 1559.5 She married, fourthly, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, son of Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury and Mary Dacre, on 9 February 1568. She died on 13 February 1607/8 at age 80.1

Elizabeth Hardwicke also went by the nick-name of 'Building Bess'.1 Elizabeth Hardwicke also went by the nick-name of Bess of Hardwick.4 From 1543, her married name became Barley.4 From 1547, her married name became Cavendish. From circa 27 August 1559, her married name became St. Loe.5 Her married name became Talbot.

She prevailed on her first husband, who died without issue, to settle his estate on her and her heirs, who were abundantly produced from her second marriage. Her third husband, who was very rich, was led by her persuasions to make a similar disposition of his fortune, to the utter prejudice of his daughters by a former wife; and now, unsated with the wealth and caresses of three husbands, she finished her conquests by marrying the Earl of Shrewsbury, the richest and most powerful Peer of his time. To sum up her character, "she was a woman of a masculine understanding and conduct; proud, furious, selfish and unfeeling."

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Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury's Timeline

1527
July 27, 1527
Ault Hucknull, Hardwick, Derby, England
1532
1532
Age 4
1543
October 31, 1543
Age 16
Chatsworth, Derbyshire, , England
1544
February 5, 1544
Age 16
Chatsworth, Derbyshire, , England
1546
1546
Age 18
Chatsworth, Derbyshire, , England
1548
June 18, 1548
Age 20
City of London, Greater London, UK
August 20, 1548
Age 21
second husband
1549
June 10, 1549
Age 21
London, London, England
1550
December 17, 1550
Age 23
London, London, England
1552
December 27, 1552
Age 25
Hardwicke, Derbyshire, , England