Synopsis from book cover:

Bess of Hardwick, born into the most brutal and turbulent period of England’s history, did not have an auspicious start in life.  Widowed for the first time at sixteen, she nonetheless outlived four monarchs, married three more times, and died one of the wealthiest and most powerful women the country has ever seen.

The Tudor age was a hazardous time for an ambitious woman: by the time Frances, Bess’s first child, was six, three of her illustrious godparents had been beheaded.  Plague regularly wiped out entire families, conspiracies and feuds were rife.  But through all this Bess Hardwick bore eight children and built an empire of her own: the great houses of Chatsworth and Hardwick.


I picked this book up on my visit to Harwick Hall so that I could learn more about Bess who had built both the old and the new halls.  I was undecided which book to choose and eventually decided on this one because it seemed to contain more information than the others and it also looked as if it would be an easy style to read.  Whilst I was paying for it, the lady behind the counter assured me I had picked the best book and that she had really enjoyed it.

I found the book was well researched, very accessible and easy to read.    The book paints an excellent portrait of a woman of great character and determination.  Bess started of with very little money being the daughter of a gentleman squire but due to her marriages and diligence as a business woman she accumulated wealth and properties.  The book portrays Bess as a warm, affectionate and caring person who often gave gifts to her family.

You get a sense of what it was like to live in the Tudor age with insight into both daily domestic life and the political intrigues of the time.  Bess was a lifelong friend of Elizabeth I and you  get glimpses into life in the Royal Court.  When she was married to the Earl of Shrewsbury he was responsible for the confinement of Mary Queen of Scots who was essentially kept prisoner, initially at Tutbury.  This duty was expected to be temporary but the arrangement lasted 15 years and the book explains what it was like to be burdened with this responsibility and the difficulties it caused.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will re-read it in due course.

2 Comments CherryPie on Sep 21st 2010

2 Responses to “Bess of Hardwick First Lady of Chatsworth by Mary S. Lovell”

  1. jameshigham says:

    I’d like to find out more about her myself.