Devices and Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England – Kate Hubbard Harper

Devices and DesiresHardwick Hall was built in the 1590s, when Bess was in her seventies. It is still remarkable with clean lines,  amazing windows –  more glass than wall. It was the grand finale of building projects for Bess of Hardwick. being preceded by Chatsworth, which she worked on for thirty years, the Old Hall at Hardwick and Owlcotes, built for her son. This was an age of great builders and Bess fit right in. Daughter of a Derbyshire squire, her first marriage was arranged to Robert Barley, who died when he was fourteen. She began her climb up the social ladder with her marriage to Sir William Cavendish which brought her into London and the court. They acquired the manor of Chatsworth, beginning Bess’s building career. Her final marriage was to the Earl of Shrewsbury, which made Bess the Countess of Shrewsbury. By the time of her death, she was a most wealthy and powerful woman. Everything is highly documented. There are more than 230 of Bess’s letters between husbands, children, friends, and even the queen. There are notes sharing court gossip. I found all of these fascinating, revealing a strong woman, a very modern woman who learned how to take care of herself quite nicely. Household and business accounts abound. I loved the detail in the household accounts, but if you find it too much, just skip over them. This is a most interesting story of an amazing woman.

eGalley review                                                  Publication date 2.26.19

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