Cover image for Devices and desires : Bess of Hardwick and the building of Elizabethan England
Title:
Devices and desires : Bess of Hardwick and the building of Elizabethan England
ISBN:
9780062302991
Edition:
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
xxx, 354 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), map ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Originally published as Devices & Desires in Great Britain in 2018 by Chatto & Windus, an imprint of Vintage.
Contents:
Prologue: Hardwick Hall, 1590 -- Derbyshire beginnings -- Sir William Cavendish -- Acquisition -- "Every man almost is a builder" -- "My honest swete Chatesworth" -- "This devil's devices" -- Countess of Shrewsbury -- The Scots Queen -- A dubious honour -- "Close dealing" -- "Great turmoil doth two houses breed" -- "The old song" -- "Send me accres" -- "Civil wars" -- Mocking and mowing -- The old hall -- Smythson's Platt -- London, 1591 -- "More glass than wall" -- "Houshold stuff" -- "A scribbling melancholy" -- "It doth stick sore in her teeth" -- "Not over sumptuous" -- Afterword: Hardwick Post Bess.
Genre:
Summary:
The critically acclaimed author of Serving Victoria brilliantly illuminates the life of the little-known Bess of Hardwick--next to Queen Elizabeth I, the richest and most powerful woman in sixteenth-century England. Aided by a quartet of judicious marriages and a shrewd head for business, Bess of Hardwick rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and feared Countesses in Elizabethan England--an entrepreneur who built a family fortune, created glorious houses--the last and greatest built as a widow in her 70s--and was deeply involved in matters of the court, including the custody of Mary Queen of Scots. While Bess cultivated many influential courtiers, she also collected numerous enemies. Her embittered fourth husband once called her a woman of "devices and desires," while nineteenth-century male historians portrayed her as a monster--"a woman of masculine understanding and conduct, proud, furious, selfish and unfeeling." In the twenty-first century she has been neutered by female historians who recast her as a soft-hearted sort, much maligned, and misunderstood. As Kate Hubbard reveals, the truth of this highly accomplished woman lies somewhere in between: ruthless and scheming, Bess was sentimental and affectionate as well. Hubbard draws on more than 230 of Bess's letters, including correspondence with the Queen and her councilors, fond (and furious) missives between her husbands and children, and notes sharing titillating court gossip. The result is a rich, compelling portrait of a true feminist icon centuries ahead of her time--a complex, formidable, and decidedly modern woman captured in full as never before.
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Summary

Summary

The critically acclaimed author of Serving Victoria brilliantly illuminates the life of the little-known Bess of Hardwick--next to Queen Elizabeth I, the richest and most powerful woman in sixteenth-century England.



Aided by a quartet of judicious marriages and a shrewd head for business, Bess of Hardwick rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and feared Countesses in Elizabethan England--an entrepreneur who built a family fortune, created glorious houses--the last and greatest built as a widow in her 70s--and was deeply involved in matters of the court, including the custody of Mary Queen of Scots.

While Bess cultivated many influential courtiers, she also collected numerous enemies. Her embittered fourth husband once called her a woman of "devices and desires," while nineteenth-century male historians portrayed her as a monster--"a woman of masculine understanding and conduct, proud, furious, selfish and unfeeling." In the twenty-first century she has been neutered by female historians who recast her as a soft-hearted sort, much maligned, and misunderstood. As Kate Hubbard reveals, the truth of this highly accomplished woman lies somewhere in between: ruthless and scheming, Bess was sentimental and affectionate as well.

Hubbard draws on more than 230 of Bess's letters, including correspondence with the Queen and her councilors, fond (and furious) missives between her husbands and children, and notes sharing titillating court gossip. The result is a rich, compelling portrait of a true feminist icon centuries ahead of her time--a complex, formidable, and decidedly modern woman captured in full as never before.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this engaging, well-researched biography, Hubbard (Serving Victoria) showcases the independent nature and innate business sense of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (better known as Bess of Hardwick; 1527-1608), through the lens of her passion for large-scale architecture. Hubbard reveals Bess's shrewd determination to keep her assets, despite the uphill battles she faced as a woman and the strain it caused family relationships. After Bess's first widowhood, she had to fight in court to retain her inheritance; in her later marriages, she ensured that ample assets included her name. During her fourth marriage, Bess and her husband had the honor and burden of keeping Mary, Queen of Scots, under guard for 15 years. The strain of guardianship and Bess's multiple building and remodeling projects at Chatsworth, their estate, eventually resulted in a marital falling-out so spectacular that the English queen pleaded for the Shrewsburys to cease their public arguments over money and builders. Bess ultimately built four palatial homes using premier architects and craftsmen. Hubbard balances material concerns and incidents of family infighting with stories of Bess's generosity toward relatives, servants, and the poor, including building almshouses. Hubbard argues that Bess used her intellect to create the life she wanted and to create a stone-and-mortar legacy. This is a captivating new look at a powerful woman. Illus. Agent: Georgia Rogers Garrett, Coleridge & White. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Besides Elizabeth I, another "strong-willed, fearless" redhead achieved power and wealth.The wily and determined Bess of Hardwick (c. 1527-1608) was an influential figure in Elizabethan England, ascending the social ladder through four marriages, the last to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, which conferred upon Bess the rank of countess. In a sprightly recounting of her life, times, and penchant for building and remodeling vast estates, Hubbard (Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household, 2013, etc.) vividly portrays a tense, roiling world in which Queen Elizabeth ruled with an unforgiving hand, all the while fearing to be betrayed and usurped. Foremost among claimants to her throne was the Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who was closest in blood to Elizabeth. When Mary fled from Scotland after a disastrous scandal, her arrival in England posed a dire problem for Elizabeth. Someone needed to take charge of Mary, keeping her virtually under house arrest; that person, Elizabeth decided, was the Earl of Shrewsbury, whose assets included many properties where Mary could be sequestered. For Shrewsbury, the responsibility was both an honor and an onerous burden. Required to be "in permanent attendance," he had to ask Elizabeth's permission whenever he wanted to move Mary, conduct his own business, or even spend time with his family; he also found himself vulnerable to Elizabeth's growing paranoia. "Plots and intrigues rumbled on," Hubbard notes, as she reports unending schemes among courtiers to gain and consolidate power. Initially, Bess was sympathetic to Mary, bonding with her over their love of needlework and gossip. But during Mary's incarcerationshe finally was beheaded in 1587Bess' "stocks of sympathy" became exhausted, and she escaped to one or another of her many properties, inherited from her former husbands, where she was involved in hiring architects, carpenters, and masons; overseeing construction and renovation; and redecorating. On one shopping spree, Bess returned with 10 wagons filled with "splendid furnishings." Moneylending and astute land purchases augmented her vast wealth.A brisk, perceptive portrait of a formidable Elizabethan woman. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

It seems that the Tudor era in English history (the sixteenth century, to be exact) boasted a high level of larger-than-life, exceptionally colorful public figures; and as we are so thoroughly informed here, those high-volume, vibrant individuals represented the distaff side of society as well as the masculine half. The most prominent female Elizabethan, aside from the female Tudors and their female relations, had to be Bess of Hardwick. As Hubbard, whose previous book, Serving Victoria (2013), told stories of Queen Victoria's royal court, Bess was well known in her day and for many decades later as "marry-wise." She had four marriages, each one advancing her wealth and status in social and political life. Bess was also addicted to building houses, and several of her well-designed mansions still dot the English countryside. Her penchant for erecting domiciles both homey and beautiful fit well into her booming times, the well-drawn setting for Hubbard's probing, buoyant portrait of this exceedingly wealthy, headstrong (Hubbard's title derives from a disparaging remark made by Bess' fourth husband), controversial, and influential woman and her world.--Brad Hooper Copyright 2019 Booklist


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xi
Mapp. xiii
Family Treep. xiv
Introductionp. xvii
Prologue: Hardwick Hall, 1590p. xxvii
1 Derbyshire Beginningsp. 1
2 Sir William Cavendishp. 14
3 Acquisitionp. 26
4 'Every man almost is a builder'p. 39
5 'My honest swete Chatesworth'p. 51
6 'This devil's devices'p. 65
7 Countess of Shrewsburyp. 78
8 The Scots Queenp. 92
9 A Dubious Honourp. 105
10 'Close dealing'p. 117
11 'Great turmoil doth two houses breed'p. 129
12 'The old song'p. 144
13 'Send me Accres'p. 158
14 'Civil wars'p. 171
15 Mocking and Mowingp. 183
16 The Old Hallp. 196
17 Smythson's Plattp. 213
18 London, 1591p. 226
19 'More glass than wall'p. 237
20 'Houshold stuff'p. 250
21 'A scribbling melancholy'p. 265
22 'It doth stick sore in her teeth'p. 277
23 'Not over sumptuous'p. 288
Afterword: Hardwick Post Bessp. 300
Acknowledgementsp. 303
Notes on Sourcesp. 305
Notesp. 307
Select Bibliographyp. 329
Indexp. 335