Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder

Mary S. Lovell, Author . Norton $27.95 (555p) ISBN 978-0-393-06221-2

Born into the minor nobility, Bess of Hardwick rose to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in England, second only to Queen Elizabeth I. Lovell (The Mitford Girls ) presents Bess's life as a study in how education, connections, marriage and property management shaped the life of women in the 16th century. Bess served in noble and royal households at key points in the tumultuous years of Henry VIII and his three children, helping her fourth husband guard Mary, Queen of Scots, and raising her own granddaughter Arbella Stuart with aspirations to England's throne. Becoming a successful manager in partnership with her second husband, William Cavendish, she built up properties and incomes through the rest of her life. Lovell assumes that Bess had a charm that drew people to her, yet it's hard to sense that personality in this account. The reader is repeatedly taken away from Bess by background stories, including a variety of court matters and detailed accounts of the Scottish queen and the career of Bess's somewhat obscure third husband. Family squabbles over property and incomes and the spectacular breakdown of her marriage to the Earl of Shrewsbury dominate the latter part of the book. While all these elements give a good sense of the times, Bess herself is only beginning to emerge on her own. B&w illus. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/13/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 570 pages - 978-0-393-33013-7
Paperback - 555 pages - 978-0-349-11589-4
Open Ebook - 608 pages - 978-0-393-07579-3
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