First Lady of Chatsworth

576pp 16 COLOUR ILLUS 2006 LIST PRICE: £12.99 (P) B802



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Bess of Hardwick was one of the most remarkable women of the Tudor era. Born into reduced circumstances, she was married at 15 and widowed at 16. At 19 she married a man more than twice her age, Sir William Cavendish, a senior auditor responsible for seizing church properties for the crown during the Dissolution. As Treasurer during the reign of King Edward VI, Cavendish and Bess moved in the highest levels of society. They had a London home and built Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Bess' fourth marriage to the patrician George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury made her one of the most important women at court. Her shrewd business acumen was described as 'a masculine understanding' in an age when women had little education and few legal rights. The Earl's death made her arguably the wealthiest and therefore – next to the Queen – the most powerful woman in the country.