The critically acclaimed author of Serving Victoria 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.
Sparkling, immensely readable ... a spirited, wonderful portrait of that iron-willed anomaly. Kate Hubbard spends a good deal of time on all those dead husbands and all those famous buildings, but she also draws in the bewildering details of Bess’ inevitable entanglements with the politics of her day (it was a perilous but also alluring thing to be any kind of rival to Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Elizabeth was always sharp-eyed for rivals), mixing everything into a broader-viewed biography of Bess than she’s ever received. A whole new group of readers will be glad to meet her in these pages and get to know a woman who somehow manages to feel modern to every later era.
Both a biography of an exceptional woman and an account of the architectural explosion of elaborate houses built by the Elizabethan aristocracy to demonstrate their status and wealth ... Hubbard’s account of Bess’s life is intelligent and enjoyable. She uses a range of primary sources – letters, wills and household accounts to bring Bess, her family and retainers to life. This is not only a biography of a forceful and determined woman, however. The accounts of Bess’s extensive building works at Chatsworth, Hardwick and others are used as a jumping-off point for Hubbard to explore architecture at this time and its meaning within the social and political world of Elizabethan England. An enjoyable and interesting read.
[Bess'] 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.