Bess of Hardwick

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Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury ([Unknown Date] 1527 – 13 February 1608[1]), known as Bess of Hardwick, was the third surviving daughter of John Hardwick, of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. She was married four times, firstly to Robert Barlow, who died in his teens; secondly to the courtier Sir William Cavendish; thirdly to Sir William St Loe; and lastly to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, sometime keeper to the captive Mary, Queen of Scots. An accomplished needlewoman, Bess hosted Mary at Chatsworth House for extended periods in 1569, 1570, and 1571, during which time they worked together on the Oxburgh Hangings.[2] In 1601, Bess ordered an inventory of the household furnishings including textiles at her three properties at Chatsworth and Hardwick, which survives, and in her will she bequeathed these items to her heirs to be preserved in perpetuity. The 400-year-old collection, now known as the Hardwick Hall textiles, is the largest collection of tapestry, embroidery, canvaswork, and other textiles to have been preserved by a single private family.[3]


First marriage

Born Elizabeth Hardwick, at the age of twelve she was sent to live in the London household of Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche at Codnor Castle[2], where she contracted the first of four marriages, to 14-year-old Robert Barlow, heir to a neighbouring estate, and became Elizabeth Barlow. However, they were too young, and he too sick, to consummate their marriage before he died. As Robert's widow she was entitled to one-third of the revenues of the Barlow estate. It is thought she lived at the manor house Barlow Woodseats Hall during this period, before his death in 1544.

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