English Aristocracy. Popularly known as Bess of Hardwicke, she was born the daughter of John Hardwicke of Derbyshire. In 1543, she contracted to a marriage with Robert Barley, son of Arthur Barley. He died young leaving her a widow's portion which she then apparently parlayed into a marriage with the Right Honorable Sir William Cavendish, Gentleman-Usher to Cardinal Wolsey; and Treasurer of the Chamber to King Henry VIII, in 1547. With him she had six surviving children. In 1552 they started building their new home, Chatsworth House, before Cavendish's death about 1562. While serving as a lady in waiting to the queen, she then married the wealthy Captain of the Guard to Elizabeth I, Sir William St. Loe about 1559. Upon his death about 1564, he left his entire estate to his wife, bypassing his daughters from a previous marriage. She then married widower George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury in February 1568, the richest and most powerful peer of his time. She then married two of her children to two of her new husband's children, before marrying off a third, illegally, to Charles Stuart, brother in law to the former queen, Mary of Scotland giving her a connection to the royal families of both England and Scotland. Shrewsbury, had for many years acted as the occasional custodian for the Scottish queen. Having charges of embezzlement, with her husband's death in 1590, she became the richest woman in England after the queen. Earning the nickname, Bess the Builder, she then started a grand home near Old Hardwicke Hall, her properties at Chatsworth and Hardwick were showplaces of the day, and are even now popular tourist destinations. She continued with her building projects until early in 1608,when she was reported to be so ill her maid could not leave her day or night. Upon her death, she was buried at All Saints, now the Cathedral of Derby, three months later. Her funeral was postponed at her son's request in order that he might marry. She was described by contemporaries as "...a woman of a masculine understanding and conduct; proud, furious, selfish, and unfeeling."
Bio by: Iola