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Bess of Hardwick's Letters
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Funded by: AHRC
Main contact: Dr Alison Wiggins
Start date: 2008
End date: 2012
English Language - School of Critical Studies, College of Arts
Bess of Hardwick's Letters brings together, for the first time, the remarkable letters written to and from Bess of Hardwick
Bess of Hardwick (c.1521/2-1608) is one of Elizabethan England's most famous figures. She is renowned for her reputation as a dynast and indomitable matriarch and perhaps best known as the builder of great stately homes like the magnificent Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth House. The story of her life told to date typically emphasises her modest birth, her rise through the ranks of society, her four husbands, each of greater wealth than the last, and her ambitious aggrandisement of her family.
Bess's letters bring to life her extraordinary story and allow us to eavesdrop on her world. The letters allow us to reposition Bess as a complex woman of her times, immersed in the literacy and textual practices of everyday life as she weaves a web of correspondence that stretches from servants, friends and family, to queens and officers of state.