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Devices and Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  70 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The critically acclaimed author of Serving Victoria brilliantly 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.

Aided by a quartet of judicious marriages and a shrewd head for business, Bess of Hardwick rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and
ebook, 384 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by Harper (first published 2018)
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This is mostly about house building and the mostly men who built houses during this period. A bit about Bess but bare bones info.
If you’ve never heard of the name Bess of Hardwick (or Shrewsbury); then you must be living under a Tudor rock. Bess may have ‘only’ been a Countess but her legacy has lived on. Known for her assertive prowess, boundless wealth, and obsession with constructing and owning homes and properties; Bess is an icon for modern-day feminists and some would say a formidable woman. Kate Hubbard attempts to highlight Bess in, “Devices and Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England”.

Here is a link to the review:

Bonus - if you read Too Near The Throne by Molly Costain Haycraft as a teen, this book is about Arbella's grandmother
Katie/Doing Dewey
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Summary: This book was full of fascinating information, but the surprisingly heavy focus on architecture meant it was sometimes dry anyway.

"Aided by a quartet of judicious marriages and a shrewd head for business, Bess of Hardwick rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most respected and feared Countesses in Elizabethan England—an entrepreneur who built a family fortune, created glorious houses—the last and greatest built as a widow in the 70s—and was deeply involved in matters of the
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Most of my complaints are typical of books like this: it’s about a woman AND an event/movement/time period. So Bess became less important than the architecture changes in Elizabethan England, and while a decent chunk of the book was dedicated to her, I had to suffer through a chapter on Mary Queen of Scots, pages and pages about Lord This and Earl That and their Castles, as well as endless info about who got how much money when and if there was a legal battle about it. It was extremely ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I was given a copy of this book by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

Today's post is on Devices and Desires: Bess of Harkwick and the Building of Elizabethan England by Kate Hubbard. it is 384 pages long including notes and is published by Harper Collins. The intended reader is someone who likes Elizabethan history and architecture. There is mild foul language, no sex, and no violence in this book. The cover is dark red with Elizabeth Shrewbury monogram in the center. There Be
Sarah Beth
I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins.

Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608), was born into relatively humble origins but thanks to a series of advantageous marriages, died the Countess of Shrewsbury with extensive wealth, estates, and homes of her own. A contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I, Bess of Hardwick is fascinating because she was a self-made woman who used her widowhood and head for business to amass a fortune and arrange marriages for her children and grandchildren
Sandra Wagner-Wright
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Devices and Desires (2019) by Kate Hubbard is non-fiction biography that takes Bess of Hardwick as its subject. Bess isn’t too good about sharing her thoughts, but meticulous in her accounts and frequent in correspondence. She was a consummate builder. Among her projects was the first iteration of Chatsworth House. And she outlived four husbands, each of whom lifted her further up the social scale until Bess was a confident of Queen Elizabeth I and one of the wealthiest women in England.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at a woman who held her own (and more) during a period in history where women were more or less the property of the men in their lives whether father or husband. Bess of Hardwick was married four times, outliving all her husbands and moving up socially and financially with each succeeding marriage ending up as Countess of Shrewsbury. But more than this, she was able to compete with the males of her time in money management (yes she inherited but she also made it grow, ending ...more
I found the book contained a lot of interesting information, and aimed to give a balanced view of Bess of Hardwick. It’s clear that a lot of research has gone into it, and the subject matter is fascinating.

However, I found that it was somewhat patchy - the level of prior knowledge assumed to be held by the reader seems to vary.

The book focuses on Bess and her building works, rather than on wider historical and political issues. This is fair enough- it is after all clear from the title and blurb,
Mike Shoop
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Readable, well researched bio of the celebrated Bess of Hardwick. Hubbard has written with a focus on the building projects Bess did in Derbyshire at Chatsworth, Hardwick Hall, Owlcotes, etc., as well as other great building projects that were going on at the same time in other areas of late 16th century England: Longleat, Wollaton, Theobalds, etc. Bess, who through four marriages, smart business dealings, and determination, became a wealthy and powerful countess who built glorious houses, ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is one of those histories where household accounts are used a lot to help flesh out the lifestyle/events... the real sources are scant, so we get treated to lists and lists of stupid things that imply certain status levels/activities. The really interesting events (like the attempted poisoning!) aren't really given much detail because the historian lacks sources. So yay for historical scholarship, but this is a dead-dull read.
Donie Nelson
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed a different look at one of my favorite historical subjects: Bess of Hardwick, whose humble beginnings could have consigned her to anonymity in Elizabethean England. Instead, Bess took full advantage of every opportunity to marry well and acquire the income necessary to become one of the significant "builders" of her day. This book looks at her life through the prism of the grand houses she built.
Zoe Radley
Bored bored bored... sorry but I thought this was about Bess and her architectural achievements. Nope it’s really about how the author gets off on other people’s hard work with a few mentions now and again of Bess just to remind you that that’s who she is supposed to write about. Cannot finish this.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I am so confused about the people who complain in their reviews about the book being so much about buildings. It literally says in the subtitle ‘Bess of Hardwick and the building of Elizabethan England’. For fuck’s sake people, read the subtitles.

Excellent, excellent text about the period and one of the most powerful women in that time. Review to come.
Andrea Engle
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2019
An engaging biography of Bess of Hardwick, a powerful matriarch of Elizabethan England. ... exceptionally long-lived, Bess outlived four husbands, erected several houses (notably Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth), and amassed a large estate, being a very good business-woman, especially for that day and age ...
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Had not really heard of Bess before and this was an eye opening look at another Elizabethan woman who made her own way. But there’s a lot of laundry lists in the book: accounts of purchases and mundane letters which Hubbard being a dutiful historian hews closely to. But would have liked some more insights into the woman and her motivations.
Gayla Bassham
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe a bit more about house-building than I really wanted, but still a fascinating look at one of the lesser known Tudor figures (and one of the jailers of Mary, Queen of Scots). Bess of Hardwick comes to life as an incredibly complicated and ambitious woman.
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I had expected to skim this book, but it was truly a great read! Brought to life people from the 16th century!
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didn't like it, too dry
rated it did not like it
Jan 07, 2018
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Nov 19, 2019
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Jun 07, 2019
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Aug 11, 2019
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Jun 19, 2019
Lovely Loveday
Devices and Desires by Kate Hubbard is a captivating and intriguing story that is based onmore than 230 of Bess’s letters, including correspondence with the Queen and her councilors, fond (and furious) missives between her husbands and children, and notes sharing titillating court gossip. A story of love, loss, family, and drama. Hubbard writes a story that is sure to take you into a world unlike any other. A world that many willnever experience. Vivid realisticallywritten making you feel as if ...more
Christopher Pierce
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Apr 02, 2019
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May 02, 2019
Marge Malmquist
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Jul 24, 2019
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