Harper Academic

Devices and Desires

Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England

by Kate Hubbard

On Sale: 02/26/2019

Price: $29.99

Devices and Desires

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Devices and Desires

Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England

by Kate Hubbard

On Sale: 02/26/2019

Format:

Price: $29.99

About the Book

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 feared Countesses in Elizabethan England—an entrepreneur who built a family fortune, created glorious houses—the last and greatest built as a widow in her 70s—and was deeply involved in matters of the court, including the custody of Mary Queen of Scots.

While Bess cultivated many influential courtiers, she also collected numerous enemies. Her embittered fourth husband once called her a woman of “devices and desires,” while nineteenth-century male historians portrayed her as a monster—”a woman of masculine understanding and conduct, proud, furious, selfish and unfeeling.” In the twenty-first century she has been neutered by female historians who recast her as a soft-hearted sort, much maligned, and misunderstood. As Kate Hubbard reveals, the truth of this highly accomplished woman lies somewhere in between: ruthless and scheming, Bess was sentimental and affectionate as well.

Hubbard draws on more 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. The result is a rich, compelling portrait of a true feminist icon centuries ahead of her time—a complex, formidable, and decidedly modern woman captured in full as never before.

Critical Praise

“Engagingly traces Bess of Hardwick’s astonishing rise, her sometimes fraught experience amid Tudor power struggles, and her legacy as a patron of architecture and the decorative arts…. One of the pleasures of Devices and Desires is Ms. Hubbard’s ability to marry her detailed knowledge of Elizabethan architecture and craftsmanship to her narrative of Bess’s life…. Ms. Hubbard’s chief interest may lie in Bess’s building work and domestic arrangements, but she deals deftly with the treacherous politics of the time. He research has been deep and, one thinks, deeply enjoyable. So is her book.” - Wall Street Journal

“Succeed[s] in painting a dynamic portrait of Bess’s life, using letters and other sources to give it colour…. Hubbard makes creative use of often overlooked sources, such as lists of purchases, to flesh out Bess’s daily life and surroundings, and how she sought to shape both. The fascinating relationship between Bess’s biography and her building projects is also brought to the fore…. Bess of Hardwick emerges from Devices and Desires as a fascinating and influential woman well deserving of many historians’ attention.” - BBC History

“A brisk, perceptive portrait of a formidable Elizabethan woman.” - Kirkus

“Probing, buoyant.” - Booklist

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062302991
  • ISBN 10: 006230299X
  • Imprint: Harper
  • On Sale: 02/26/2019
  • Trimsize: 6.000 in (w) x 9.000 in (h) x 1.245 in (d)
  • Pages: 384
  • List Price: $29.99
  • BISAC1 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Women
  • BISAC2 : HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
  • BISAC3 : BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Historical