Bess of Hardwick – born between 13 February 1521 – 12 February 1522

When was Bess of Hardwick born? Our county editor thinks it was sometime between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522, not as some others have it in 1527. We take a look at the evidence in this short blog.

Bess is probably the third most famous Englishwoman of her age after Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. Bess is, of course, particularly, associated with Hardwick Hall.

Though there’s no shortage of books on Bess of Hardwick, there has been some conjecture, over a long period, on just when she was born, most quoting 1527. Our VCH county editor, Philip Riden, who has extensively researched the issue, is certain, though, that she was born between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522.

It’s widely known that Bess of Hardwick had four husbands ending with George Talbot 6th earl of Shrewsbury, who died in 1590 – hence the ES emblazoned extensively on Hardwick new hall. She died in 1608.
The impressive monument to Bess of Hardwick in Derby Cathedral. It was designed by Bess in her lifetime. For some years it was thought that her age inscribed on the monument was incorrect, but our county editor believes that its does carry the correct information. The banner sited adjacent to the monument, which gives her birth as 1527, is therefore incorrect.

Philip presents his argument in an article in the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal (DAJ) of 2010 ‘The Hardwicks of Hardwick Hall in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries’. You can directly download the article as a pdf via the link here. Look for the final paragraph on page 150 onwards, which presents a reasoned argument for her birthdate. Since publication in 2010 we are not aware of anyone who has presented alternative evidence. So, we are sticking with a birthdate in between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522.

You can find out more about Bess and the Hardwick estate in our paperback book ‘Hardwick a great house and its estate’ though this is now out of print, you may be able to obtain copies second-hand.

Our County Editor’s article in the Derbyshire Archaeological Society’s Journal of 2010 presented a reasoned argument as to why Bess of Hardwick was born between 13 February 1521 and 12 February 1522 and not in 1527.

Philip has extensively researched the Hardwick family at Hardwick Hall and published a number of articles on the family and their descendants. In the 1980s, with David Durrant, he published building accounts for Hardwick Hall. More recently his work in the archives at Chatsworth has enabled him to publish (again in two parts), household accounts of William Cavendish of Hardwick (1597-1607) all for the Derbyshire Record Society. His latest DAJ article on the family – ‘The household accounts of the Cavendish family of Hardwick’ – was in 2016.

(If the above link to the 2010 DAJ article does not work try selecting his the article from the contents page here:…/vi…/daj/contents.cfm… )

This is a revised and updated version of a blog originally posted in January 2021.

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