Bess of Hardwick was a master at creating wealth and moving up in society. By the time Bess was 13, she was married for the first time and had begun what would become a life of upward mobility and increasing wealth through marriage. Bess married well and always married up, increasing her wealth, status and power in society.
Husbands of Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury
Bess was married four times throughout her life. At the end of each marriage, she found herself with more money or more land.
When Bess was 13, she married Robert Barlow, whom she met while working on the neighboring farm. Barlow was ill when the couple married, and very soon after the wedding he died, leaving one-third of his income to Bess.
About seven years later, Bess remarried Sir William Cavendish when she was 20 years old. The couple had eight children together. Cavendish died in 1557. With his death, Bess became a landowner.
In 1559 Bess married Sir William St. Loe, whom she met while she was a lady-in-waiting to the queen. When St. Loe died, Bess gained even more property, as he left all of his land to Bess.
Later, Bess married George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1590 Talbot died, leaving Bess with even more land and a large widow’s jointure.
Bess Becomes Second Richest Woman in England
Within 10 years of Talbot’s death, Bess was earning more than 10,000 pounds a year from all of her lands. At the time of her death in 1608, Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury was the second richest woman in England, only to the queen.
Read more about Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury and her life.