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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Elizabeth Talbot

b. circa 1527, Derbyshire, England; d. 1608, Derbyshire, England

Elizabeth Talbot, better known as Bess Hardwick, was born into a moderately prosperous gentry family in Derbyshire. She married four times, each time accruing more wealth and property, until by her death she was one of the richest women in England. A social climber with a talent for intrigue, all of her maneuvering seemed designed to satisfy a desire to build. She was the patron of three major manor houses and many small building projects, each stamped with idiosyncratic touches that indicate a true collaboration with the architect. Hardwick Hall, the enduring monument to her ambitions and the grandest of all the Elizabethan “prodigy houses,” is literally signed by its creator: Bess’ initials appear on the roofline of each of its six towers.