Published date: 21 December 2012

Elizabeth, countess of Shrewsbury (c1522-1608), known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’, is one of Elizabethan England’s most famous figures. She is renowned as a matriarch and dynast and perhaps best known as the builder of Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth House. The story of her life as told to date typically emphasises: her rise through the ranks of society; her four husbands, each wealthier than the last; and her ambitious agrandisement of her family. Yet this biographical portrayal, which has been told repeatedly since the 17th century, takes little account of her more than 230 letters – most of which have not been considered by, or even accessible to, historians.

Dr Alison Wiggins repositions Bess as a complex woman of her times, immersed in the literary and textual practices of everyday life as she weaves a web of correspondence that stretches from friends and family, to Queens and officers of states.

Dr Alison Wiggins is Senior Lecturer in English Language at the University of Glasgow, with interests in medieval and Renaissance language and literature. Since 2008 she has been directing the AHRC Letters of Bess of Hardwick Project, which will provide a freely accessible online edition of Bess’s correspondence. Her book Bess of Hardwick: Reading and Writing Renaissance Letters was published by Ashgate in 2013. Her recent publications include The Romance of the Middle Ages (2012 Bodleian Library), co-authored with Nicholas Perkins.

Author: Dr Alison Wiggins Duration: 41:31

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...
  1. 23 December 2012
    12:45 am

    Mary S Lovell

    I am sure this will be fascinating, but I should like to correct your blurb by pinting out that I had access to rather more than 300 letters to, from and about Bess of Hardwick, which I used in the production of my biography of her pubished some years ago, still in print, and still selling well.

Leave a comment


You can find help on how to download and listen to our podcasts in our quick guide to getting started. If you wish to re-use any part of a podcast, please note that copyright in the podcasts and transcripts in some cases belongs to the speakers, not to the Crown. Please contact the Copyright Officer with queries. If commenting, please be aware of our moderation policy.


Select an option to receive our free podcast series, using either RSS or iTunes. See our help guide for more information on podcast subscription.