Bess of Hardwick was one of the most extraordinary figures of Elizabethan England. She was born the daughter of a country squire. But by the end of her long life (which a recent redating of her birth suggests was even longer than previously thought) she was the richest woman in England outside the royal family, had risen to the rank of countess and seen two of her daughters do the same and had built one of the major 'prodigy houses' of the period. While married to her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, she had been jailer to Mary, Queen of Scots, and her granddaughter by her second marriage, Lady Arbella Stuart, was of royal blood and might have succeeded to the throne of England. This wide-ranging collection brings out the full range of her activities and impact. -- .