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Who that has exulted over the heroic reign of our gorgeous Elizabeth, or wept over the fate of Mary Stuart, but will remember the name of the only woman whose high and baughty spirit outfaced the lion port of one queen, and whose audacity trampled over the sorrows of the other
“ Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride?”
But this is anticipation. If it be so laudable, according to the excellent, oft quoted advice of the giant Moulineau, to begin at the beginning, * what must it be to improve upon the precept? for so, in relating the fallen and fading glories of Hardwicke, do I intend to exceed even "mon ami le Belier," in historic. accuracy, and take up our tale at a period ere Hardwicke itself -the Hardwicke that now stands—had a be. ginning
* “ Belier! mon ami ! commence par le commencement? Contes de Hamilton.
There lived, then, in the days of queen Bess, a woman well worthy to be her majesty's namesake, Elizabeth Hardwicke, more commonly called, in her own country, Bess of Hardwicke, and distinguished in the page of history as the old Countess of Shrewsbury,
She resembled Queen Elizabeth in all her best and worst qualities, and, putting royalty out of the scale, would certainly have been more than a match for that sharp-witted virago, in subtlety of intellect, and intrepidity of temper and manner.
She was the only daughter of John Hardwicke, of Hardwicke,* and being early left an orphan and an heiress, was married ere she was fourteen, to a certain Master Robert Barley, who was about her own age. Death dissolved this premature union within a few months, but her hus
* A nianor situated on the borders of Derbyshire, between Chesterfield and Mansfield.
bạnd's large estates had been settled on her and her heirs; and at the age of fifteen, dame Elizabeth was a blooming widow, amply dowered with fair and fertile lands, and free to bestow her hand again where she listed.
Suitors abounded, of course: but Elizabeth, it should seem, was hard to please. She was beautiful, if the annals of her family say true, -she had wit, and spirit, and, above all, an infinite love of independence. After taking the management of her property into her own hands, she for some time reigned and revelled (with all decorum be it understood) in what might be truly termed, a state of single blessedness; but at length, tired of being lord and lady too—"master o'er her vassals,” if not exactly “queen o'er herself”—she thought fit, having reached the discreet age of four-and-twenty, to bestow her hand on Sir William Cavendish. man of substance and power, already enriched by vast grants of abbey lands in the time of Henry VIII.,* all which, by the marriage con
* The Cavendishes were originally of Suffolk. Whether this William Cavendish was the same who was gentleman usber and secretary to Cardinal Wolsey, is, I believe, a disputed point. VOL II.
tract, were settled on the lady. After this marriage, they passed some years in retirement, having the wisdom to keep clear of the political storms and factions which intervened between the death of Henry VIII, and the accession of Mary, and yet the sense to profit by them. While Cavendish, taking advantage of those troublous times, went on adding manor after manor to his vast possessions, dame Elizabeth was busy providing heirs to inherit them; she became the mother of six hopeful children, who were destined eventually to found two illustrious dukedoms, and mingle blood with the oldest nobility of England—nay, with royalty itself. “Moreover," says the family chronicle, “the said dame Elizabeth persuaded her husband, out of the great love he had for her, to sell his estates in the south and purchase lands in her native county of Derby, wherewith to endow her and her children, and at her farther persuasion he began to build the noble seat of Chatsworth, but left it to her to complete, he dying about the year 1559."
Apparently this second experiment in matrimony pleased the lady of Hardwicke better
than the first, for she was not long a widow. We are not in this case informed how longher biographer having discreetly left it to our imagination; and the Peerages, though not in general famed for discretion on such points, have in this case affected the same delicate uncertainty. However this may be, she gave her hand, after no long courtship, to Sir William St. Loo, captain of Elizabeth's guard, and then chief butler of England -a man equally distinguished for his fine person and large possessions, but otherwise not superfluously gifted by nature. So well did the lady manage him, that with equal hardihood and rapacity, she contrived to have all his "fair lordships in Gloucestershire and elsewhere” settled on herself and her children, to the manifest injury of St. Loo's own brothers, and his daughters by a former union: and he dying not long after without any issue by her, she made good her title to his vast estates, added them to her own, and they became the inheritance of the Cavendishes.
But three husbands, six children, almost boundless opulence, did not yet satisfy this extraordinary woman-for extraordinary she