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  • ID 246: 19 June 1569, Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury) to William Cecil. SP (Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots), II, p. 654. Bess writes 'at night' from Wingfield to inform Cecil that her husband, the earl of Shrewsbury, was taken ill that afternoon ('is fallen into extreme sicknes') with a severe attack of the arthritic or rheumatic condition Shrewsbury himself refers to as 'gout'. She trusts he will inform Queen Elizabeth and make provision for their 'charg' (i.e. Mary, Queen of Scots) in case Shrewsbury should have a relapse. She reassures him that the usual order of 'watching and warding' the Scots Queen will continue even 'more diligentlie' until she hears Queen Elizabeth's instructions. Material features: scribal (secretary hand), signed by Bess, sent, endorsed.
  • ID 247: 26 June 1569, Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury) to William Cecil. SP (Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots), II, p. 655. This is one of two letters sent by Bess from Wingfield this day to Cecil (see also ID 248). She informs him that her husband, the earl of Shrewsbury, is now in a much more 'comfortable state of helthe and strength' after his severe attack of gout (see ID 246). Shrewsbury, she adds, was glad that the man appointed to attend on standby was their neighbour Sir John Zouch. She closes with reassurance to Cecil she will inform him of any developments by her 'humble letters', which she will write 'as plainly and briefly as I can'. A postscript offers further reassurance: Shrewsbury, Bess reports, 'loketh nowe to this charge himself' (i.e. checks on the Scots Queen himself) and gives orders 'as quietlie and diligentlie as ever he did'. Material features: scribal (secretary hand), apparently sent, however, the page is torn in half and the endorsement and signature (if any) are now lost.
  • ID 248: 26 June 1569, Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury) to William Cecil. SP (Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots), II, p. 655. This is one of two letters sent by Bess from Wingfield this day to Cecil (see also ID 247). She informs him that her husband 'dothe daylie recover' from his 'cruel disease' (the arthritic or rheumatic condition often referred to by Shrewsbury himself as 'gout') and only has a slight pain in his left arm. She trusts always that God will 'defend me ... against ... malice'. She thanks Cecil for his 'frendlye admonicion' to her to remember her duty, adding that she knows it to be out of his 'good will', 'without all cause of suspicion' and that he is her 'singular good frend'. Material features: entirely scribal (italic hand) including the signature, sent, traces of wax, endorsed.
  • ID 249: 22 October 1571, Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury) to William Cecil, Lord Burghley. SP (Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots), IV, p. 17. Written from Chatsworth, a reply to Burghley's letter ID 225, i.e. the letter in which Burghley asks Bess to tell him 'the truth of the matter' in relation to Hersy Lassels's accusations against her following the arrest of the Duke of Norfolk. Lassels had been implicated in suspicious dealings with the Scots Queen, particularly in relation to schemes to marry the Duke of Norfolk, and claimed to have been doing so with Bess's knowledge. Bess's letter opens with an explanation for her delay in replying, least Burghley should think the delay indicate a 'lack of goodwill' on her part. Burghley's letter (ID 225) had been written nine days earlier, on 13 October, and, although addressed to Bess and marked 'haste haste haste', had nevertheless, as Bess explains, gone first to her husband, the earl of Shrewsbury, and had only come into Bess's own hands after Shrewsbury had received it and answered it himself, on 20 October (Shrewsbury's answer, which defends Bess's innocence against Lassels's charge, can be found at SP [Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots], IV, p. 16). In the main part of the letter, Bess recounts her various conversations with Lassels in as much detail as she can remember. For example, one time Lassels had revealed to Bess the Scots Queen's promise to make him a lord, and Bess had warned him to 'beware of' being abused. Another time, he had told Bess of the Scots Queen's 'familiar talk' with him regarding the Duke of Norfolk, to which Bess had 'warned him again more earnestly'. Bess explains that as soon as she and her husband Shrewsbury perceived Lassels's 'mind to be so fondly ocupied' with the Scots Queen that he had become a potential danger and security threat, he was dispatched from their service. Bess closes her letter with an explicit statement that she knew nothing of any dealings between the Scots Queen and the Duke of Norfolk, either by Lassels or any other. Material features: entirely scribal (italic hand) including the signature, sent, endorsed.
  • ID 250: 1 February 1571/2, Elizabeth I to Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury). SP (Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots), IV, p. 109. Elizabeth I writes to express her thanks and appreciation of Bess's faithful good service. The Queen says that even though Bess may already be satisfied with the royal thanks sent through her husband Shrewsbury, yet she wanted to add further assurances, directly to Bess herself, in the form of these few lines. The Queen adds that although there may have been circumstances that led to some doubt, early on, as to Bess's 'lack of care' about the 'charge committed' to her husband (i.e. the keeping of the Scots Queen), yet the Queen is now fully assured of Bess's faithfulness and loyalty and Bess will therefore find her to be 'a friendly good mistress'. The letter follows the period when Ralph Sadler was appointed by Queen Elizabeth to take Shrewsbury's place at Sheffield Castle, while Shrewsbury himself was away at Westeminster to attend the trial of the Duke of Norfolk. The reports written by Sadler during January 1571/2 praise Shrewsbury and his countess, Bess, for their careful commitment to their roles as custodians of the Scots Queen. Sadler particularly mentions Bess's continual attendance on the Scots Queen during his own period at the Castle. Material features: draft, written in Burghley's hand.
  • ID 251: 5 August 1586, the earl of Shrewsbury to Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury). HMC (Salisbury), III, p. 163. Written from Chelsea, a reply to ID 202, i.e. the letter from his wife, Bess (countess of Shrewsbury), sent the previous day from Richmond. Shrewsbury addresses Bess's letter point by point. He expresses his conviction that she should be far more grateful than she is for all he has done for her during their marriage, both financially and socially. He clarifies how he sees the terms of their marital reconciliation by the Queen, and rehearses the various ways he regards himself to have been dishonoured and disobeyed by his wife, Bess. He states explicitly (twice) that if she wishes to return to him she must first confess her offences and openly state that she is 'heartily sorry', and must do so 'in writing, and upon your knees (without either if or and)'. Material features: endorsed scribal copy.
  • ID 252: 13 August 1586, Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury) to William Cecil, Lord Burghley. HMC (Salisbury), III, p. 167. Bess sends one of her sons to Burghley to present him with a gift (a 'small tryffel') and this letter, in which she urges him to grant her suit. Material features: not yet available.
  • ID 253: Lambeth Palace Library, Talbot Papers MS 3199, 17 (formerally MS H). Gilbert Talbot and Henry Cavendish to George, sixth early of Shrewsbury and Bess of Hardwick (countess of Shrewsbury). Written during their 'tour', 1570s.
Author(s): Alison Wiggins, May 2014


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'Bess of Hardwick's Letters' was developed by The University of Glasgow with technical development provided by The Humanities Research Institute at The University of Sheffield
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