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Katherine Swynford by Alison Weir

Katherine Swynford (2008)

by Alison Weir

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7943316,739 (3.68)21
  1. 40
    Katherine by Anya Seton (avalon_today)
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    The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain (ccrown)
    ccrown: history of the Plantagenets
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    The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain (ccrown)
    ccrown: history of the Plantagenets (trilogy)

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How to write about a woman who left no written word, no quoted phrase, no portrait? Alison Weir tries to do just that and does it mostly by filling in the negative space around Katherine Swynford. While interesting because it deals with a turbulent and complicated time period and arguably one of the most influential families in history, most of what is actually revealed about Katherine herself is limited to what gifts she received and the properties she acquired, and when, and what other historians have thought about this or that despite being wrong because... At times it is fascinating and at times the family trees hidden away in the back of the book are easier to follow and just as informative. I applaud the author for her courage at tackling such a daunting subject, but when it comes down to it, so much is speculation! All of the "she may have been at such and such event, but then again, maybe she was at such and such place instead" gets really old. In the end we really get more of a picture of John of Gaunt than anyone. Can you write a book about someone for whom there is almost no information and yet stick to the facts? After reading this, I'd say the answer is that you can try but you will end up with a book about whoever the majority of the facts are actually about. ( )
  aurelas | Dec 23, 2016 |
We don't know when Katherine Swynford was born, how many siblings she had, what she looked like, what she wrote or spoke like, what her seal looked like, or why she died. In fact, she is a complete cypher to the 21st century. Weir does the best she can to piece together what few documents and sketches of long-gone monuments that are left to give us clues, but there is very little to work with. Katherine was the mistress, and then third wife, of John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III, uncle to King Richard II, and father of King Henry IV). Her illegitimate (although later legitimized) children by John, the Beauforts, were the ancestors of rulers of Scotland, England, and Aragon.

This book helped me understand fourteenth century European politics and the eventual Wars of the Roses, but unfortunately, I still know as little about Katherine as I did at the start. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
An excellent read.
A descriptive, detailed biography of the ancestor to the house of Tudor,
York and Stuart.
The enduring love story of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.
(Duke and Duchess of Lancaster) ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 25, 2016 |
This was a wonderful and rare nonfiction love story from the medieval times. As always, Alison Weir does a fabulous job presenting thorough research in an interesting, narrative-like manner. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This was a wonderful and rare nonfiction love story from the medieval times. As always, Alison Weir does a fabulous job presenting thorough research in an interesting, narrative-like manner. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
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This book is dedicated to
Bruce and Sandy,
Peter and Karen,
John and Joanna
To Mark Their Marriages.
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I have used the form "Katherine" (rather than "Catherine") throughout, as Katherine's name is usually spelled with a K in contemporary sources.
This is a love story, one of the greatest and most remarkable love stories of medieval England. It is the extraordinary tale of an exceptional woman, Katherine Swynford, who became first the mistress and later the wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, one of the outstanding princes of the high Middle Ages.
Spring 1378
In March 1378, putting aside "all shame of man and fear of God," John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the mightiest subject in the realm of England, was to be seen riding around his estates in Leicestershire "with his unspeakable concubine, a certain Katherine Swynford." Not only was the Duke brazenly parading his beautiful mistress for everyone to see, but he was "holding her bridle in public," a gesture that proclaimed to all his possession of her, for it implied that the rider thus led was a captive, in this case one who had surrendered her body, if not her heart. And as if this were not shocking enough, the fact that the Duke was flaunting his mistress "in the presence of his own wife" created a scandal that would soon spread throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom and beyond. Even today, echoes of that furor still reverberate in the pages of history books.
Panetto's Daughter
Katherine Swynford, that "famous adulteress,"¹ was set on the path to notoriety, fame, and a great love at the tender age of two or therabouts, when she was placed in the household of Philippa of Hainault, wife to Edward III of England. This would have been around 1352, and Katherine's dispositon with the popular and maternal Philippa was almost certainly due to her father, Sir Paon de Roët, having tendered years of faithful service to the Queen and the royal family of Hainault.
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Historian Alison Weir brings to life the tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became a crucial figure in the British royal dynasties. Born in the mid-14th century, Katherine experienced the Hundred Years' War, the Black Death, and the Peasants' Revolt, and crossed paths with many eminent figures, among them her brother-in-law, Geoffrey Chaucer. At age ten, she was appointed to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III; at twelve, she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. Widowed at 21, Katherine, gifted with beauty and charms, later became John of Gaunt's mistress. Throughout their illicit union, John and Katherine were devoted to each other. In middle age, after many twists of fortune, they wed, and her children by John, the Beauforts, would become direct forebears of the Royal Houses of York, Tudor, and Stuart, and of every British sovereign since 1461 (as well as four U.S. presidents).--From publisher description.… (more)

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