Monday, December 7, 2015

Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Ro√ęt was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John's mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.

I found it very interesting to read this biography of Katherine Swynford just after having read the historical novel about the same woman written by Anya Seton.  Their interpretation of the life of Katherine was not exactly alike.  One of the very interesting things in Alison Weir's biography is the examination of some of Geoffrey Chaucer's works for possible references that would add to the understanding of how Katherine might have looked or her life in general.  Geoffrey Chaucer was brother-in-law to Katherine.  I particularly have enjoyed Alison Weir's explanation of how she looked at various clues and why she interpreted each clue in the way that she did.  Her historical detective work is fascinating.  I read this book via