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Mistress of the monarc...
 
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Alison Weir
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Mistress of the monarchy : the life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,980 ratings  ·  255 reviews
In her remarkable new book, Alison Weir recounts one of the greatest 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.

Katherine Swynford’s charismatic lover was one of the most powerful princes of the 14th century, the effective ru...more
Published (first published January 1st 2007)
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Ascexis
I picked up a book thinking huh, Christmas present for my mother, and then somehow it was gone 1 in the morning and I'm still. reading.it.

I read the Anya Seton book, and I knew it probably wasn't quite like that, so when I saw a book on Katherine Swinford I may have pounced on it. I have mixed feelings about it.

Alison Weir takes a very small amount of cloth and cuts an exceedingly large coat from it. The cultural and political stuff is fascinating -- I remember enough from socio-economic history...more
Rachel
Jun 10, 2009 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mary, Clharrop, Meghan
I am a huge fan of Alison Weir. Her writing style is engaging and friendly, and it is obvious she knows her way around the contemporary historical texts concerning her subjects. However, this biography of Katherine Swynford, née de Roët, Duchess of Lancaster, shows without a doubt Weir's talents as a historical researcher, assiduously checking and cross-checking everything available to her in order to get as close to the truth as possible.

Much about Katherine's life must be construed from a tiny...more
Pete daPixie
So who was Katherine Swynford? Most have never heard the name before. She was the daughter of a page from Hainault who arrived in England under the service of Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III. She was brought up in the royal household of Edward & Philippa, married a knight, one Hugh Swynford.
She became the mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt (Ghent). Here is 14th century scandal. However at the courts of Edward III & later Richard II, she was highly thought of. Geoffre...more
Dana Stabenow
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jamie
This is very readable, and it's a nice overview of the life and times of Katherine Swynford. Her story is fascinating, but I must say that Anya Seton's popular novel Katherine is a more satisfying read, for all its inaccuracies.

Apparently very little is actually known about Katherine, and this biography seems to be mostly derived from the surviving records of gifts that were granted to her and her family by various people, primarily John of Gaunt. The book is a constant stream of guesswork: Kath...more
Steven Peterson
This is overall a very satisfying book. The author, Alison Weir, takes what scraps of information we have about Katherine Swynford and creates what is at least a plausible tale of her life and times. In addition, we get a detailed portrait of her lover and, later, husband--John of Gaunt, son of a king and father of kings. Indeed their liaison produced several lines of rulers--York, Lancaster, Tudor, and Stuart/Stewart. Indeed, the last paragraph of the book notes the even more remarkable descend...more
Teresa
I've been reading Alison Weir's history books since 1992, as her topics encompass the historical periods I've been interested in for a long time now. I'm always impressed with her insights (usually each book has a fresh, persuasive interpretation of some long-held belief) and her clarity (I thought The Wars of the Roses would bore me in its details, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Here, I have to say there were times when I was bored, but that was no fault of the author's writing or of her...more
Jane
I think everyone who has read this, me included, was drawn to Katherine's story after reading Anya Seton's novel. While this book contains a few interesting illuminations into this fascinating 14th-century woman, so little is known--and that fact is reflected in the construction of the book. If you take out all the repetitions, I think it would be a third of its current length (how many times were we told that her petitions for a private altar showed her piety and that the petitions were granted...more
Jennifer
This is biography done the old-fashioned way--tracking down every trace of a record and pursuing every obscure sideline. Weir tells the story of Katherine Swynford (c 1350-1403) who had a long affair with John of Gaunt, a younger son of King Edward III, and ultimately married him when they were both well into middle-age (no pun intended). This was a brazen love match in a century when marriage was strictly for political and financial gain and no one expected it to have anything to do with affect...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
I read this hoping to get a clearer picture of Katherine Swynford (of 'Katherine' by Anysa Seton fame).

I ended up with a much clearer sense of John of Gaunt, Henry IV and Edward III. Which is fine, but not what was intended.

So, do I recommend it? If you have an interest in this particular period of history, this may either augment knowledge you already have or give a starting point. If you're looking for the definitive story of Katherine Swynford - I doubt that such a book can now be written. It...more
Joy
Alison Weir was thorough in her search for material on Katherine Swynford. Most of her facts come from financial rolls, since she dismisses contemporary accounts of Katherine, as written by John of Gaunt's many enemies. As Weir shows, this is a reasonable attitude, because of the many demonstrations of love towards Katherine from the royal children for whom she was governess. Clearly she was a woman who attracted good feelings from the people who genuinely knew her.

As Weir recounted the historie...more
Sue Crawford
This is one of her best. Having read Seyton's Katherine first and then Weir's well researched book really made Katherine Swynford come alive and take her place in the extraordinary history of the Plantagenets. Recommend anyone interested in the complex genealogy of the Wars of the Roses read this book.
Wendy
I have just completed this extraordinary piece of gorgeous history about my two favourite historic characters.

Far from feeling disappointed that Alison Weir took a little of the romance out of my favourite historical romance, I was captivated by her scrupulous research and the analytical way she 'proved' (in my opinion) the long lasting love between Kathryn Swynford and John of Gaunt.

In fact Ms.Weir has only strengthened the appeal of this amazing couple. Anya Seton's Katherine was the first tru...more
Marsha
I'm in awe of historians who can take snippets of data from the historical record and extrapolate to give the reader a complete life full of warmth and light. Allison Weir is one of the best of these historians and she did a superior job with the life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster. There is scant official information about women in history and when you're dealing with the fourteenth century, that information is even more rare.

Katherine Swynford was a daughter of a knight from the L...more
Louise Leetch
Mistress of The Monarchy is the actual title of this book.
Alison Weir's historical follow up to Anya Seton's 1954 book which introduced us to the mistress/wife of John of Gaunt. Weir is such a brilliant, thorough historian, I have no doubt this will bring to Katherine Swynford her historical due. She was raised at the court of Edward III and became mother of the Beauforts, the seed of generations of English Kings and Queens as well as seven American presidents (the Bush's included-but don't let...more
Carol Palmer
If you are also interested in "Katherine" by Anya Seton, read that book before reading this book so you won't be distracted by historical inaccuracies in Ms. Seton's novel.

This is an interesting, but somewhat dry telling of the life and times of Katherine Swynford. Sometimes Ms. Weir goes on a tangent about an daughter-in-law or a manor which can be distracting. If I had been her editor, I would have put all the details about various dwellings and churches associated with Katherine Swynford in...more
Rahime
More like 4.5. I really enjoyed this - I had never read Anya Seton's Katherine and had never heard of Katherine Swynford, so it was very interesting. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was that there were a lot of random asides about tangential figures that I found confusing (especially with chronology). Things like 'Later in 1396 So-and-so (someone just mentioned in connection with the main story of the book) would go on to do blah blah blah' that were interesting, but not connected to Ka...more
Hannah
Apart from her stubborn determination to convict Richard III of murdering his nephews, I love reading Alison Weir!

In her latest non-fictional biography of Katherine Swynford, Weir attempts to paint a picture (using very little available factual paint) of the woman who literally changed the course of the British monarchy, and in my opinion, she does a credible job of it. Throughout the 300+ pages, Weir explores the life and times of Katherine Swynford, the daughter of a lowly knight and John of G...more
Kiersten
This book was so frustrating. I felt like I learned hardly anything at all about Kathryn Swynford, even after reading a several-hundred-page book about her. I guess I should have known after the introduction, in which Weir was like, "yeah, there's pretty much no reliable information whatsoever about this woman, but I decided to write a biography of her anyway." I felt much the same way about this book as I did about Weir's biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Weir is so adamant about being 100% ac...more
Wealhtheow
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 Kin...more
Joyce
I've read quite a few biographies by Alison Weir, but this one was very disappointing. Weir is clearly an exhaustive researcher, but what can one do with a personage whose life is largely speculation and gossip in the first place? In a sense, I give the author credit for producing a book in excess of 300 pages based on so few verifiable facts. After a while, I felt annoyed that Weir was only able to write things like: Katherine must have spent that Christmas with her children, or Perhaps Katheri...more
Cheryl
Alison Weir takes what little hard information exists on Katherine Swynford's life and turns it into a gigantic history of the 14th Century, Edward III, Richard II and John of Gaunt. There really isn't all that much here on Katherine; however, Ms. Weir's writing style does make this a great, albeit sometimes confusing, read and she does manage to tease out little details to help create a framework for what Katherine was possibly like. Ms. Weir largely takes most of her information from Froissart...more
Deb
probably, perhaps, the evidence suggests, it is likely that, it is suggested that, the likelihood is, apparently, there is unlikely to have been, it is possible that, it is credible, this may explain why,
this suggests, given that fact that, we might conclude....

We might conclude, based on the text, that there is not, in fact, enough source material to justify a full-length biography of Katherine Swynford. However, because so many people have read Anya Seton's "Katherine" and would buy a book tha...more
Kate Quinn
Katherine Swynford: longtime mistress and third wife of John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III and probably the most powerful private citizen England has ever had. Katherine is the subject of a famous historical fiction book of the same name by Anya Seton, and here she's the subject of a scholarly biography. She's a thin subject for a biography, since nothing written by her has come to us through history, but Alison Weir turns it into a "Katherine and the England she lived in" kind of book, and...more
Milli
Another book by Alison Weir. I always feel like her books are so interesting while reading them, but then I walk away from it and the details just.. slip out. Of course, the eras she writes about are so convoluted with mistresses, marriages, intertwined family lines, and all that jazz, so its bound to get confusing. She goes as good of a job as she can. There isn't much left of Katherine Swynford in history, but this book truly made me realize what an important historical figure she is.
Phil Syphe
Having been absorbed by two of Alison Weir's works of fiction I commenced reading this non-fiction biography of Katherine Swynford with high hopes. Unfortunately, I found this a tedious experience. At times it was engaging but on the whole it read more like an English research essay.

To be fair to the author, she had little to work with, as hardly any conclusive evidence of Katherine Swynford's life has been preserved. This is a great pity, for she is ancestor to many members of European monarchy...more
Bea
Like the Author, I read Anna Selwyn's Novel 'Katherine', a long time ago. And also like the author it made an impression on me which left me with an interest in its heroine.

This book is of the usual standard of scholarship that Alison Weir offers. In this case there are very few direct sources and most of what she writes is inferred from records describing events surrounding Katherine. For me it was a way to learn more about a period i know only slightly. And it follows a life which it would see...more
Elizabeth Moffat
Written very well but it is a shame so little is known about this fascinating woman. Looking forward to reading more of Weir's work and the famous novel Katherine by Anya Seton, I am intrigued!
Honore
Although Alison Weir's research is sometimes suspect (don't read "The Princes in the Tower"!), this is an interesting book.
Julia
The life of Katherine Swynford is a fascinating and mysterious one. Born in what is now Belgium, she actually spent much of her childhood in the English court of Edward III. Widowed in her early 20s, she would become the lifelong mistress of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and brother to the king, sparking one of the most renowned and scandalous love stories in European history. Katherine and her children by John (who would ultimately be legitimized by royal edict) are ancestors of the Yorkist...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alison Weir (born 1951) is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens. She currently lives in Surrey, England, with her two children.

Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her...more
More about Alison Weir...
The Six Wives of Henry VIII Innocent Traitor The Lady Elizabeth The Life of Elizabeth I Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life

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