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Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress
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Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  255 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Katherine Swynford -- sexual temptress or powerful woman at the centre of the medieval court? This book unravels the many myths and legacies of this fascinating woman, to show her in a whole new life. Katherine was sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer and governess to the daughters of Blanche of Lancaster and John of Gaunt. She also became John of Gaunt's mistress -- a role t ...more
ebook, 373 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by History Press (SC) (first published August 1st 2006)
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Wife to the son of a king, mother of numerous important people and the ancestress of many of the royal houses of Europe, Katherine Swynford is someone whose importance to history is not reflected in the documents and written record of the time she lived. No letters written by her survive and not even her testament has come down to us. Her grave seems to have been a relatively modest affair, even before it was partially destoyed in the seventeenth century.

I think Jeannette Lucraft is right to em
Nov 27, 2010 Joy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lucraft's study of Katherine Swynford was an award-winning academic paper which ended up published. The author's purpose was to find the personality of Katherine in the barren contemporary sources. For me her approaches worked. Her reasoning is laid open in chapters that consider church chroniclers, social conventions, religious preferences, and what she calls "medieval spin" -- image presentation. I am left with the feeling of having read balanced good sense.
This is a nonfiction book about Katherine, the long time mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt. However it is not a biography that gives timely description of Katherine’s life; it’s more like a dissertation. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or not interesting – quite the contrary. The author analyzes historical references to Katherine in the contemporary and later sources and I find her conclusions and assertions there overall well founded. The Katherine/St Katherine line and the Camilla parallels ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]A fairly short book, with a bit of a sense of PhD thesis pushed into book form, looking at the life and historical treatment of Katherine Swynford, John of Gaunt's lover and later his wife in the late 14th century. The core facts are interesting enough - her father appears to have been a Flemish mercenary, but she moved comfortably in royal circles and her sister married Geoffrey Chaucer, and her love affair with Gaunt was publicly acknow ...more
I think this deserves 3.5 (sometimes a girl needs a half) but since that's not possible, 3 it is.

I found this a very enjoyable and thought provoking look at a woman who could easily have been lost to history. Not one word of hers is known to have survived: no will and testament; no diary; no letter. Frustratingly, therefore, we must look at her reflection in those around her and this is the task Lucraft sets herself. In this, I believe she has been largely successful. Clearly, in order to become
I wavered back and forth on this rating. Probably the fairest would be a 3.5 or about there, but let's round up because we're feeling generous.

The pros: This is a well researched book on not only Katherine, but also the world she lived in and the pressures she faced. Honestly, we just can't know a lot about her. Women were not written about a lot. If it wasn't for Anya Seton's bio on KS, we would probably ignore her as well--but a best seller will do that for a girl. Who doesn't love the tale of
An excellent take on an intriguing woman. It's a bit odd, at first glance, with a book about a person where her (or his, but in this case her) life is dealt with on the first 16 pages of a biography about someone. In this case it isn't really odd - because there is precious little hard historical records about this woman, and what is known is here presented as a background for this study. In short, it is not a biography in the conventional sense, where the book starts with the birth and ends wit ...more
Meghan Monahan
May 12, 2015 Meghan Monahan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This history about Katherine Swynford is just what has been missing from the lexicon of medieval England. Lucraft's well-researched biography sheds light on one of England's most forgotten matriarchs. Katherine's story is compelling and Lucraft uses her rich storytelling skills to share it.
Elisa Santiesteban
Qué difícil tarea la de retratar a un personaje del que sólo hay fuentes indirectas. Aún despojada del encanto con la que la imaginación de Seton la envuelve en su clásica biografía, el estricto trabajo de investigación que aquí presenta la autora, nos deja ver la misma Katherine Swynford: valiente, inteligente, altamente instruida, prudente, carismática y bella, todos estos atributos en superlativo. No podía ser de otra manera una niña de indiferente cuna que lograría superar el estigma de un a ...more
Joanna Arman
May 15, 2017 Joanna Arman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rare but eminently worthwhile book. The style and extensive examination of primary sources might not appeal to the general reader, but for its worth persevering. Reveals a lot about this remarkable woman and her family, and also cuts through some of the nonsense currently circulating about John of Gaunt.
This read like someone's history thesis.

It's not a bad read overall - the history, from what I know of the period, makes sense, and the dive into the historiography, and how to DO history about someone who has left no direct sources, was interesting.

There were a couple of places where it desperately needed an editor - one where the same sentence was repeated within a page of itself, and another where an entire paragraph was repeated about 100 pages on from where it was originally.

I don't know
Realizing that there are not enough details for a full biography of Katherine Swynford, mistress and then wife of John of Gaunt in the fourteenth century, Lucraft instead investigates Katherine's history: not just the details of her life, but her place in her times. She looks at the depiction of Katherine by sources from her own time to the present, separating fact from conjecture, and discusses how Katherine may have chosen to present herself and her own image, notably through her association w ...more
Jun 15, 2011 Éowyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not a bad book, but there's just so little really known about Katherine Swynford there's hardly enough to make a biography out of! I finished this feeling I had learned more about Margery Kempe than I had about Katherine Swynford. There were also several times when I found text repeated almost verbaitm from one section to another.
Not a bad book, just not very informative. I am not sure any non-fiction bio of Katherine Swynford can tell us very much, as she didn't leave a great deal of information behind her. We can imagine so much more, and to me historical fiction novels on this subject are so much more satisfying.
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Jeannette Lucraft is a graduate of the University of Huddersfield, where she was awarded a first class history degree. She lives in West Yorkshire.
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