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

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  172 ratings  ·  11 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
Published 2010 by Stroud: History (first published August 1st 2006)
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As I'm studying Women in the Later Middle Ages, I thought this book would come in useful. I had seen some negative reviews of Alison Weir's book, so (perhaps unfairly) avioded it and opted for this one which has a more academic tone.

I knew of Katherine of course as the long term mistress, and later wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and the mother of his Beaufort children, and so ultimately, a progenitor of Henry Tudor. After reading this, I think it could be said I have a newfound- admi
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 The author analyzes historical references to Katherine in the contemporary and later sources and I find her conclusions and assertions there overall well founded.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
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.
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
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
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
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
Meghan Monahan
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.
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
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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