Monday, 13 April 2009

Katherine Swynford

I've just finished reading Alison Weir's biography of Katherine Swynford: the story of John of Gaunt and his scandalous Duchess. A lovely absorbing read, about a medieval woman of repute. Like many people, including the author herself, I first came across Katherine Swynford in Anya Seton's novel Katherine, which I read as a teenager, and still have an ancient yellowing copy on my bookshelves, complete with bodice-ripper type cover. I haven't read it for ages, but did read and re-read it several times in the past. Alison Weir's book goes back to the original medieval sources, but despite their lack of mention of Katherine at times, nevertheless there is enough material to build a convincing picture of an woman, who despite being of relatively humble birth, managed to become one of the most important women in the history of the monarchy in Britain, and from whom other world leaders are descended. Katherine was fortunate enough to mix among people who encouraged women to be educated, interested in literature, music and also be able to manage an estate, as she had to when her husband Sir Hugh Swynford was away fighting with his overlord, John of Gaunt in France. I really enjoyed this read, as it put the flesh on to the bare bones of the story that I remember, and made Katherine come alive again.

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