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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

"Katherine Swynford" by Alison Weir

Kathryn Swynford was a penniless orphan from Hainault in modern-day Belgium who was brought up at the court of Edward III (his wife was from Hainault) and became the mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the richest and most powerful of the King's sons. Her husband's son by his first wife usurped the throne from his cousin, Richard II, and founded the Lancaster dynasty leading to Henry V and Henry VI. Other John of Gaunt children became the ancestors of other European royal families inclduing the Spanish and the Portuguese. But the children Kathryn had out of wedlock with John of Gaunt, who were later legitimised by the marriage and Act of Parliament, became the Beauforts who were the ancestors of the Tudors and the Stuarts and thus today's royal family. Furthermore, Kathryn's sister married Geoffrey Chaucer. So Kathryn stands at a pivotal moment in English history. She survived the Black Death and the Peasants' Revolt and lived to become (Step)Mother of the King.

And she seems to have been a thoroughly nice woman too! She was beautiful, she was well-educated and intelligent and she certainly knew how to bring up children. Sounds like my wonderful wife!

On the whole this is a well-written book. I was amazed that so many facts could be gleaned from so long ago, mostly from records of grants, from charters and from household accounts. In many cases the facts are suppositions (if someone receives wine as a gift they must be still alive, when they stop drawing their annuity they must have died) but the reconstruction is impressive. But. It does slow down the narrative when we are told exactly what the evidence is for each piece of the jigsaw. I almost wanted a slimmer narrative backed up by copious footnotes that I could have skipped. But that is not the fashion with biographies today.

Almost my favourite bit was the genealogical tables at the back which proved very useful.

Other books on this blog linked to this period include:





Worth reading. July 2015; 282 pages

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