Bluestalking Reader has recently read Katherine by Anya Seton as one of her books in the From the Bookstacks Challenge and this brought back happy memories of this book which I first read when I was 14 and which totally enthralled me. The description of John of Gaunt with his 'red gold hair' and 'leonine grace' just thrilled me to the marrow. Along with Gone with the Wind, it was one of those books you read when a teenager which you may never read again, but which stay with you for ever. It was not till years later that I found out that Katherine Swynford really existed. Her husband, Hugh Swynford, is made out to be a bit of a country bumpkin in the book, but as he was an English Knight with his own manor, he cannot have been quite as portrayed by Anya Seton. Katherine was only 16 when she married him and this marriage was regarded as a great step up for her.
Hugh died in the European wars and Katherine became governess to the children of John of Gaunt, though of course in reality she was his official mistress. Her eventual marriage to the Duke, after giving him four children (the 'Beauforts'), legitimised her offspring and placed her in the very centre of royal life and influence. By this marriage we see that her son John became the great-grandfather of Henry VII of England and her daughter Joan, was the grandmother of Edward IV and Richard III who Henry defeated to take the throne (my horse! My horse! My kingdom for a horse! Sorry thought I would just show off a bit and throw that quote in......) Katherine Swynford thus became the founder of a distinguished royal line, after starting out as an insignificant and lowly member of the royal court who just happened to catch the eye of the mighty Duke of Lancaster.
I have often wished that somebody would write a biography of Katherine but have never found one and then, by the usual serendipity that always happens, one has just popped up. I did a Google search and found that Sutton Publishing have a book in their catalogue by Jeanette Lucraft, and it had literally just been published the week before I started looking for it. It goes without saying this is now in my possession and I am going to add this to my From the Bookstacks Challenge in order to stop it even reaching and staying on my To be Read Pile. Medieval history is not my period so it will be interesting as well as educational, to learn a little more of this time.
Oh and by the way: Katherine's coat of arms displayed three gold "Catherine Wheels" on a gold background. So now you know where they originated. And she also had Chaucer for a brother-in-law.....