Posted by Jill S.
Mistress of the Monarchy, The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir
You may ask, Who is Katherine Swynford? She lived in the 14th century and became the mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt , Duke of Lancaster (son of King Edward III). Every English monarch since 1461 is her descendant along with Winston Churchill, Princess Diana and 5 American Presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush).
For a woman in the 14th century, Katherine lived a fascinating life. She was accused of being a whore and a witch, but she still lived her life on her own terms and married the man she loved. She is a fascinating woman, and Alison Weir’s research gives us unique insights into the life of a medieval woman.
I have always been fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I and her lifelong relationship with Robert Dudley. Elizabeth clearly had good reasons to fear marriage considering that her father went through 6 wives and had her own mother beheaded. From the books I have read, I have always thought that Elizabeth did love Dudley and would have married him if it were possible to do so and retain her power and the respect and good favor of her people. More important to her though was her role as Queen. This is not a biography of Elizabeth’s life but rather the story of the relationship between the Queen and her favorite over the course of their lives. You may think a history book cannot be enthralling, but this one is!
What kind of a woman could keep Henry VIII’s interest for 7 years without consummating the relationship? What was it about Anne that drove Henry to do anything to marry her? He spent years exploring every option and finally ended up causing an international scandal by leaving the Catholic Church and founding the Church of England so he could marry Anne, only to accuse her of adultery and incest 3 years later and have her beheaded. Eric Ives’ biography is very detailed and paints a vivid picture of Anne’s tragically short life while capturing her intelligence, spirit and courage.