Katherine Swynford: how a Duke's Mistress became the ancestor of royalty

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Katherine Swynford

Royal, handsome, intelligent, athletic, powerful and wealthy, John of Gaunt strode across the stage of 14th century England in a blaze of charisma.

He was the son of an English King, Edward III, and the father of another, Henry IV. His legitimate daughters married into the royal families of Portugal and Spain, and were Queens and the mothers of Kings.

John of Gaunt's power and wealth were greatly enhanced by two very advantageous marriages, but he made the most of all the opportunities which came his way.

As a young man, he married the heiress Blanche of Lancaster. Through her, he became Duke of Lancaster and the wealthiest man in England.

Together they had three children, including Henry Bollingbroke, the future Henry IV.


Katherine Swynford's tomb

The joint tomb of Katherine and her daughter, Joan Beaufort, in Lincoln Cathedral. This is a 17th century drawing.
The joint tomb of Katherine and her daughter, Joan Beaufort, in Lincoln Cathedral. This is a 17th century drawing.
This sketch shows the chantry built around Katherine's tomb. A drawing by John Buckley, dated 1809.
This sketch shows the chantry built around Katherine's tomb. A drawing by John Buckley, dated 1809.

After Blanche's death from the Plague, John of Gaunt married Constance of Castile, the usurped and exiled heir to the throne of Castile. He claimed the Crown of Castile by right of his wife.

In his old age, John of Gaunt married for a third time. No Duchess or Queen this time, rather he married his long-term mistress.

Katherine Swynford was the daughter of an obscure, lowly knight, and the widow of another.

She was also the mother of John of Gaunt's four bastard children, the Beauforts.

From this unlikely couple came the House of Tudor - Henry VII's mother was Margaret Beaufort.

This hub is the extraordinary story of how, in an age where rank and virtue were crucial attributes for a wife, a commoner and mistress became the first lady in England, and the mother of a Royal Dynasty.

Katherine Swynford's Coat of Arms

Katherine's family

In an age where rank was crucial, and women less important than men, not much is known about Katherine's early life.

She was born Katherine de Roet (also sometimes written as de Ruet), daughter of Paon (or Payne) de Roet. She was not English - her father and ancestry was in Hainault. This was the home of Edward III's Queen, Philippa of Hainault.

The name, or any other detail, about Katherine's mother is unknown. She may have been English, as at the time of her birth and that of her siblings, her father was with the English court.

Paon de Roet was in the service of Queen Philippa. His name appears from time to time in her official records, for example, in Philippa's plea on behalf of the awkward burgesses of Calais in 1347.

At some point during his royal service, he was knighted, probably by Edward III, and became Sir Paon de Roet. with a coat of arms.

In about 1350, he seems to have returned to Hainault, and left the English royal service.

Effigy of Queen Philippa, from her tomb in Westminster Abbey.
Effigy of Queen Philippa, from her tomb in Westminster Abbey.
Geoffrey Chaucer, pictured as a pilgrim, from a contemporary illustration.
Geoffrey Chaucer, pictured as a pilgrim, from a contemporary illustration.

Katherine probably had at least 4 siblings.

The eldest seems to have been called Elizabeth de Roet, and was born in the mid-1330s.

She became a nun, and lived in the convent of Sainte Wandru in Mons until her death in about 1368. She is also sometimes referred to as Isabelle.

The second oldest was probably a boy called Walter de Roet, born some time in the late 1330s. He appears in the records of Edward, Prince of Wales, as a Yeoman.

A lot more is known about Philippa, born in approx. the mid 1340s. She was initially a young member of the household of Lionel, third son of Edward III, and his wife, Elizabeth of Ulster.

At some unknown time, Philippa moved to the Queen's household, and married a young royal clerk, Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales (among others).

Philippa joined the household of John of Gaunt when he married for the second time, becoming Constance's lady-in-waiting, at the same time as her sister Katherine was becoming John's mistress (sounds awkward!)

In the late 1370s and 1380s, Philippa lived in Lincolnshire, probably with Katherine or in her household, and died some time in 1387.

A portrait of John of Gaunt, thought to be by Luca Cornelli.
A portrait of John of Gaunt, thought to be by Luca Cornelli.
A 14th century illustration showing Edward the Black Prince kneeling in front of his father, Edward III.
A 14th century illustration showing Edward the Black Prince kneeling in front of his father, Edward III.
Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess
Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess

Alison Weir's recent biography of John and Katherine.

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

Recent book about Katherine, by Jeannette Lucraft.

 
Katherine (Rediscovered Classics)
Katherine (Rediscovered Classics)

Anya Seton's famous 1954 novel about Katherine Swynford, her life, marriages and children.

 

John of Gaunt's family and early life

John of Gaunt was one of the many children of King Edward III and Queen Philippa.

He was born in Ghent, which is now in Belgium, and acquired his nickname from his birthplace.

The children of Edward and Philippa were:

  • Edward, the Black Prince, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales;
  • Isabella;
  • Joan;
  • Blanche (died as a baby);
  • William of Hatfield (died as a baby);
  • Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence;
  • John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster;
  • Edmund of Langley, Duke of York;
  • Mary;
  • Margaret;
  • Thomas of Windsor (died as a baby);
  • William of Windsor (died as a baby);
  • Joan;
  • Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester;

Edward III inherited his throne at the age of 14, after his father, Edward II, had been deposed and probably murdered by his own wife, Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. He then ruled for 50 years, until his death at the age of 64 in 1377.

When Edward III was 16 years old, in 1328, he married Philippa, who was a year older.

John was born in Ghent on 6th March 1340. He grew up in the royal court, and was known to be intelligent, academic, and athletic.

He could read, write, and manage accounts, which were far from universal skills even among the aristocracy in the 14th century.

He was precocious in other ways too - he fathered an illegitimate child by one of his mother's ladies-in-waiting, Marie de St. Hilaire.

Blanche was born in 1359, just before John married for the first time.

The west front of Lincoln Cathedral, copyright Bryan Ledgard
The west front of Lincoln Cathedral, copyright Bryan Ledgard
Katherine's tomb in Licoln Cathedral as it is today, copyright nancepants.
Katherine's tomb in Licoln Cathedral as it is today, copyright nancepants.

Katherine's early life

Her date of birth is unknown, and academic debate places it anywhere between 1345 and 1352.

She may have been either older or (more probably) younger than her sister Philippa. It is also likely that she grew up in the royal court, as her father had been in royal service.

You will look in vain for a portrait of Katherine in this hub, or indeed anywhere.

It's not even certain what she looked like; the writers at the time were mostly monks, and not given to physical descriptions of women (and, especially, not descriptions of women they despised as unchaste).

She does seem to have been beautiful. Even one of the monks who disliked her described her thus.

John of Gaunt was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral with his first wife, Blanche, but his epitaph mentions Katherine, describing her as "pulchretudine feminam", or "particularly / exceptionally beautiful".

A very unusual thing on a 14th century inscription, and it confirms she was indeed very attractive.


Blanche of Lancaster

From a series of tapestries, this detail of "The Lady and the Unicorn" is thought to portray Blanche.
From a series of tapestries, this detail of "The Lady and the Unicorn" is thought to portray Blanche.

John's marriage to Blanche of Lancaster

In May 1359, at Reading Abbey in Berkshire, John of Gaunt married Blanche of Lancaster. The couple were third cousins.

Blanche was the daughter and co-heiress of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, together with her older sister, Maud.

Henry had no surviving adult sons, and thus the enourmous Duchy of Lancaster was divided between his two daughters when he died in 1361.

Maud later died childless, and the whole estate went to Blanche, and therefore John of Gaunt.

Blanche was described as beautiful, with very fair hair and skin, and blue eyes.

Blanche and John had six children:

  • Philippa who married John I of Portugal
  • John (died as a child)
  • Elizabeth, who married (1) John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, (2) John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, and (3)John Cornwall, 1st Baron Fanhope.
  • Edward (died as a child)
  • Henry of Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV, who married (1) Mary de Bohun and (2) Joanna of Navarre.
  • Isabella (died as a child)

Blanche died of plague (the Black Death) in 1369, at Bolingbroke Castle.

After her death, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Book of the Duchess, also sometimes called The Deth of Blaunche.

Kettlethorpe Manor, the larger of Hugh Swynford's estate in Lincolnshire.  This gate house is the surviving part of the house Katherine Swynford would have known.
Kettlethorpe Manor, the larger of Hugh Swynford's estate in Lincolnshire. This gate house is the surviving part of the house Katherine Swynford would have known.

Katherine's first marriage to Hugh Swynford

She married a fairly obscure knight, in the service of John of Gaunt, called Hugh Swynford, also known as Hugh de Swynford. He owned two manors in Lincolnshire, Colby and Kettlethorpe.

Hugh had inherited these from his father in 1362, and neither was particularly impressive. They were described in the Calender of Inquisitions Post Mortem. Colby was said to be "hard, stony, uncultivated and barren" and the house, dovecot and windmill were ruininous.

Kettlethorpe was said ot be flooded regularly by the River Trent.

Hugh Swynford also had an income from his service as a knight in John of Gaunt's retinue.

The couple had at least two, and perhaps three, children. Their son, Thomas, was born on 21st September 1368. Their daughter, Blanche, may have been either older or younger, born between 1366 and 1370. John of Gaunt was her godfather, and his wife, Blanche of Lancaster, may well have been her godmother.

They may also have been the parents of Margaret Swynford, who became a nun at Barking Abbey in the reign of Richard II.

Nothing else is known about the marriage, as to why they married, how exactly they lived, and their relationship with each other.

John of Gaunt's coat of arms, after he married Constance of Castile. In it, he asserts his rights to Castile and Leon.
John of Gaunt's coat of arms, after he married Constance of Castile. In it, he asserts his rights to Castile and Leon.

John of Gaunt's second marriage, to Constance of Castile

In September 1371, John of Gaunt married for the second time in Bordeaux, in modern-day France.

The lucky lady was Constance of Castile, daughter of the King of Castile, known as Pedro the Cruel. Pedro had been going to marry John of Gaunt's elder sister, Joan, but Joan died in the first outbreak of the Black Death in 1349, while she was en route to Castile.

Constance had a claim to the throne, as Pedro had no surviving adult sons. As a woman, it was very difficult for her to enforce her claim, but John of Gaunt assumed it through the marriage and fought several campaigns in Castile to try to take the Crown.

John was unsucessful - Pedro's illegitimate half-brother, Henry II of Castile, hung on to his throne.

Constance and John had one child, a daughter, Catherine of Lancaster. She married Henry III of Castile, thus uniting the claims to the throne.


John of Gaunt's Castles today

Kenilworth Castle, in Warwickshire. The castle was originally Saxon, and this stone building dates from the 11th century. John of Gaunt acquired it from his first wife, and turned it from a purely military castle into a fortified home. Copyright john
Kenilworth Castle, in Warwickshire. The castle was originally Saxon, and this stone building dates from the 11th century. John of Gaunt acquired it from his first wife, and turned it from a purely military castle into a fortified home. Copyright john
Knaresborough Castle is in Yorkshire. It belonged to John of Gaunt, and is still part of the Duchy of Lancaster today. The King's Hall, shown in this photograph, was built during the 14th century, possibly by John. Copyright Tasa_M.
Knaresborough Castle is in Yorkshire. It belonged to John of Gaunt, and is still part of the Duchy of Lancaster today. The King's Hall, shown in this photograph, was built during the 14th century, possibly by John. Copyright Tasa_M.

Katherine as governess to John of Gaunt's children

At some unknown time before 1369, Katherine was appointed as the governess for John of Gaunt and Blanche's daughters, Philippa and Elizabeth.

This was an important position, as she was in charge of the King's grand-daughters, and became more important after Blanche died of the black death in September 1369.

Kenilworth and Knaresborough Castles, pictured to the right of this text, were frequents stops for John of Gaunt, his children, and their households, so Katherine would have known both buildings well.

In approximately November 1371 (although the date is not certain) Hugh Swynford died in John of Gaunt's service abroad, either in France or Aquitaine.

The beginning of the affair between John and Katherine

The start of their affair can't be dated for certain. In the petition to the Pope for permission to marry, John and Katherine both swore that the affair did not take place until both Blanche of Lancaster and Hugh Swynford were dead, which suggests the end of 1371 as the earliest possible date.

Historians analysing John of Gaunt's household records suggest that until 1372, Katherine's name featured in them as one would expect for a woman in her position as governess of the Duke's children.

From 1372 onwards, payments, grants of furniture, fabric and expensive food and drink items increased significantly, and it likely, therefore, that the affair began at this time.

It wasn't a private matter. Records from other noble households record Katherine as the Duke's mistress, and it appears to have been a widely-known affair.  For example, it was Katherine Sywnford who told Edward III that John of Gaunt and Constance of Castile had a child born to them, in 1373.

That child was also called Catherine (or Katherine). To modern eyes, certainly to mine, it seems rather odd to call a child after the father's mistress!

John and Katherine's life together

The couple seem to have spent quite a lot of time together, made easier by Katherine's official position in John's household.

They were separated during John's unsuccessful military expeditions to Castile, and when he travelled elsewhere on England's business. As a senior member of the Royal Family, he did quite a lot of official government business.

From John's accounts, he gave Katherine frequent and extremely expensive presents, including clothes, jewellery, and silver warming pans.

That their relationship was close can also be seen from other accounts in the 1370s. Various nobles and senior churchmen gave Katherine presents, including horses and silver cups, hoping that she would look favourably on them and influence her lover.

After the Peasants Revolt in 1381, it seems that the couple split up, for an unknown period of time. There is a Latin "Quit Claim" from 1381, in which the split is set out, and each party renounces future claims on the other. A yearly amount was payable under the claim to Katherine.

They do seem to have resumed their relationship in the mid 1380s, but John was away in Castile for most of 1386 to 1389, and during this time, Katherine was a member of Mary de Bohun's household. Mary was the wife of Henry of Bolingbroke, his legitimate son from his first marriage.

Katherine continued to have close ties to Lincoln and Lincolnshire. She maintained her manors at Kettlethorpe and Colby, and rented a house sometimes near the Cathedral in Lincoln.

John was very generous to Katherine's Swynford children, particularly her son, Thomas. He was a retainer in John's household, and received generous grants and privileges.

The Beaufort children

John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford had four children during their affair:

  • John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, who married Margaret Hollan;
  • Henry, Cardinal Beaufort;
  • Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, who married Margaret Neville
  • Joan Beaufort, who married (1) Robert Ferrers, 3rd Baron Ferrers of Wemme and  (2) Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland.

They were given the surname "Beaufort" after some of John of Gaunt's lost French lands. AS they were unlikely to be retrieved, this did not threaten the inheritence of John's legitimate children, particularly his heir, Henry of Bolingbroke.

John of Gaunt's political and military life

A long and detailed account of John of Gaunt's political significance would extend this article too far.

He was certainly an immensely capable, ambitious, and intelligent man. His first two marriages brought him great advantages, both in terms of wealth and power.

He tried, and failed, to claim the thrones of both Scotland and Castile.

John was an increasingly important figure in the last 15 to 20 years of his father's reign. Edward III became less involved in government, and his son more important.

Edward III's heir, Edward the Black Prince, died before his father. When Edward III died in June 1377, the throne passed to his grandson, Richard II, who was then only 10 years old.

John then almost was the government. Many unpopular decisions were blamed on him, and throughout John's life, people were suspicious that he might try to usurp the throne, although he never made any such effort.

John was a target of the leadership of the Peasants Revolt in 1381, and his grand London palace, the Savoy, was burned to the ground.

A video of Lincoln Cathedral

The marriage between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt

In January 1396, John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford married in Lincoln Cathedral. Chantries were endowed in the Cathedral to pray for both their souls.

This meant that she became the first lady in England, as the King, Richard II, was unmarried.

Such an elevation was astonishing and entirely unprecedented.

The marriage did not last long - John of Gaunt died in 1399 and Katherine Swynford in 1403.

The first page of the 'Hengwrt Chaucer', a 14th century copy of the Canterbury Tales, now held in the National Library of Wales.
The first page of the 'Hengwrt Chaucer', a 14th century copy of the Canterbury Tales, now held in the National Library of Wales.

The historical significance of the marriage between John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford

Every English King and Queen since Edward IV ascended to the throne in the mid 15th century is descended from John of Gaunt and Katherine Sywnford.

Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III were all descended from their daughter, Joan Beaufort, who married Richard Neville. Her daughter, Cecily Neville, was the mother of both Edward IV and Richard III, and grandmother of Edward V.

John and Katherine's eldest son, John Beaufort, was the grandfather of Margaret Beaufort. She gave birth, at the age of 13, to the future Henry VII.

After their marriage, both the Pope (in religious terms) and Richard II (in English legal terms) made the Beauforts legitimate, post facto.

Further reading: books about the couple and their times

Katherine Swynford by Anthony Goodman.

A detailed, careful biography of Katherine. Only 30 pages long, it packs a lot in there.

John and Katherine in literature

John of Gaunt is an important character in Shakespeare's Richard II, giving the famous speech about England and the importance of being an island nation.

Katherine, by Anya Seton, is a historical novel written in the 1950s, about the life and loves of Katherine Sywnford.

Traces of Katherine and John today

Pevsner notes of Kettlethorpe:

Of the C14 house of the Swynford family only the gateway remains, of stone, with battlements and typically C14 sunk mouldings. The back later strengthened by brickwork. In the r. wall a blocked C14 archway in situ.

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Comments 48 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I remember reading Anya Seton's novel when I was a young teenager, and being completely absorbed in the history (as well as the torrid love affair). Another beautifully crafted hub, and dealing with one of my favorite periods of British history. Chaucer was seemingly not just being polite or politic with his encomium on Blanche, either.


BristolBoy profile image

BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

This must have taken quite a long time to write up, and even longer to research! Well done though as it leads to very good hub. I also never realised the basis of the Beaufort's and that despite the fact that they are now based relatively near to where I grew up. as the old addage goes, you learn somethign new every day.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

wow this reads like a novel only this is not fiction. what a very impressive hub and i can only imagine the amount of research and editing that transpired. Thanks for this piece of British history. Stories about the British monarchy are really very interesting and yes, intriguing :D


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

Hi Teresa - I also read Katherine at about the same age, and enjoyed it immensely. It's not 100% reliable on the history, as quite a lot more work's been done since Anya Seton wrote it, showing that the Quit Claim was more temporary, for example. But it's still a great book!

Bristolboy - it took a while to assemble all the links / vids / pics, but most of it I could just write and look up a few dates. I have a great memory for history, but dammed if I know where I've put my keys or purse!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

Hi Cris - glad you enjoyed it! I also enjoy the history and goings-on, of which there were many (-:


Iphigenia 7 years ago

I loved this - it is a fascinating read and so well researched and presented. Your love and passion for the subject shines through. Thank you.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Wow, LondonGirl! This is incredibly well presented, and what a research behind it! Plus, very educational, I learned A LOT!


Silver Freak profile image

Silver Freak 7 years ago from The state of confusion

Fantastic!


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Wonderful Hub, LondonGirl - Your historical hubs keep getting better and better.

I never knew that I shared the same birthday as John O' Gaunt - a local hero in Lancaster, although there is little evidence that he visited. If you are ever in Lancaster, the best pub in town is called the John O' Gaunt - well worth a visit.

Going to FaceBook this one - my mum will love this!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

Hello all, glad you enjoyed it! I find it a fascinating period of history in general, and Katherine and John of Gaunt themselves in particular.

I had a look on the web, and couldn't find any comprehensive article about the couple, so thought it would be a good idea.

Sufi - John's registers were pretty thorough, and published (jolly expensive, but in libraries) and would probably say when and if he was in Lancaster. As the Duke, he probably did go there at least once!


Stas 7 years ago

Great job!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

thanks Stas, glad you enjoyed it.


J D Murrah profile image

J D Murrah 7 years ago from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas

LondonGirl,

A well done and informative hub! I enjoyed it immensely. I liked the pictures and the information. You did quite a bit of research in order to pull such a hub together. With the many people involved, it was almost like a Russian novel.

I liked it. :)


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

English royal history fascinates me, therefore I soooo wanted to read this last night when the announcement landed in my email!  Alas I was already headed to bed.  Now I'm glad I waited until this morning when fully awake!  So much history you've included here!  Some I already knew, but a lot I didn't. 

I once read a novel (the name escapes me now) about how the House of Tudor came to be.  Probably not historically accurate, but nonetheless a fascinating glimpse into the marital and political maneuvering that went into obtaining the titles and lands that went with them.  How wonderful of you to tie all that together in such a tidy hub.  Antonia Fraser should start looking over her shoulder!


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

A really comprehensive piece of work, probably something of interest in here for most of us Brits. My wife came from Knaresborough, although born in Harrogate originally, so was also intrested to see the reference to Knaresborough Castle.

I got to digg this as well and got a new friend in the process.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

Hi JD - glad you enjoyed it! I didn't go into detail about all John of Gaunt's siblings, nephews, children, grand-children, just as well!

Hi Jama - I doubt Antonia's that worried, but how very kind of you! I find medieval history absolutely fascinating.

Brian - thanks, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Tony 7 years ago

Very nice page, great details. It's such a shame that so much history from this period is unclear or lost. Katherine could be a relativ eof mine, as my last nane is also Payne. I really enjoyed this.


MandM 7 years ago

Very interesting. As a Portuguese I was also interested because of the conections with our King John I (D. João I), that, curiously, was a bastard son that had to conquer his crown.


mandybeau profile image

mandybeau 7 years ago

My teachers, were unable to install an interest in History, because they made it so boring, this Hub makes it so interesting, Brilliant and so much research.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

Hi all - glad you found it of interest! I am fascinated by this period of history, glad I managed to communicate that!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Fascinating history, London Girl. I have the feeling that some of our fascination with royalty is linked to our contemporary idolization of celebrities although the latter is inane. I only wish that academics would bring history more to life by providing more personal details, as you have, rather than simply reciting times and dates and places. You've obviously done a great deal of research on this, which I apppreciate. Thumbs up.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

Hil William - glad you found it interesting. It's a period of history with a wealth of detail and interest, for me at least.

I think some idea of dates is necessary - for example, when one reads about something happening in the 1350s, it's good to know (and perhaps essential) that the Black Death had put in its first appearance at the start of the decade.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I agree it's good to know historic dates, London Girl. Knowing more about what took place in those periods brings history to life, as you indicate. That was the point I was trying to make. Personally, in addition to the textbook dates, I learned a great deal of history from "dime novels," which gave me the "feel" of the era, often from historical fiction.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

"Katherine" by Anya Seyton, helped spark my interest in the 14th century. I'm entirely with you!


swaradila profile image

swaradila 7 years ago from Cirebon, Indonesia

All about England history intriguing me to learn more world history...thank LondonGirl


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London Author

I'm glad you found it interesting!


Staci-Barbo7 profile image

Staci-Barbo7 7 years ago from North Carolina

London Girl, Would you be game for a work of historical fiction yourself? I you write biographical fiction as well as you do these non-fiction pieces, I would love to see a work of yours targeted to a young adult audience that I could share with my daughter.


Prodnose 7 years ago

Katharine's coat of arms is a punning one, heralds liked puns and I suppose they made symbols easy to remember in an age when not everyone could read and write. As you probably know,"roue" is the French for wheel, so "Roet" could just about be a pun on "rouette", little wheel.


Prodnose 7 years ago

P.S. A really interesting page, London Girl! Must take some time to read it thoroughly, interesting pictures.


love love love 7 years ago

Anya Seton's novel "Katherine" was magnificent! She was so historically accurate on all parts of history that involved the novel. Thank you for writing this, it really helped me learn a lot about the history of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Their story is intoxicating! :)


WestOcean profile image

WestOcean 7 years ago from Great Britain

Enjoyed this site - excellent stuff.


heyju profile image

heyju 7 years ago

Great read, very interesting thank you


Katrina 7 years ago

I read Seton's novel in the 1950's and it sparked a lifelong interest in the story of Katherine and John of Gaunt. I recently re-read it, and the story is still magnificent, and so well told. I would like as many young people as possible to still read it. It is still totally sexy! Your site puts some more flesh on the historical bones of the tale. But I can never see the names without putting the Seton gloss on the characters. They live for me still.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 7 years ago

Seton's novel Katherine is my FAVORITE historical fiction novel from when I was a girl. The first time I read it I was sitting on the beach in Ocean City, NJ; I was in eighth grade, and I've read it too many times to count. I think this novel was one of the reasons I grew up to be such a "history" girl. Whatever it sparked......... it lit a fire, although I prefer non-fiction, if I want fiction..... it's historical.

And as Katrina said in the comment above me, "It is still totally sexy!"


Chuck profile image

Chuck 6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

Just ran across this and it was a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed. I never heard of Anya Seton's novel that many of those above refer to but years ago my father shared some of Thomas Costain's books about that period with me and I enjoyed them greatly. That series of Costain books, in which John of Gaunt appeared frequently, were straight historical narrative and, like your Hub, read like novels.

Keep up the good work.


MarcoHouston profile image

MarcoHouston 6 years ago

Great work. Feel free to contact me and maybe I could publish something of yours.

Marco Houston


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 6 years ago from London Author

Glad you enjoyed it!


TGauntt 6 years ago

Love your hub! I just finished Anya Seton "Katherine" last week, too. I've been told I'm a descendant of John O' Gaunt, so, naturally I had to do a little more digging. Thanks for all your hard work and information.


Buttercup 6 years ago

If you are interested in further information on Katherine and her world, there is a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112794715415... , a blog (http://katherineswynford.blogspot.com) and a website (http://katherineswynford.tk) that you can check out.


Jan Cooper 6 years ago

The first stone castle at Kenilworth was built around 1124 by Geofrey de Clinton. The picture you show is in fact the 16th century gatehouse built by the Earl of Leicester in 1571 and aboslutely nothing to do with John of Gaunt. The most significant ruined building remaining at Kenilworth which relates to John of Gaunt is his great hall built around 1379/80.


hayleyhock 6 years ago

A very informative read. You answered many questions I had on a fasinating period. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And thankyou for the further reading suggestions


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Non-Linear Lines 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

Thanks for the comprehensive, one-stop-shop for everything Katherine. I've read extensively on John of Gaunt, and Katherine, etc. But I still read everything I can get on the subject! This was great!


lucia 4 years ago

I fell in love with this beautiful story and i must say, that I have learnt some interesting information, which I did not know....very good


wyn 3 years ago

I read Anya Setons book Katherine some years ago and it remains my favorite book. I re-read it frequently. It would be lovely to see what she really looked like.


Keren 2 years ago

Hi, LondonGirl, your hub is so great! A more vivid historical story!

Anya's Katherine is so wonderful.


Bonnie 2 years ago

Very interesting information about John and Katherine. Thank you. I have been reading and re-reading Anya Seton's "Katherine" for 60 years. I also read recently Alison Weir's "Mistress of the Monarchy," but did not care for her reason for John of Gaunt's death. Takes away the romance of their story.


Begonia 20 months ago

I too read Katherine by Anya Seaton in my teens, and it was my aunt's favourie book, and she called her daughter Katherine. I have always had a fascination since for Katherine and John of Gaunt, and hope to visit Lincoln Cathedral again this year. This is a great source of information about both and their families. Well done for all the research and info provided,


Rita 4 months ago

Digging through my history and can't believe I'm related! Wow.

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