Missing from History

Jeannette Lucraft recovers the identity and reputation of the remarkable Katherine Swynford.

Katherine Swynford (1350?-1403) is most often remembered as the lover of John of Gaunt (1340-99) and a temptress who diverted the powerful Duke of Lancaster from his political duties. However, it would seem from the perspective of modern scholars that she was only ‘the lover of ...’ or ‘the mother of ...’ other notables, with little recognition that she may have been an extraordinary personality in her own right. The chief exception to this is, of course, Anya Seton’s famous novel written in the 1950s, which fully endows Katherine with the romantic image of the woman who, despite not being of noble birth, was to become the ancestress of the Yorkist kings and the royal lines of the Tudors and Stuarts.

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