Top positive review
43 people found this helpful
Enjoyment depends on motivation!!
on 17 December 2007
This is a truly excellent book, which I read because I stumbled across it in a library catalogue whilst looking up the new bestseller by Alison Weir! It seems very strange that almost no-one outside history experts would ever have heard of Katherine if it weren't for Anya Seton's immortal novel, (written in the 1950's, which I must have read hundreds of times!)and now we have two scholarly books about her within 2 years!
Jeannette Lucraft's book is HIGHLY scholarly, there being probably more footnotes and bibliography than actual book, and it can be hard going at times, hence my headline comment! The big problem that all authors and researchers have with Katherine is that there is almost nothing documented about her, which seems odd, considering she is the ancestress of all our royal houses, beginning from her place among the Plantagenets through the Tudors and Stuarts to our own beloved Windsors. Also, such contemporary accounts as exist are highly prejudiced. Monkish chroniclers, who were just about the only people who wrote down history as it happened, violently dispapproved of her, and so are not exactly trustworthy. The political situation of the time was also somewhat volatile, and in the absence of a literate population with access to information, very little in the way of hard fact came anybody's way.
Rather in the way that astronomers find Black Holes by their effect on their surrounding space, so I think we should judge Katherine by what we DON'T hear rather then what we DO! To have so little written info suggests that she was highly discreet and dignified in her position of mistress, causing no scandal or attracting any accusations of venality. She must have been extremely attractive and intelligent in order to have held on to the affections of John of Gaunt, himself an intelligent and sophisticated man, for so long. The fact that he eventually married her, and undertook the extraordinary process of legitimizing the 4 children he had had with Katherine, proves how attached to her he was. The King, Richard II, was an uncertain friend, insecure, neurotic and vengeful, and yet Katherine managed to steer a secure course for herself and her family at his court.
All-in-all, I would definitely recommend this book, and if you are sufficiently interested in the truth about Katherine Swynford, such as it can be established, then you won't mind the hard work and concentration that it takes to read it. It is an impressive work of scholarship, which manages to paint a reasonably clear picture of the subject without jumping to any meagrely-supported conclusions, and without rubbishing the opposition - well, she only takes one fairly gentle swipe at Alison Wier!