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2 Beaverton World History- England Royalty
1 Local Warehouse Great Britain- Pre Tudor

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Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster


Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. What are the challenges facing an author who undertakes a biography of a medieval woman such as Katherine Swynford?

2. Having read the book, what impressions have you been able to form of Katherine as a person? Has the author succeeded in bringing her to life? 

3. Did Katherine deserve her bad reputation? Why did her contemporaries censure her? Did they all censure her for the same reasons?  How is it that we can take a kinder view of her today? Do you think that Anya Seton’s sympathetic portrayal in her bestselling novel Katherine has something to do with this? 

4. Why is Katherine now finding favor with feminist scholars? How far did she take control of her own destiny and make her own choices? 

5. “This is a love story.” What evidence is there in this book to support that claim? Do you think that the author has been influenced in any way by Anya Seton’s romantic portrayal? 

6. The story of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford has often been compared to the relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker- Bowles. What parallels can be drawn? 

7. Has the author made a convincing case for John’s affair with Katherine beginning in the spring of 1372? Some writers have concluded that his renunciation of her in 1381, after the Peasants’ Revolt, was purely a smokescreen. Would you agree with the author’s assertion that their parting was genuine, and that they only resumed their affair after John’s return to England in 1389? 

8. Is the evidence for John of Gaunt suffering from a venereal disease in his closing years convincing? Could any other construction be put upon this evidence? 

9. In the 1950s, Hollywood was going to film Katherine with Charlton Heston as John of Gaunt and Susan Hayward as Katherine Swynford. If Katherine’s story were to be filmed today, which actors would you like to see in the leading roles? 

10. Why is Katherine Swynford considered a controversial character?  Why is it that no one thought to write a biography of her until recently? 

Product Details

Weir, Alison
Mariner Books
Seton, Anya
Historical - British
General Biography
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.31 in 1.03 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Featured Titles
Biography » Historical
Biography » Royalty
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » Pre Tudor
History and Social Science » Politics » Featured Titles
History and Social Science » World History » England » Royalty

Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster Used Trade Paper
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Product details 608 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345453242 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Acclaimed author Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a 15th-century royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain.
"Synopsis" by ,
“An inspiration and the benchmark by which I judge historical novels.” - Alison Weir
Katherine is an epic novel of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family.
"Synopsis" by , Acclaimed author Alison Weir brings to life the extraordinary tale of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who became one of the most crucial figures in the history of Great Britain. Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Roët was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished knight. But her story had truly begun two years earlier, when she was appointed governess to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III. Widowed at twenty-one, Katherine became John's mistress and then, after many twists of fortune, his bride in a scandalous marriage. Mistress of the Monarchy reveals a woman ahead of her time—making her own choices, flouting convention, and taking control of her own destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps even the world, would have been very different.
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