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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Dynasty Begins!...A Book Review

Historical Fiction is one of my favorite types of books to read. Especially if I know the author has kept true to the facts and timetables of the person they are writing about.
I just finished a book entitled “Katherine” by Anya Seton which is an account of the life of Katherine de Roet (1350-1403), who was the third wife of John of Gaunt. It was so amazing. The author did years of research and due to the fact that there is quite a bit of records about John of Gaunt and his life, family, business affairs, and royal duties.
John of Gaunt-Duke of Lancaster, King of Castile
John of Gaunt(1340-1399) was a Plantagenet, the third son of King Edward III (1312-1377), and brother to Edward the Black Prince. He was also the person the ancient prophecy by Merlin was talking about when he said: "thou shalt get kings though thou be none!". Both the Lancaster and York lines are descended from John of Gaunt. With his first wife, Blanche, their oldest son Henry of Bolingbroke became the first Lancastrian king (Henry IV). Through his children from his third wife, the very beautiful Katherine de Roet, began the Tudor line (Henry VII), and the York line (Edward IV and Richard III) are descended. I am not even going to touch on the fact that he was King of Castile and his daughter by his 2nd wife was Queen of Castile and the royal line of Spain can be traced back to him . Quite the legacy.

Kettlethorpe Castle gate house. All that remains of the home of Katherine and her first husband Sir Hugh Swynford

The book follows the life of Katherine though but obviously John plays a large part in her life.
This book was very well written and you will recognize many familiar characters from history, namely Geoffrey Chaucer who happened to be married to Katherine’s sister, Philippa. The author also tried to fit any real servants and friends of the couple that she found a record of into the novel which brings them more to life for me.

As much as I love Shakespeare, you can get a distorted view of some of the royals that he has in his plays and this book sets some of the records straight. I don’t blame him too much, after all, he was in the employ of the Tudors and Stuarts, and had to make a living. I highly recommend this book although it may be hard to find since it was printed in 1954.
King Richard II, nephew of John of Gaunt. It was John's son from his first wife Blanche, Henry Bolingbroke, that forced Richard II to abdicate and then he became the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV. Richard II later died at Pontefract Castle, some say by starvation Coincidentally, the constable of that castle was Katherine's oldest son, Thomas Swynford


In Shakespeare’s Richard II, one of my favorite speech given by John of Gaunt. In this speech he expresses his love for England in these words:

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,

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