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

Average Rating 3.5
( 44 )
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5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(19)

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(4)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(4)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Not Seton's Katherine

As Weir mentioned, I would sigh when I'd run across my ancient, dog-eared copy of Seton's Katherine - a much loved book that I've kept with me through six or seven moves over the years. When I saw this book - besides being a fan of Weir's (I think I've read most of her...
As Weir mentioned, I would sigh when I'd run across my ancient, dog-eared copy of Seton's Katherine - a much loved book that I've kept with me through six or seven moves over the years. When I saw this book - besides being a fan of Weir's (I think I've read most of her other bios of the same period), I couldn't wait to order it. Not a huge book, but it is well written, enjoyable, however, the one striking thing is that if the reader isn't somewhat versed in medieval history, it can be a little rough, just keeping the names and people straight.
I had studied history at one point in college, and always kept on on late medieval/Tudor history (little weird - pleasure reading for me), and I could see how it could be a little difficult to remember who everyone was, how they were connected.
Overall, I enjoyed it immensely; Weir gave Katherine Swynford a living, breathing form, a woman who seemed to almost live on her own terms in a time when women didn't. Of course, there isn't much information on Katherine, but Weir really did her research, which given some of the sources she needed to look at and delve into, was difficult. Overall, an enjoyable, stimulating book that I will have next to Seton's Katherine on my bookshelf.

posted by 359334 on February 24, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

too much detail, not enough story

While this is a very well researched book, it gets bogged down in too many details which distracts from the flow of the story. While dates, relationships, theories might be important to scholars, for the average history buff it can be cumbersome

posted by padrejoe on March 2, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2009

    Not Seton's Katherine

    As Weir mentioned, I would sigh when I'd run across my ancient, dog-eared copy of Seton's Katherine - a much loved book that I've kept with me through six or seven moves over the years. When I saw this book - besides being a fan of Weir's (I think I've read most of her other bios of the same period), I couldn't wait to order it. Not a huge book, but it is well written, enjoyable, however, the one striking thing is that if the reader isn't somewhat versed in medieval history, it can be a little rough, just keeping the names and people straight.
    I had studied history at one point in college, and always kept on on late medieval/Tudor history (little weird - pleasure reading for me), and I could see how it could be a little difficult to remember who everyone was, how they were connected.
    Overall, I enjoyed it immensely; Weir gave Katherine Swynford a living, breathing form, a woman who seemed to almost live on her own terms in a time when women didn't. Of course, there isn't much information on Katherine, but Weir really did her research, which given some of the sources she needed to look at and delve into, was difficult. Overall, an enjoyable, stimulating book that I will have next to Seton's Katherine on my bookshelf.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2010

    Interesting reading, but this book is actually the story of John of Gaunt, and not Katherine.

    As the author stated somewhere in the introduction or thereabouts, she has always wanted to write about John of Gaunt, but someone suggested she write about Katherine, and this book, although the title leads you to believe she is writing the book about Katherine, is truly about John. Yes Katherine figures into the story, but little more than other people who surrounded John throughout his life. Also, much of what was written about Katherine was speculation and assumptions.

    Although the book is interesting reading,I was disappointed that the author misled people into reading the book by indicating that Katherine was the main subject, when in reality the book is the story of John of Gaunt.

    I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn't at all what I expected.

    That said, if you would like to find out a great deal about John of Gaunt, and a little about Katherine, this would be a good book to do so.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Recommend - lots of research, interesting story!

    Great book, lots of historical research done! It is much more historical research than a novel.
    Story of Katherine is very unique, i really enjoyed getting to know it.
    I also loved that the book wasn't focaused on Katherine alone, it also gave lots of perspective on the history of England of the time.
    Very educational and at the same time exciting book, highly recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very readable as always.

    I have read every biography by AW. This one is just as well researched and written as all the others. It reads more like a biography of John of Gaunt than of Katherine Swynford. He was a fascinating historically significant man, but my original interest was with Swynford. Contemporary evidence of Katherine Swynford's life just doesn't seem to exist.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Katherine Swynford....

    What a great woman she must have been. I loved Alison Weir's extensive research. She brought Katherine and John of Gaunt to life for me. It's basically a history book, but written in such a way that anyone would find interesting. I highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    If you are interested in life in England during the Middle Ages, this is a must read.

    Katherine Swynford, her second husband John of Gaunt, and their children are some of the most interesting people to live in the mid- to late 1300's, into the early 1400's. Her connection with Geoffrey Chaucer and the Plantagenet and Lancastrian kings makes her all the more interesting. The book was obviously well researched, with gaps in the surviving records well thought through, with various pathways presented to bridge those gaps.
    Ms. Weir's homage to Anya Seton's "Katherine" is refreshing, given the remarkable accuracy of that novel, and the following it has enjoyed over the years.
    The love story that obviously exists between Katherine and John has come through very well in this book. The impact Katherine had on England during her lifetime, and to this day through her descendents, cannot be understated. Ms. Weir provides her normal excellent portrayal of this important historical figure.
    This is a must-read for all history buffs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Only for History Lovers

    I found it interesting. I love Alison Weir's intergrity as an historian. Always giving multipul explinations for why Katherine's presence was not noted. (Weir does not say I KNOW SHE WAS THERE, Weir says should could have been there or there or was here, but not noted. I like Weir's honesty on her doubt.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing research, attempts to separate fiction from history

    Alison Weir continues to have the magic touch, creating a silk purse from the sow's ear of the written historical record. While Weir acknowledges that Anya Seton's novel brought Katherine Swynford out of the woodwork of history, Weir tries to remove the romantic film from Katherine's life; her time period in history was violent and unpredictable and Katherine was reviled in her lifetime because of her status as a royal mistress. Through births, marriages, and political upheaval in England, Katherine Swynford helped found three royal houses and influenced a fourth; she also was granted the management of her own lands during her lifetime, an amazing feat. As with Weir's other books about great ladies, particularly that of Eleanor of Acquitaine, she works primarily by establishing first what is concretely known then building outward using household registers, grants, and knowledge of the movements of other more well-documented players. The reader gets not only a biography about Katherine Swynford but also one on John of Gaunt and a good working knowledge of the political climate in England in the late 14th-century, sort of like a three-for-one deal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    too much detail, not enough story

    While this is a very well researched book, it gets bogged down in too many details which distracts from the flow of the story. While dates, relationships, theories might be important to scholars, for the average history buff it can be cumbersome

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    Well written and well researched

    Like so many others, I became obsessed with Katherine and John of Gaunt after reading Anya Seton's "Katherine.". This book is history, not a novel. While it gives as full a picture of Katherine as possible, given the lack of official sources, it doesn't really flesh out the human being, and is therefore a little disappointing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2012

    Disappointed

    Not what I expected the book to be. I found some parts to be tedious bbut better than taking a sleeping pill to put you to sleep.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    Miss Swynford

    Growing up in the UK I was aware of Katherine as my favorite historical personage has always been John of Groats, The Duke of Lancaster I can't tell you why, a teenage personal reaction? But when I started getting into the character of Katherine Swynford even he came more to life than before. My favourite book of all time is Katherine by Anya Seaton and this book is not a continuation of that but gives an enlighting portrait into the why's, wherefores and the how of her life and why she chose to stay with this man. She was a very powerful influence on a very powerful man. This is a good read and a wonderful book for discussion

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    A Scholarly Book

    There is no doubt that Ms Weir did an exhaustive amount of research to produce this book. Anyone interested in English history would profit from reading this detailed record of what is known of the life of this amazing woman whose descendants shaped English history and some of American history as well. This is definitely a book to keep on the shelf as a reference work. However, the casual reader might find that the book is too detailed. The minute descriptions of the architecture of the buildings of the time and of the homes where Katherine lived might be a little tedious for some readers.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    Loved It

    I am sure alot of people would find this dry, dry, dry reading, but I found it fascinating and really appreciated all the facts.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating but leaves you wanting more

    This factual account of the lives of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt was well researched, interesting and enlightening. Not sensational or thrilling or even fast-paced, but, of course, it isn't really a biography. It suffers from the problem facing any book that tries to detail the life of a woman from the 1300's -- there is so little accurate contemporary information available. I also got bogged down occasionally in descriptions of the places, castles, etc., where Katherine and John lived... or may have lived at various times. The characters are so interesting that I wished - as I've often wished before - that there were sources available to tell us more about who Katherine and John really were... their personalities, feelings, ambitions, and even how they really looked. In sum, this book added a little to what I already knew but left me wanting a great deal more. Naturally, that is not the fault of the author because she obviously did a great deal of research for this book.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in medieval history - and especially in a medieval woman who was obviously quite remarkable in many ways.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    My view on "Mistress of the Monarchy".

    I really enjoy Alison Weir's novels, and this was the case with this novel, too. She presents the persons of the past as real and human. Her research into history is detailed and interesting. I do sometimes skim over some the details regarding items, castles, etc, but can later go back if I wish to have that information. The pictures in the middle are helpful in relating the characters to the story. I have read many of her fictional and nonfiction novels. I have always been pleased with her work.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Not up to par

    This book was not on par with her earlier writings. Read too much like a school history book. Lack the fluidity of her other novels.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted August 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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