Katherine Swynford

Katherine Swynford

Infobox Person
name = Katherine Swynford

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birth_name = Katherine de Roet
birth_date = birth date|1350|11|25|df=yes
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death_date = death date and age|1403|5|10|1350|11|25|df=yes
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title = Duchess of Lancaster
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spouse = Hugh Swynford,
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
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children = Thomas Swynford,
Blanche Swynford,
Margaret Swynford,
John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset,
Henry Beaufort, Cardinal,
Thomas Beaufort, 1st Duke of Exeter,
Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland
parents = Payne de Roet
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Katherine Swynford (also spelled Synford), née (de) Roet (also spelled (de) Rouet or (de) Roelt (25 November 1350 – 10 May 1403), was the daughter of Payne (or Paen) de Roet, a Flemish herald from Hainault who was knighted just before his death in battle. His children included Katherine, her older sister Philippa, a son, Walter, and the eldest sister, Isabel de Roet, (who died Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru's, Mons, c. 1366). Katherine became the third wife of the English prince John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, and their descendants were the Beaufort family, which played a major role in the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII, who became King of England in 1485, derived his claim to the throne from his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was a great-granddaughter of Katherine Swynford.


Katherine was educated at the convent of Romsey in Hampshire. About 1366, at the age of 16, Katherine married Hugh Swynford (1340-1372), an English knight from the manor of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, and bore him at least two children; Thomas (Sept 21, 1368-1432), Blanche (born May 1, 1367), and likely the Margaret Swynford (born c. 1369) who was nominated a nun at the prestigious Barking Abbey by the command of Richard II in 1377). Katherine then became attached to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, as governess to his two daughters , Philippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth Plantagenet, (the sisters of the future Henry IV of England) by his first wife Blanche. Sometime before 1373, she became his official mistress. Katherine's sister Philippa, a member of the household of Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III, married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, whose poem "The Book of the Duchess" commemorated Blanche's death in 1369.

Two years following the death of his second wife Constance of Castile, John and Katherine married on 13 January 1396 in Lincoln Cathedral, three years before he died. The four children Katherine had borne John of Gaunt had been given the surname "Beaufort" and were already adults when they were legitimized by this marriage with approval by King Richard and the Pope. The Beauforts were later barred from inheriting the throne by a clause inserted into the legitimation act by their half-brother, Henry IV.

Katherine survived John by only four years, dying on 10 May, 1403. She was then dowager Duchess of Lancaster. Her tomb, and that of her daughter Joan Beaufort, are under a carved-stone canopy in the sanctuary of Lincoln Cathedral. Joan's is the smaller of the two tombs; both were decorated with brass plates — full-length representations of them on the tops, and small shields bearing coats of arms around the sides — but those were damaged or destroyed in 1644 during the English Civil War.


By Hugh Swynford:

*Thomas Swynford (1368-1432)
*Blanche Swynford (born 1st May, 1367)
*Margaret Swynford (born c. 1369)

By John of Gaunt:

*John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (1373-1410)
*Henry Beaufort, Cardinal (1375-1447)
*Thomas Beaufort, 1st Duke of Exeter (1377-1426)
*Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland (1379-1440)

Katherine's son John was the great-grandfather of Henry VII of England and the grandfather of James II of Scotland; her daughter Joan Beaufort was the grandmother of Edward IV of England and Richard III of England, whom Henry VII defeated to take the throne. (Henry then married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, and their son became Henry VIII of England). Her stepson became Henry IV of England by deposing Richard II of England (who was imprisoned and died shortly thereafter, in Pontefract Castle, where Katherine's son Thomas Swynford was constable, and he was said to have starved Richard to death for his stepbrother); her stepdaughter, John and Constance's daughter Catherine (or Catalina), was the great-grandmother of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII of England and mother of Mary I of England. In Anya Seton's novel, she states how Blanche Swynford didn't like the Beaufort Children or the idea of her mother and the duke. She runs away in the novel, but no historical record confirms this. Blanche was named after the Duchess.

In literature

Katherine Swynford is the subject of Anya Seton's novel "Katherine" (published in 1954) and of Alison Weir's biography ' (ISBN 0224063219). Swynford is also the subject of Jeanette Lucraft's historical biography '. This book seeks to establish Swynford as a powerful figure in the politics of fourteenth-century England, and an example of how a woman could manipulate the social mores of the time for her own interests rather than just as the sexual temptress that previous writers have portrayed.

Further reading


External links

* [http://www.katherineswynfordsociety.org.uk The Katherine Swynford Society]

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  • Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess — is a biography of Katherine Swynford written by Alison Weir and published in 2007. In the US, the book is titled Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster. Katherine Swynford was the mistress and later the… …   Wikipedia

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