Reading Recommendations: Mistress of the Monarchy, The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, Alison Weir
Acclaimed author Alison Weir has been prolific with her books on English royalty, covering everything from the Houses of York and Lancaster to the reigns of the Tudors and beyond. Now this remarkable historian brings to life the extraordinary tale of the woman who was ancestor to them all: Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who was to become one of the most crucial figures in the history of the British Royal dynasties.
Born in the mid-fourteenth century, Katherine de Roet was only twelve when she married Hugh Swynford, an impoverished Knight. But her story had already begun when, at just ten years old, she was appointed to the household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of King Edward III, to help look after the Duke's children. Widowed at twenty one, gifted with beauty and undeniable charm, Katherine was to become John of Gaunt's mistress.
Their years together played out against a backdrop of court life at the height of the age of chivalry. Katherine experienced the Hundred Year's War, the Black Death, and the Peasant's Revolt. She survived heartbreak and adversity and crossed paths with many eminent figures of the day, among them her brother-in-law, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Yet as intriguing as she was to many of her contemporaries, there are those who regarded her as scandalous and dangerous.
Throughout their illicit union, John and Katherine were clearly devoted to each other, and in middle age after many twists of fortune, they wed. The marriage caused far more scandal than the affair had, for it was unheard of for a royal prince to wed his mistress. Yet Katherine triumphed, and her children by John, the Beauforts, would become the direct forebears of the Royal Houses of York, Tudor, and Stuart, and of every British sovereign since 1461, as well as six U.S. Presidents.
A vivid portrait of a passionate spirit who lived one of medieval England's greatest love stories. A woman ahead of her time, making her own choices, flaunting convention, and taking control of her destiny. Indeed, without Katherine Swynford, the course of English history, perhaps the world, would have been very different.
And, Coop, a Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, Michael Perry
Last seen sleeping off his wedding night in the back of a 1951 International Harvester pickup, Michael Perry is now living in a rickety Wisconsin farm house. Faced with thirty seven acres of fallen fences and overgrown fields, and informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to deliver their baby at home, Perry plumbs his unorthodox childhood, his city bred parents took in more than a hundred foster children while running a ramshackle dairy farm, for clues to how to proceed as a farmer, a husband and a father.
And when his daughter Amy starts to ask about God, Perry is called upon to answer questions for which he's not quite prepared. He muses on his upbringing in an obscure fundamentalist Christian sect and weighs the long lost faith of his childhood against the skeptical alternative ("You cannot toss your seven year old a copy of Being and Nothingness).
Whether Perry is recalling his childhood ("I first perceived my father as a farmer the night he drove home with a giant lactating Holstein tethered to the bumper of his Ford Falcon'" or what its like to be bitten on the bottom while wrestling a pig ("two firsts in one day"), Coop is filled with the humor his readers have come to expect. But Perry also writes about the quieter corners of his heart, chronicling experiences as joyful as the birth of his child and as devastating as the death of a dear friend.
Alternately hilarious, tender, and as real as pigs in mud, Coop is suffused with a contemporary desire to reconnect with the earth, with neighbors, with meaning, and with chickens.
See you at Rylander!