Today I learned the most wondrous news. Did you know that my scribe and I are related to each other? Tis passing strange.
It came about because I encouraged her to learn more about her family. I mean how can you appear before folk if you know not who you are? In my day, we spent many an hour discussing the windings and twisting of our various family trees. So she began by looking back into the past, at her ancestors in the Land of Henry, which is today called America.
Did you know that they lived there for nearly three centuries, since making landfall in a leaking ship called The Mayflower? How they managed to get across that dark and wide ocean is beyond comprehension.
Then my scribe looked beyond, into the ancestors of her Mayflower ancestor (called Mary Mayflower Allerton) and discovered that her grandfather was a Sir Edward Norris. Immediately, my ears perked up for the gentleman was a knight. I must say I am not acquainted with that family. Still, twas a promising start.
I encouraged her to go back further. Would you believe it but Sir Edward’s grandfather was a gentleman named Sir Henry Norris, a friend of a queen of England. I have never heard of this queen before, but my scribe says she is most famous. Her name was Anne Boleyn. She sounds rather like that common strumpet who played upon my son’s male weakness and inserted herself on the throne of England. I always refer to her as “The Serpent”, but I am told that people nowadays refer to her as Elizabeth Woodville. It seems that my great-grandson, Henry the Eighth of that name, was displeased with his wife and her friends and had them executed on Tower Hill.
I shall pass no judgement on his actions, as I was then cold in my grave and had been for the past forty-one years. Wishing to turn the conversation away from unfortunate channels, I urged my scribe to find out more. “Find out who his mother, grandmother and great-grandmothers were,” I remarked. “I have a notion that the ladies of that family were well-connected.”
Lo and behold, I was right. Sir Henry’s great-great-grandmother was Elizabeth Holland, a lady I had known well. For her grandfather was none other than my grandfather, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.
So what does that make my scribe in relation to me? Well, Elizabeth Holland’s mother was Lady Elizabeth Plantagenet, who was the half-sister of my mother, Lady Joan de Beaufort. That means that I am my scribe’s 15th half great-aunt. Truly I marvel at such tidings!
Tag Archives: John of Gaunt 1340-1399
Though this book was written many years ago, age has not dimmed its freshness nor blemished the rigorous scholarship that Anya Seton employed to write this book. It is the story of an orphaned fifteen-year-old girl who has spent the last four years in an impoverished convent on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and has now been summoned to court by the Queen with a view to finding a suitable husband.
So begins the story of Katrine de Roet – Lady Katherine Swynford – sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer, wife to John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, and great-grandmother to King Richard III. Like all great novels, this one gives us the feeling that we are with Katherine as she experiences life in England between the year 1366 when the story opens, to 1396 when she marries John of Gaunt.
Ms. Seton gives us a vivid feel of late fourteenth century England though a brilliant use of detail. The first memorable incident occurs when the Queen’s messenger tries to make Katherine smile, so that he can see if she has good teeth. This may seem trivial, but it is through such an accrual of detail that believable historical novels are built. Then there is the first time Katherine dines at court. As a poor young woman with no dowry, she is placed near the door to the hall with all the humble folk. She is clad in an ill-fitting gown she has had to borrow from someone else. The feast is magnificent and unlike anything she has yet seen, but she cannot eat, for when she raises her head to look at the high table, there are the Plantagenets: the King, his sons and daughters, garbed in the finest cloths, bedecked with jewels and wearing gold coronets on their heads. “Yes they are real,” says an amused Geoffrey Chaucer as he watches Katherine gape. And then he tells her all about them, a deft way for an author to give the reader a vivid introduction to the English court in 1356.
The best recommendation I can give for this book is that every time I open it up to refresh my memory to write this review, I can’t put it down! If you know of someone young or old who loves reading historical novels and has not yet read this one, buy it for them now! It would make the perfect gift.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry. During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts. (c) 2009. All rights reserved.