Magazine February 9, 2009, Issue

Mother of Her Country

Windsor Castle, United Kingdom. (Toby Melville/Reuters)
Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, by Alison Weir (Ballantine, 416 pp., $28)

The moist glow of overcome pilgrims is unmistakable. The residents of Lincoln, England, are used to seeing them trudge up the steep hill to Lincoln Cathedral to examine yellowed parchment records containing the name “Katherine Swynford,” get tickets to Katherine Swynford Study Days, join the Katherine Swynford Society, and take part in special ceremonies each year on May 10, such as, in 2003, the planting of a memorial tree on the 600th anniversary of Katherine Swynford’s death. Most of all, they want to gaze in awe at the tomb of Katherine Swynford herself. And often, as your reviewer did, they

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