Posted on 4 October 2019
The Katherine Swynford Blue Plaque Campaign seeks to honour the medieval woman, named Duchess of Lancaster, who shook up Lincolnshire life.
Katherine Swynford (c. 1530 – 1403) was born Katherine de Roet and was the daughter of a Flemish knight. She was educated at a convent and, when she was fifteen, Katherine left the convent and joined her sister at the English royal court.
At the royal court, she caught the eye of Hugh Swynford who was a knight in the service of John of Gaunt. Hugh Swynford wanted to marry Katherine and it was seen as a great match as Hugh was a distinguished knight and owned a manor in Kettlethorpe, Lincolnshire.
Katherine and Hugh married in 1366. They appear to have had three children who survived infancy. Hugh Swynford died in 1372 and Katherine’s first child by her lover John of Gaunt was born the following year.
After several years John of Gaunt took the unusual step of marrying Katherine, his mistress. They were married on 13th January, 1396, at Lincoln Cathedral. This had the effect of putting rather a lot of noses out of joint. Not only did Katherine become the Duchess of Lancaster, but because the king, Richard II, had no queen she gained even more power.
This was because John was the next most important man in the country and Katherine automatically became the first lady to whom all other women in court had to give way.
Katherine died on the 10th May 1403, having outlived John of Gaunt by four years. She’d survived a period of plague, seen the Peasants Revolt and the Hundred Years War as well as having caused a national scandal for having a child out of wedlock. Katherine lived quietly in Lincoln during her final years and is buried with her daughter Joan in Lincoln Cathedral.
As a Lady of the Royal Order of the Garter, she would have promoted chivalry, peace and public service.