Swynford’s Tomb

This is the tomb of Katherine Swynford. She came from a relatively humble family and was for many years the mistress of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. By all accounts she was a well-liked, intelligent woman, as Alison Weir’s 2007 biography amply illustrates. She eventually married her lover, becoming the great Lancastrian duchess, whose wealth would be around £100 billion in today’s terms. Remarkably, she is the ancestor of nearly every monarch of Europe, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her descendants include Diana, Princess of Wales, Sir Winston Churchill, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Bertrand Russell, and six American presidents, including the Bushes, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington.

After her husband’s death, she enjoyed a quiet retirement on the Cathedral Close in Lincoln. But what of her spiritual life? A man- or woman- can gain the whole world yet lose their own soul. Like most medieval landowners, she supported financially the Roman Church whose cloud of palpable darkness shrouded the land. Yet her husband was the protector and friend of the great John Wycliffe, the reformation’s Morning Star, and defended his English Bible translation in Parliament. Perhaps the intelligent mistress listened in to these theological conversations, hearing enough of Christ’s gospel to trust in Him for herself?

One’s learning, wealth, status and descendants ultimately count for nothing. What one does with Jesus Christ and His free offer of life eternal, counts for everything.