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Jennifer Byrne announces her first novel

13/01/2020 6:04 AM
Jennifer Byrne announces her first novel

Hachette Australia has announced they will be working with accomplished Australian journalist, Jennifer Byrne, to publish her first novel.

Byrne will be putting her investigative journalism skills to the ultimate test as she delves into her family history for the inspiration behind the novel, which is yet to be named.

Byrne made recent discoveries about her family’s past when she appeared on an episode of SBS’s television program, Who Do You Think You Are?

She was the granddaughter of Victoria’s longest-serving governor, Sir Dallas Brooks. However, the program allowed her to look further, where she discovered a family history on her mother’s side that dated back to 14th century England.

Her novel will centre on two of her most interesting ancestors – Katherine Sywnford and her daughter, Joan Beaufort.

Originally a commoner and governess with no wealthy ties, Katherine Sywnford engaged in a love affair with John of Gaunt – the Duke of Lancaster and the third son of King Edward III.

She bore him four illegitimate children, including their daughter, Joan, who was legitimised by an act of parliament, making her the grandchild of the king.

Beaufort married Ralph de Neville, the first Earl of Westmorland and bore him 14 children. She organised important matches for her children, and by the time of her death, there was an earl, a countess, three barons, three duchesses, a bishop and a nun among her children. 

Their descendants would include kings Edward VI, Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII

'We’d been a small family, full of only children, and suddenly I had relatives everywhere, stretching into the very heart of British royalty,' said Byrne of the discoveries she made about her family.

She referred to Katherine and Joan as 'feminists before their time, enduring scandal and disgrace…'

'In their stories, I see elements of my story, and I want to tell it all,' Byrne said.

The book will be published and released in 2022.