— Is it possible dat I sould love de enemy of France? — No; it is not possible you should love the enemy of France, Kate: but, in loving me, you should love the friend of France; for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine: and, Kate, when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France and you are mine.
Queens of England +Catherine of Valois (1401-1437)
Catherine was born in 1401, the youngest daughter of Charles VI of France and Isabella of Bavaria. Her older sister Isabella was Richard II’s second queen. Early in her life there was discussion of marrying her to Henry IV’s son but he died before negotiations could begin. The new king, Henry V, also proposed the match but he demanded a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne in France.
Henry went to war with France but plans for the marriage still continued even after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Catherine was known to be very beautiful and when Henry met her at Meulan he became enamored of her. In May 1420 a peace treaty was made between England and France in which Henry was acknowledged as Charles’ heir and Catherine married him in June.
Catherine returned to England with Henry and was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey in February 1421. In June of that same year Henry returned to France to continue his campaign. By the time he left Catherine was pregnant and gave birth to a son, Henry, in December. Catherine was made a queen dowager less than a year after the birth of her son when her husband died in August 1422 of dysentery in France.
Catherine’s youth was a concern to her brother-in-law, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector, as she was still marriageable. To prevent Catherine’s marrying without permission, the Parliament of 1427-8 introduced a bill setting the rules for the remarriage of a queen dowager. The bill stated that if she married without the king’s consent, the husband would lose his lands and possessions. It also stipulated the king could only grant permission once he had reached his majority. At the time the bill was written Henry VI was only 6.
Catherine lived in the king’s household, presumably to care for him. However, this arrangement also allowed the councilors to watch over the queen herself. Despite the surveillance, Catherine began a romantic relationship with the Welshman Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor who served as her clerk of the wardrobe. The two soon became inseparable despite the danger of them being exposed. Unable to stay at court, Catherine retreated from court life into the countryside. She and Owen secretly married on an unknown date in the early 1430s. Catherine managed to conceal the marriage and the birth of her sons, Edmund, Jasper, and Owen by living in complete retirement.
In 1436, when she was pregnant with her fifth child, rumors of Catherine’s secret marriage reached the Duke of Gloucester. Finding this to be true, he swiftly punished her. He dissolved her household, sent her children away, and imprisoned Owen in Newgate. Catherine herself was sent to Bermondsey Abbey. The heavily pregnant Catherine was gravely ill by this time and distressed by the separation from her family. She soon gave birth to a daughter, Margaret, who died shortly after birth. Catherine never recovered from the birth and she died in January 1437.
She was laid in state at St. Catherine’s Chapel at the Tower of London and later buried in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey. (x)
Queens of England, Katherine of Valois, 1401 - 1437
Katherine was born at the Hotel-St-Pol, on 27th October 1401, daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabella of Bavaria. Katherine’s childhood was unstable due to her father’s madness and the political instability that this and the Hundred Years’ War caused in France. As part of a treaty for peace, Katherine was married to Henry V of England on 4th July 1420. Katherine was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 23rd February 1421, by this time she was already pregnant.
Katherine gave birth to the future Henry VI on 6th December 1421, his father would never see the child as he died of dysentery in France on 31st August 1422. Katherine was left a widow, with a young child, at the age of 20. Her future remarriage was a cause for concern with the Kings councillors, a bill was even passed in 1428, stating that a dowager queen could not remarry without consent from the King.
Katherine fell in love with Owen Tudor, probably the keeper of the queen’s wardrobe. They were married secretly, probably around 1431, although later this was disputed, as no records to prove their marriage could be found. Around this time Katherine left the Kings household and moved to her own establishment. Katherine and Owen between four and six children and lived quietly together for several years. Their lives were shattered when Owen Tudor was arrested in 1436 on charges of treason, Katherine was pregnant at the time. Katherine entered Bermondsey Abbey after his arrest and died there, separated from her husband, shortly after giving birth to her final child.
Owen lived until 1461, when he was executed fighting on the side of his stepson, Henry VI, during the War of the Roses. Henry VI promoted his Tudor siblings at court, arranging good marriages for them and showing them favour. It was from this Tudor line that Henry VII came, his right to the throne coming from his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who had married Katherine’s son, Edmund Tudor.
Katherine’s corpse became a tourist attraction years after her death. In 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of how he kissed Katherine on his birthday :
I did see the body of Queen Catherine of Valois, and had the upper part of the body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it I did kiss a Queen: and this my birthday and I thirty-six years old and I did kiss a Queen.
Katherine’s body was not re-interred properly until the reign of Queen Victoria.
Catherine had little comfort besides her son when her stubborn English husband, the victorious Henry V, died in 1422 in France. She had tried to convince him to stay at least until after the birth of the child but he would not stopped. Now she was left all alone in what was still a foreign place to her with a son in infant bands named king of England and France. She wondered how this boy of hers would ever keep all this that was so hard won by his father. But there was no one to hear her worries as the regency council Henry had appointed took over the ruling of kingdom and she was pushed aside. Catherine came to the painful realisation that in some ways, her son belonged more to the whole of England than to her. She was no more than the French mother of an English king.
Catherine found unexpected solace in the person of Owen Tudor. He was a quiet Welshman who had distinguished himself at Agincourt and returned to England in Henry’s service. Of all the people that she was surrounded by at court, he was the single person that did not ignore her or patronise her. He treated her with sincere respect and did not look like he had something better to be doing when she spoke to him. In a way they were both very much foreigners in England, as there was no small bias against the Welsh and Catherine was still so very French. Their relationship quickly grew and Catherine appointed him Clerk of her Wardrobe to conceal how much time she was really spending with him.
Catherine’s ladies were not oblivious to the growing affair and they urged her to end it. Owen Tudor was a savage Welshman far below her station with no advantages to speak of. Their advice was blatantly ignored when Catherine did the unthinkable and asked for permission to marry him. Henry’s brother, Humphrey of Gloucester, denied it and a bill was passed in Parliament that stated a queen dowager could not marry without the granted consent of the king. It was 1428 and Henry VI was only 6 years old. Catherine settled in for a long wait.
For the next several years Catherine did not have an unhappy life. Although excluded largely from the upbringing of her son, she was near him and knew that she would not get anything more than that from the greedy regency council. Owen remained in her household and once her ladies stopped begrudging her a little romance, Catherine found them less insufferable than she used to. Finally in 1437, Henry was declared of age and granted his mother the permission for which she had waited nearly a decade.
Catherine and Owen were quietly married and removed to the countryside away from the ever squabbling court. It hurt her deeply to abandon Henry to those wolves that called themselves his advisors; he had been raised to patronise her like every other Englishman and would not listen to her anyway. She and Owen eventually had four children, Edmund, Jasper, Owen, and Margaret. After the birth of Margaret in 1447, she became ill and died with Owen by her side.
Birth made her a French princess and marriage made her an English queen, but choice made her a Welshman’s wife. (x)