Catherine of Valois

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

On the 24th of August 1572, the sanguineous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was carried out. 

Under the influence of his homicidal mother, Catherine de’ Medici, King Charles IX of France ordered the murder of the Huguenot Protestant leaders in Paris, which triggered a wave of the shocking violence towards the Huguenots in Paris and across France.

Catherine de’ Medici was ruthless in her attempts to protect the throne of France for her sons and to perpetuate the reign of the Valois dynasty. Through intimidation and beneficial political marriages, the Queen Mother tried to use her offspring to solve a plentitude of political and religious problems in France. Catherine kept one of her daughters – young Marguerite de Valois – unmarried, and her actions proved to be forward-looking.

In the beginning of the 1570s, religious wars were tearing France apart, and political rivalries were eroding peace. The first religious war raged from 1562 to 1563; it began with the Massacre of Vassy that occurred on the 1st of March 1562. The second religious war took place between 1567 and 1568; the third war began in 1569 and ended in 1570. All these wars were devastating for both parties, but the Huguenots were granted significant religious freedoms and privileges. Between these wars, the Huguenots and Catholics were embroiled in many skirmishes and massacres.

The history of internecine warfare between the Huguenots and Catholics pushed Catherine to assent to the arranged marriage between Marguerite and her distant cousin, Henri de Bourbon, King of Navarre. 

Many notable and powerful Huguenot nobles arrived in Paris on the wedding and festivities on the 18th of August. This matrimony officially served the purpose of establishing peace and religious harmony between the Catholics and Huguenots and, hence, the reunion of family ties between the House of Bourbon and the Valois dynasty. Yet, it was all a ruse to lull the vigilance.

During the week prior to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, political and religious tensions were running intensely high and, eventually, spiraled out of control. Two days before the bloodbath, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a remarkable Huguenot leader, was shot in the street by someone called Maurevert from a house owned by Duke de Guise. It is not known who instigated or sanctioned Maurevert to make an attempt on Admiral de Coligny’s life, but there are three possibilities: the Guises, Catherine de’ Medici, or the Duke of Alba on behalf of King Philip II of Spain.

The king sent his own physician to tend to Coligny’s wounds and pledged to investigate the plot against Coligny in order to placate the furious Huguenots, but Catherine prevented all private communication between them. 

Marguerite and Henry’s wedding was just the lull before the storm. Crawling to her future victims like a snake in the grass, Catherine told Charles IX that the Huguenots were on the verge of a riot and convinced him that it was necessary to annihilate every Protestant in Paris to keep peace in the kingdom.

That night, the Huguenot blood flowed like rain, and the pungent scent of blood permeated the air. Admiral de Coligny was attacked in his own bedchamber by a group of Catholics under the command of Henry I, Duke of Guise: one of them plunged his sword into Coligny’s chest and then threw the corpse out of a window to his master’s feet. 

The killing of Coligny unleashed an explosion of the visceral hatred against Protestants throughout the city. Bloodlust seized the hearts of Catholic Parisians who began a general massacre of the Huguenots, including women and children. Chains were used to block streets so as to preclude Protestants from escaping from their houses. The slaughter was merciless and thorough.

The iniquitous massacre in the capital of France lasted for three days when about three thousand Huguenots were killed in Paris and another eight thousand in other provincial cities. The victims didn’t receive a decent burial: the bodies of the dead were collected in wagons and thrown into the Seine. 

The two leading Huguenot princes – Henry of Navarre, Marguerite’s husband, and his cousin, the Prince de Condé – were spared as they pledged to convert to Catholicism. On the 26th of August, King Charles and Catherine de’ Medici established the official version of events: the massacre was ordered to thwart a Huguenot plot against the royal family

The famous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre started the fourth war of religion, which included Catholic sieges of the cities of Sommières, Sancerre, and La Rochelle. More religious wars broke out in France, and the violence against the Huguenots was increasingly popular. Eventually, the Edict of Nantes tapered off this violence in 1595, granting French Protestants religious freedom.

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— 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.

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To be a queen and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it. 

Queen Consorts of England from 1066-1603. [kings] + [insp.]

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.  

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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)

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C a t h e r i n e   o f   V a l o i s  |  27 October 1401 - 3 January 1437

Catherine of Valois, Queen of Henry V of England, daughter of Charles VI of France by his wife Isabel of Bavaria, was born in Paris on the 27th of October 1401. The lunacy of her father and the depravity of her mother were serious drawbacks to Catherine, and her only education was obtained in a convent at Poissy.

About 1408, a marriage was suggested between the princess and Henry, Prince of Wales, afterwards King Henry V, who renewed this proposal after he became king in March 1413. In addition to the hand of Catherine, however, the English king asked for a large dowry both in money and lands, and when these demands were rejected war broke out. Once or twice during short intervals of peace the marriage project was revived, and was favoured by Queen Isabel. When peace was eventually made at Troyes in May 1420 Henry and Catherine were betrothed, and the marriage took place at Troyes on the 2nd of June 1420. Having crossed to England with Henry, the queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on the 23rd of February 1421, and in the following December gave birth to a son, afterwards King Henry VI. She joined Henry in France in May 1422, returning to England after his death in the succeeding August.

Catherine’s name soon began to be coupled with that of Owen Tudor, a Welsh gentleman, and in 1428 Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, secured the passing of an act to prevent her from marrying without the consent of the king and council. It appears, however, that by this time Catherine and Tudor were already married. They lived in obscurity until 1436, when Tudor was imprisoned, and Catherine retired to Bermondsey Abbey, where she died on the 3rd of January 1437. Her body was buried in the Lady chapel of Westminster Abbey, and when the chapel was pulled down during the reign of King Henry VII, was placed in Henry V’s tomb. It lay afterwards under the Villiers monument, and in 1878 was reburied in Henry V’s chantry. By Tudor Catherine had three sons and a daughter. Her eldest son by this marriage, Edmund, was created Earl of Richmond in 1452, and was the father of Henry VII.

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There are many tales, most unsupported, of how Katherine and Own met. Owen was probably born in about 1400, and may have gone to war in the service of Henry V’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford in 1421 in France. We don’t know for sure what position Owen held when he met the Queen, but he was most likely keeper of the Queen’s household or wardrobe.

Despite all the romantic embellishments by later writers, it seems that Owen and Katherine were attracted to one another and were legally married in the early 1430s. At some point, an English bookkeeper or scribe (possibly confused by the Welsh patronymic naming scheme) recorded Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur as “Owen Tudor”.

Owen and Katherine had at least four children, although their only known daughter died young. Edmund, Jasper and Owen, the three sons born to the couple, were all born away from court.

Katherine entered Bermondsey Abbey, possibly seeking a cure for an illness that had troubled her for some time. She made her will just three days before her death on January 3, 1437. She now rests at Westminster Abbey in Henry V’s Chantry Chapel.

After the Queen’s death, Owen and Katherine’s enemies decided to proceed against Owen for violating the the law of the remarriage of the Dowager Queen. Owen appeared before the Council, acquitting himself of all charges and was released. On his way back to Wales, he was arrested and his possessions seized. He tried to escape from Newgate jail in early 1438 and eventually ended up at Windsor Castle in July of that year.

Meanwhile, Owen and Katherine’s two older sons, Edmund and Jasper, were sent to live with Katherine de la Pole, who was abbess of Barking and sister to the Earl of Suffolk. Sometime after 1442, the King (their half-brother) took a role in their upbringing. Owen, their father, was eventually released on £2000 bail, but was pardoned in November 1439 (and the bail canceled in 1440). Owen was treated well afterwards and was in the household of the King until the mid-1450s.

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HISTORY AU || Catherine of Valois

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)

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THE START OF A NEW DYNASTY: Catherine of Valois & Owen Tudor

Catherine remarried in secret sometime in 1431 or 1432 after the death of Henry V. Her new husband was Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur of Wales. Somewhere at this time, the Queen stopped living in the King’s household and in May 1432 Parliament granted Owen the rights of an Englishman. This was important because of Henry IV’s laws limiting the rights of Welshmen.

There are many tales, most unsupported, of how Catherine and Owen met. Owen was probably born in about 1400, and may have gone to war in the service of Henry V’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford in 1421 in France. We don’t know for sure what position Owen held when he met the Queen, but he was most likely keeper of the Queen’s household or wardrobe.

Despite all the romantic embellishments by later writers, it seems that Owen and Catherine were attracted to one another and were legally married in the early 1430s. At some point, an English bookkeeper or scribe (possibly confused by the Welsh patronymic naming scheme) recorded Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur as “Owen Tudor”.

Owen and Catherine had at least four children, although their only known daughter died young. Edmund, Jasper and Owen, the three sons born to the couple, were all born away from court.

Catherine entered Bermondsey Abbey, possibly seeking a cure for an illness that had troubled her for some time. She made her will just three days before her death on January 3, 1437. She now rests at Westminster Abbey in Henry V’s Chantry Chapel.

After the Queen’s death, Owen and Catherine’s enemies decided to proceed against Owen for violating the the law of the remarriage of the Dowager Queen. Owen appeared before the Council, acquitting himself of all charges and was released. On his way back to Wales, he was arrested and his possessions seized. He tried to escape from Newgate jail in early 1438 and eventually ended up at Windsor Castle in July of that year.

Meanwhile, Owen and Catherine’s two older sons, Edmund and Jasper, were sent to live with Catherine de la Pole, who was abbess of Barking and sister to the Earl of Suffolk. Sometime after 1442, the King (their half-brother) took a role in their upbringing. Owen, their father, was eventually released on £2000 bail, but was pardoned in November 1439 (and the bail canceled in 1440). Owen was treated well afterwards and was in the household of the King until the mid-1450s.