The beautiful Catherine De Valois, wife of Henry V, had a convention-defying affair with the little-known Welsh squire Owen Tudor.
“The romantic roots of the Tudor dynasty
Our best-known royal line began with a scandlous love affair.
On 8th February 1437 a royal funeral procession wound through the streets of London. At its heart was a hearse pulled by horses and bearing a Queen’s coffin. It was draped with red cloth of gold stitched with golden flowers. On top lay her effigy carved in wood and dressed in a mantle of purple satin. The head, resting on a velvet cushion, bore a crown of silver gilt, while the face was painted to look as the lovely Katherine of Valois had in life, the eyes blue and the lips red. Real light brown hair was dressed above delicately carved ears, and the arms, crossing the body, embraced a sceptre, the insignia of her royal rank.
At Westminster the coffin was carried into the Abbey under a canopy of black velvet hung with bells that tinkled as it moved. Following a requiem mass Katherine was buried in the Lady Chapel, so called because it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Her tomb had been built close to that of her first husband, Henry V, the great victor of Agincourt. His successes would be remembered in song and tales of chivalric romance for generations. In 1420, as conqueror of France, he had been recognised as heir to Katherine’s father, the French King Charles VI, with their marriage sealing the treaty and the union of the crowns. But it had proved happy, like the peace their marriage had been short lived. Katherine of Valois had been Queen of England for only a year when Henry V had died on campaign in France, leaving her a widow aged twenty-one, with their son, Henry VI, a mere nine months old.
As Katherine’s coffin was lowered into the ground and the candles flickered in the Abbey, the silver head of Henry V’s tomb effigy glinted in the candlelight. There was nothing in this scene, however, to suggest Katherine had left behind a grieving widower, and if her second husband witnessed her funeral it was only as a face in the crowd.
It is not certain when, or how, the Queen met the modest Welsh squire Owen Tudor. What information we have suggests he had found a position in Katherine’s household as a chamber servant in around 1427. The widowed Queen was then twenty-six, and her son, aged seven, was considered old enough to be raised by men in the masculine business of rule. Since she was no longer required full time at court a new household was being set up for her. Owen, meanwhile, had arrived in England from Wales. Owen’s grandfather had been ruined after taking part in a Welsh rebellion against Henry V’s father, Henry IV in 1400, and they were seeking a new life. Owen’s Welsh name, Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur, meant, ‘Owen son of Meredith son of Tudor’, but that was too much of a mouthful for the English so he had become simply, Owen Tudor. If the attempts to anglicise it had gone differently we might have had a dynasty of Merediths. Not that it had seemed very likely that Owen would spawn a dynasty at all. He was, however, about to marry very well indeed.
Katherine was lonely and resentful that the Council, whom Henry V had appointed to rule during his son’s minority, had forbidden her from re-marrying. She was expected to wait at least until Henry VI had reached his majority and could approve a match. This was backed with an Act of Parliament that threatened to confiscate the lands of any great man who ignored the injunction. It never occurred to anyone that Katherine might marry instead a mere chamber servant. Later some wondered if Katherine chose to marry Owen specifically because he was, ‘a poor man’, who posed no threat to the king or his nobles, and so the Council, ‘might not reasonably take vengeance on his life.’ But if so, Owen also appealed to Katherine in a more straightforward way.
Although the early Tudor historian, Polydore Vergil, claimed Owen was ‘adorned with wonderful gifts of body and mind’, we hear little about his mind from anyone else. Other reports point exclusively to his physical attractions. One account describes how the Queen fell in love with Owen after coming upon him swimming naked. But the most repeated story, and the one most likely to have some basis in fact, describes how Owen came to her attention in dramatic fashion during a party in her household. There was music playing, and her servants were dancing. As Katherine watched, Owen performed a leap which span out of control, and he fell straight into her lap. As an Elizabethan poet asked, ‘Who would not judge it fortune’s greatest grace, Since he must fall, to fall in such a place’? It was not long before Katherine and her handsome chamber servant were married and, according to a rather disapproving sixteenth century account, when they made love she would scream in ecstasy.
By 1437 they had four children. But the English elite complained bitterly that the Queen should have ‘proved unable to control her carnal passions’, and with ‘ no man of birth neither of livelihood’. The king’s Council decided it was best therefore that the marriage remain secret until Henry VI had grown up and could decide what to do about it. He was sixteen and his mother was dying from a ‘grievous malady’, before he learned she had married, and that he had half siblings, bearing the strange name, ‘Tudor’. In his anger and grief he had Owen imprisoned for a time. But he in 1439 Owen was pardoned, and by 1444 the king was even referring to him as ‘our well beloved squire’. Still, Henry VI was determined to keep a close grip of future marriages within his family.
In 1453 it was Henry VI who arranged the betrothal between Owen’s eldest son, Edmund Tudor, and the nine-year old Margaret Beaufort, who, like the king, was descended from the royal House of Lancaster. That year was, however, to be a disastrous one for the king. He lost the English war in France and had a mental collapse. This weakness encouraged the ambitions of the rival House of York, and a spiral of violence began. Owen Tudor fought loyally for Henry VI in what later became known as the Wars of the Roses, and was one of the commanders of the royal forces confronting Yorkists at Mortimer Cross, Herefordshire in 1461.
The battle is remembered for the three suns that appeared in the sky, a phenomenon caused by light passing through ice crystals. Under those suns the Lancastrians fought and lost. Owen was captured and taken to Hereford. It was only when a Yorkist solider grabbed the collar of his red doublet to expose his neck, that Owen realised he was to be executed. Facing the block he managed a joke, recalling with dry wit how, ‘The head that shall lie on the stock was wont to lie on Queen Katherine’s lap’, the woman he had loved and married against all the norms of their times. Then, at the fall of the axe the life that began with a trip at a party was ended. Owen was buried ar the Hereford Greyfriars. Sadly his tomb was swept away at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII did not think the memory of a humble Welsh squire worth saving. Today, Owen Tudor’s body lies under a 1970s housing estate: the forgotten ancestor of our best-known dynasty.
Katherine lay in her tomb only until Henry VII disinterred his grandmother from the Lady Chapel when he was reworking it to build his wife’s tomb and his own. Her body, loosely wrapped in lead from the chapel roof, was placed by Henry V’s tomb monument. This was intended as a temporary arrangement. Henry VII had given her presence in the Abbey as a major reason for choosing to be buried there. But Henry VIII made no effort to complete his father’s wishes in this respect, and, shockingly, for the next two hundred years she lay abandoned in a coffin above ground, covered by lose boards, that exposed her skeleton from the waist up. Why Katherine of Valois continued to lie abandoned over subsequent generations we can only guess. Perhaps she was still paying the price for her ‘carnal desires’ for Owen Tudor. In 1669 the diarist Samuel Pepys celebrated his birthday by playing a small fee to give her a kiss. During the eighteenth century, her body, still exposed, was described as, ‘thinly clothed, with flesh like scrapings of tanned leather’. Her body was placed where it lies today, under the altar in Henry V’s chantry, during the reign of Queen Victoria. Remarkably her wooden effigy, which was displayed at her funeral, remains in the Abbey museum, now dressed only in her painted red undergarment.”
Tear In My Heart- twenty one pilots // Out of My League- Fitz and the Tantrums // You and I Belong- Simone Felice // Higher Window- Josh Groban // Chasing Cars- Snow Patrol // No Surprises- Radiohead // New York- Snow Patrol // Atoms for Peace- Thom Yorke
heeeee, my headcasts for young Richard II and Anne are Toby Regbo and Alexandra Dowling, so it's always fun to see what other people are thinking ;)
I LOVE THAT CASTING SO MUCH. SHIT.
I just changed my tags because I think Richard and Lily actually make a better Hal (Henry V) and Kate de Valois. I mean, that photoshoot is stunning - they’re dressed pretty much how a royal couple announcing their engagement might be styled and I LOVE IT.
And with Richard’s boyish grin, you know he’d make a good Harry-Hal-whatever, even if he was the Gryffindor, not the Slytherin, variant. Meanwhile, Lily’s gorgeous and kind, but definitely intelligent, and she looks it, too. So they’re perfect.
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.
In bed, tbh? :) I imagine that Hal continues to woo Kate, even when they’re married. If the machinations of the English court and his continuing campaign stress him out too much, Kate and Hal decide to go on a picnic themselves, with very few attendants. Hal needs peace more than war sometimes, and so he’ll often meet Kate in the library, where he teaches her dirty English words and she sasses him in French.
And of course, the sex is fantastic because they’re both very giving in bed. I think Kate has always been bold and witty, but being married to Hal makes her realize that she has someone who won’t mind her being who she is, whether that’s wanton or shy.
12. Dream home?
Probably a small to modest-sized manor in the middle of the city. They need a happy medium between being where the action is (they’re the children of kings, and it’s in their nature) and wanting a down-to-earth place to call their home. Hal doesn’t need to go to taverns anymore, but he still likes the bustle of the city. Kate is also excited by all the hubbub; her never-ending curiosity is absolutely a joy. Their dream home allows them to be all the things their titles don’t.
14. How would one in the ship react to the death of the other?
I imagine that when Hal dies, Kate throws all her love and everything she has into standing by baby Henry. She’s devastated, of course, and she could never have expected to suffer this at 21, but she tries to carry on her duty. But she’s a passionate person at heart, and so I think her sorrow really creeps its way into everything she does. People see her at court and are always reminded of tragedy - it’s in her very posture. She never lets people forget the vivacity of Hal, even as men around her try to keep her from making decisions for her son. She is always saying “Harry would’ve done x” and “doesn’t this remind you of the time dear Harry did y?” Sure, she’s able to find love again years later in the arms of de Tudor, and she rebuilds her standing, but Hal always has that place in her heart as her first love: the epic, passionate love of equals.
Had Hal been forced to outlive his Kate, I think he would’ve destroyed his private apartments, wept there on the spot, and allowed himself to grieve fully, as a man, and not as a king, the same way he loved his wife. After as much seclusion as he would allow himself, he’d march himself in front of everyone and give Kate the grandest funeral a Franco-English queen could dream of. He would show his emotions through the grandeur and solemnity of the funeral. And then he’d spend every night in the nursery of his son, playing with him, rocking him, and desperately attempting to be both father and mother to his son. He’d be terrified to do it without Kate, but he’d never stop trying. (I don’t think he’d remarry, ever.)
Chapters: 1/1 Fandom: Henry V - Shakespeare Rating: General Audiences Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply Relationships: Catherine of Valois/Henry V Characters: Henry V of England, Catherine of Valois Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Radio, Broadcasting, pirate radio, Feeder (band), falling in love with the voice on the radio Summary:
Every night, Kate tunes in to hear a pirate radio station.
@caelidra and I are both in a huge Hal/Kate mood. So here’s a continuation of the broadcast AU. Enjoy some pining!kate.