Catherine of Valois was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabelle of Bavaria, daughter of Duke Stephen III of Bavaria-Ingolstadt. Catherine was born at the royal palace of the Hôtel Saint-Pol in Paris on 27 October 1401, one of eight children born of the marriage. An older sister, Isabella of Valois, had previously been married to King Richard II.
Catherine’s father, Charles VI was mentally ill, he is believed to have suffered from schizophrenia, Charles experienced delusions, believing he was made of glass or denying he had a wife and children. He ran from room to room until he collapsed from exhaustion, declaring that his enemies were upon him. Charles’ illness is believed to have been later inherited by his grandson, Henry VI of England. Charles’ ancestors were closely related. His mother, the French Princess, Joan of Bourbon (1338-1377) was slightly unstable, as were her brother, Louis, Duke of Bourbon, her father and grandfather, she suffered a complete nervous breakdown in 1373 after the birth of her seventh child.
By the time Catherine had reached the age of three, the decision was reached that for the sake of his health and dignity Charles VI should retire from public life. Catherine’s mother, Queen Isabeau, an arrogant and ruthless woman, was openly unfaithful to her father. Acquiring the assistance of her brother Louis, Duke of Bavaria and her brother-in-law Louis, Duke of Orleans, she seized control of the government of France from the rival forces of the King’s cousin John, Duke of Burgundy. Catherine and her sisters, Marie and Michelle and her brother the Dauphin Louis, were at one point carried off by the Duke of Bavaria during power struggles at the French court. Catherine’s early years were dismal and impoverished, her only education was obtained in a convent at Poissy.
King Henry V of England renewed the English claim to the French throne and invaded France. Agreement was finally reached in 1420 by the Treaty of Troyes. By its terms King Charles VI of France recognised Henry as his heir, disinheriting his own son, the Dauphin Charles and the English King married Charles’ youngest daughter, Catherine on 2nd June 1420.
Catherine travelled to England with her husband and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 February 1421. Henry’s brother, Thomas, Duke of Clarence was killed fighting in France at the field of Baugy. Determined to avenge his death, Henry returned to France in June 1421. Queen Catherine gave birth to a son, Henry, on 6 December 1421 at Windsor. Leaving her son in the care of his uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, she joined Henry in France in May 1422, the child and his father were never to meet, Henry V contracted dysentery during the siege of Meaux and died on 31 August 1422, at the age of 34, leaving Catherine a widow. Her father King Charles VI died a few months later, leaving the infant Henry VI king of England and France.
In 1428, Henry V’s younger brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, concerned that a step-father of the infant king could wield too much influence, secured the passing of an act to prevent Catherine from marrying without the consent of the king and council. Now Dowager Queen, Catherine sometimes took part in state processions, contemporaries describe how often on such occasions, ‘the infant king was seated on her lap’.
Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor, a Welshman of relatively modest background, who had entered the service of Henry V and distinguished himself at Agincourt, was appointed as keeper of the wardrobe to the twenty year old widow. By all accounts Owen was a handsome young man, the chroniclers dwell upon the beauty, at some point he became the Dowager Queen’s lover. Legend relates that Owen caught the Queen’s eye when she saw him swimming, or that he tripped and fell into her lap when dancing. The affair is thought to have started at Leeds Castle in Kent.
No documentation has survived of Catherine’s marriage to Owen Tudor in 1429. The discovery of at least three of the queen’s illegitimate children had caused scandal at the time, and was seen as an insult to the memory of the great Henry V. Owen and Catherine produced at least five children in all. Edmund, Jasper and Owen Tudor were all born away from court. Owen later became a monk. They also had two daughters, Tacinda, who married Reginald Grey, 7th Baron Grey de Wilton and Margaret who later became a nun.
In 1436, when Catherine was pregnant with her fifth child by Tudor, rumours of the Queen’s secret marriage reached the ear of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Owen Tudor was imprisoned and Catherine retired to Bermondsey Abbey, shortly after giving birth to their daughter Margaret, on 3 January 1437. Distressed and traumatised at the forced separation from her husband and children, Catherine fell gravely ill. Her son Henry VI sent her a 'tablet of gold, weighing thirteen ounces on which was a crucifix set with pearls and sapphires’ as a token of his love. Catherine died in disgrace on 3rd January 1437 and was buried in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey. Henry VI provided an altar tomb and included an inscription describing her as his father’s widow, with no reference to her second marriage.
Catherine’s will addressed to her son the King, refers in a guarded manner to an intent known only to him, 'in tender and favourable fulfilling of mine intent’ is thought to refer to her wishes regarding her children by Owen Tudor, which may have been revealed to him before her confinement in Bermondsey.
Owen Tudor was arrested soon after her death, he appeared before the Council, acquitted himself of all charges and was released. On his return journey to Wales, he was arrested again. He attempted to escape from Newgate Jail in early 1438 and was eventually moved to Windsor Castle in July of that year. Henry VI, when he came of age, 'never forgave his uncle Gloucester the harsh usage his mother had experienced’. He knighted his stepfather Owen, made him Warden of Forestries, and appointed him a Deputy Lord Lieutenant.
Owen lived on until 1461, on 2nd February 1461 he led the Lancastrian forces at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross for his step-son against Edward, Earl of March, the Yorkist claimant to the throne. The Lancastrian’s were defeated in battle and Owen was subsequently beheaded at Hereford. He was reported not to have been convinced of his impending death until the collar was ripped off his doublet by the executioner. At this point he is alleged to have said that “the head which used to lie in Queen Catherine’s lap would now lie in the executioner’s basket”. His head was set on the market cross, where a mad woman combed his hair and washed his face, setting lighted wax torches round about it.
The two eldest sons of Owen and Catherine, Edmund and Jasper, went to live with Katherine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking and sister of the Duke of Suffolk. Sometime after 1442, the king, their half-brother, took on a role in their upbringing and they were given Earldoms by Henry VI, Edmund became Earl of Richmond and married Lady Margaret Beaufort, he was to become the father of Henry VII, the founder of England’s Tudor dynasty. Jasper Tudor became Earl of Pembroke .
The wooden effigy which was carried at Catherine’s funeral still survives at Westminster Abbey and is on display in the Undercroft Museum. Her tomb was originally surmounted by an alabaster memorial, but this was destroyed during extensions to the abbey in the reign of her grandson, Henry VII. It has been said that King Henry ordered her memorial to be removed to distance himself from his illegitimate ancestry. At this time, the lid of Catherine’s coffin was accidentally raised, revealing her corpse, which for generations became a tourist attraction. In 1669 the diarist Samuel Pepys kissed the long-deceased queen on his birthday- 'On Shrove Tuesday 1669, I to the Abbey went, and by favour 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.'Catherine’s remains were not properly re-interred until the reign of Queen Victoria, when in 1878 her body was re-buried in Henry V’s chantry.
Mary was born in February 1516, the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. As a princess, she was well educated and by the age of nine could read and write Latin. Throughout her childhood, her father negotiated potential marriages with the Dauphin of France, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and Francis I. They were all broken off for various reasons.
Mary’s status was thrown into jeopardy when her father sought to divorce Catherine. By 1531, Catherine had been banished from court and Mary was forbidden to see her. In 1533 her parents’ marriage was declared legally void and Henry married Anne Boleyn. Mary was then deemed illegitimate and was styled “The Lady Mary” rather than Princess. Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth, took Mary’s place in the line of succession. Her household was dissolved and she was sent to join the household of her infant sister.
Mary refused to acknowledge Anne that was the queen or that Elizabeth was a princess, enraging her father. He kept her movements restricted and she was frequently ill, which the royal physician attributed to “poor treatment.” The relationship between Mary and Henry disintegrated to the point that they did not speak to each for three years. Despite both of them being ill, Henry still would not allow Mary to see her mother and she was inconsolable when Catherine died in 1536.
Anne Boleyn fell from favor in the same year of Catherine’s death and she was executed. Mary’s sister Elizabeth joined her in the downgraded status of “Lady” and was also removed from the line of succession. Henry soon married Jane Seymour who urged him to make peace with Mary. She was eventually bullied by her father into signing a document that would acknowledge him as head of the Church of England, acknowledge that her parents’ marriage was unlawful, and accept her illegitimacy. Reconciled on Henry’s terms, Mary was allowed to resume her place at court and was granted a household. In 1537, Jane gave birth to a son, Edward, and Mary was made godmother. When Jane died soon after the birth, Mary was the chief mourner at her funeral.
In 1539, Mary was courted by Duke Philip of Bavaria, but he was Lutheran and Mary a strict Catholic so the suit was unsuccessful. Her father married again in 1540 to Anne of Cleves but the marriage was annulled only months later. As a Catholic, she watched her father execute her old governess and godmother, the Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, on the pretext of a Catholic plot in 1541. After Henry’s fifth marriage to Catherine Howard failed and she was executed, Mary was invited to attend the royal Christmas festivities and serve as hostess since Henry was without a consort. It was her father’s last wife, Catherine Parr, that succeeded in convincing him to return both of his daughters to the line of succession after their brother with the Act of Succession 1544. However, Mary and her sister were both still legally illegitimate.
Henry died in 1547 and rule passed to Edward VI. His regency council attempted to establish Protestantism throughout the country but Mary remained faithful to Catholicism and defiantly celebrated traditional mass in her own chapel. She stayed on her estates for most of Edward’s demands and a reunion with both of her siblings at Christmas in 1550 ended in tears when he embarrassed her by publicly reproving her for ignoring his laws. Neither of them ever gave concessions to the other.
Edward died in 1533, and because he did not want Mary to succeed him and undo his religious reforms, he planned to exclude her from the line of succession. He ended up excluding both of his sisters from his will and instead named Lady Jane Grey as his successor. Knowing of his plans, Mary fled to her estates to find support from Catholic adherents and wrote to the Privy Council with orders for her proclamation as Edward’s successor. Mary and her supporters assembled a military force and the faction that supported Jane Grey collapsed. After nine days of being queen, Jane was deposed and eventually executed. Mary rode triumphantly into London in August 1553, accompanied by Elizabeth and a procession of over 800 nobles and gentlemen. She was crowned at Westminster Abbey in October, and became England’s first undisputed queen regnant.
In her first Parliament, Mary abolished her brother’s religious laws and had the marriage of her parents declared valid. Parliament later repealed the Protestant religious laws and returned the English church to Roman jurisdiction. This led to the revival of the Heresy Acts, and numerous Protestants were executed under it, a total of less than 300 people. These actions eventually led to her being called “Bloody Mary,” despite the fact that her father himself had executed tens of thousands of people during his reign.
In 1554, Mary wed Prince Philip of Spain, the only son of her cousin Charles V, and it was unpopular marriage with the English people. She desperately wanted an heir to keep the Protestant Elizabeth from succeeding her but she would only have two false pregnancies and no children. She was forced to accept that Elizabeth would be her lawful successor.
In January 1558, Mary’s reputation suffered a blow when she lost Calais, England’s last remaining possession on the European mainland after several months of conflict between Spain and France. Despite an ultimately ineffectual rule, Mary did begin policies of fiscal reform, naval expansion, and colonial expansion that would later be lauded as Elizabethan accomplishments.
She died in May 1558 during an influenza epidemic and her will stated that she wished to be buried next to her mother but she was interred in Westminster Abbey. Her sister would later be buried next to her. (x)
Can you tell me about the daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II?
I’d love to write about them! These ladies are very interesting in my opinion and sadly under-appreciated. <3Please forgive my long response as I wanted to give details for each.
The couple had three daughters. The eldest was named Matilda (sometimes referred to as Maud). The middle daughter is Eleanor (sometimes referred to as Leanor). The youngest daughter is Joan (sometimes referred to as Joanna). :)
1189) Born in the summer of 1156 at Windsor Castle, named after her paternal grandmother. She was known to be a sweet, radiant and reliant young girl. It appears she spent alot of her childhood around her mother whilst journeying through the Angevin empire and they remained close throughout her adulthood. She departed for Saxony late in September in 1167 to meet her future husband, taking the same route her paternal grandmother fifty years before her had done (when she moved to Germany to marry her first husband Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor). At the age of 12 (c.1168) she married Henry, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria to strengthen ties with the Holy Roman Empire. Matilda became Duchess of Saxony and Bavaria. When she was around age 17 (c.1172) she had her first child, a daughter. Around this time her husband left for the Holy Land and she governed his estates in his absence. When Henry returned in 1174 he found himself in conflict with Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor and around 1180 he and his family were forced to flee Saxony. The family would find refuge in Normandy at the court of Matilda’s father. Whilst residing here, she became captivated by a troubador named Bertran de Born, who would write about her. Soon after arriving, Henry left on pilgrimage, leaving pregnant Matilda behind. It’s thought that she gave birth to child who died young, around this date. Henry returned to his family in Normandy around 1182 Christmastide. Matilda watched as her family fought against each other and dealt with grief when her elder brother Henry died. Matilda and Henry were allowed to leave for Saxony in October 1185 (because King Henry II and the Pope persuaded Frederick). At this time the couple’s family had grown, they now had four sons. In 1189 the emperor forced Henry to go into exile once more. Matilda was unwilling to leave and did not leave with her husband, but stayed to defend his rights and interests as regent. Three months after Henry left, Matilda died at the young age of 33. She was a loving and loyal wife, who was known as ‘die Fromme’ / ‘Matilda the pious’. She was buried at Brunswick Cathedral.
– 1214) Born on October 13th, 1162 at the Château de Domfrontin Normandy. She was named after her powerful mother. She was the only daughter enabled (by political circumstances) to exercise the sort of influence Eleanor of Aquitaine maintained. At the age of 12 (c.1174) Eleanor married King Alfonso VIII of Castile in Burgos, in way of securing Aquitaine’s Pyrenean border and for King Alfonso to make new allies. Eleanor was pious and loved supporting multiple religious institutions. In 1179, she took responsibility to support and maintain a shrine to St. Thomas Becket in the cathedral of Toledo. She also established the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, which served as a refuge and tomb for her family and descendants, and its affiliated hospital. In the beginning of the year 1180, Eleanor gave birth to her first child, a daughter. With her marriage treaty to Alfonso she had gained control of many castles, lands and towns, she was almost as powerful as her husband. Troubadors and mentors were often seen at court because of Eleanor’s patronage. In 1200 Alfonso started to claim that the duchy of Glascony was apart of her dowry, yet there is no documented evidence for the claim. Five years later in 1205 he invaded, but nothing came of it. At this time Eleanor had given birth to 7 more children (not including three who had died right after birth or in early infancy). A year later Eleanor was granted safe passage by her younger brother John (who was now king of England) to visit him and talk about peace negotiations. Around two years later Alfonso relented the claim. In October 1214, Alfonso died, leaving Eleanor grief-stricken. Filled with sadness Eleanor died three weeks after him at the age of 52. She left behind 6 of her children, four of her daughters became queens. They sat on the thrones of Castile, Portugal, Aragon and France. She was buried at the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.
– 1199) Born in October of 1165 in Anjou, France. Like her sisters, she was close with her mother and spent her childhood in her courts at Winchester and Poitiers. It’s noted that Joan grew up to be beautiful with blonde/red hair and ‘nice’ features. At the age of twelve (c.1177) she was married off to William II of Sicily and was crowned queen of Sicily at Palermo Cathedral. Joan became popular with the people. It’s said her husband grew very fond of her and that he let her help him with some of his duties. In 1181 it’s believed Joan gave birth to a boy called Bohemond, that lived very briefly. Eight years later, when she was only 24, William died, leaving behind no heir. Joan’s lands given to her by William were seized by the succeeded king, Tancred, she was then kept prisoner by him. In 1190 Joan’s elder brother Richard (who was king of England) arrived in Italy on his way to the Holy Land. Richard demanded Joan’s return and all money from her dowry. After being released Joan travelled for about year with Richard’s betrothed Berengaria, until they reached Acre. Whilst in the Holy Land some marriage plans were made for Joan, but they never came to pass. Back in France, in 1196 she agreed to marry Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. It’s thought that this marriage was not so pleasant as her first one. However, one year (c.1197) after marrying, Joan gave birth to a son, who would be Raymond’s heir and the following year she gave birth to a daughter. The next year (c.1199) whilst pregnant with her third child, Joan was left alone to face a rebellion in which the lords of Saint-Félix-de-Caraman were prominent. She laid siege to their castle, yet soon headed north to seek her brother, king Richard’s protection. Instead she found him dead at Château de Chalus-Chabrol. In distraught she fled to Rouen where her mother’s court was held. She made an unusual request to take the veil at Fontevrault Abbey and her request was accepted. Around September of the same year (c.1199) Joan died at the age of 33, giving birth. Her son, born by cesarean once she was dead, lived just long enough to be christened by the name Richard. She was buried at the same Abbey.
[You can find a gifset I made for her here.]