Catherine of Valois, was the Queen Consort of England from 1420 until the death of her husband, King Henry V in 1422, the father of her son, and future King, Henry VI of England.
She was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and through her secret marriage to Owen Tudor after Henry's death, she would become the mother-in-law of Margaret Beaufort and the Paternal Grandmother of the Tudor Family Tree.
Her older sister Isabella of Valois had also been the Queen Consort of England from 1396 until 1399 whe she was the child bride of King Richard II of England.
After the death of Richard, his successor King Henry IV tried to marry her off to his son the future King Henry V, but she was adamant that she would not marry him.
Catherine was born on 27th October 1401 to Isabelle of Bavaria, the wife of the French King, Charles VI. There had been discussions of her marrying King Henry IV's son, the future King Henry V, but Henry IV died before negotiations could begin.
ABOVE: CATHERINE OF VALOIS.
King Henry V became King of England in the year 1413 and himself proposed the match, for his own political ends, demanding a large dowry and French acknowledgement of his legitimate claim to the French throne.
Henry went to war with France in 1415, as part of the ongoing wars of the Hundred Years War and despite his memorable victory at Agincourt, plans for the marriage went ahead.
Catherine was a noted beauty of her day and when Henry finally met her, he is said to have completely fallen for her, despite his polically motivated agenda.
ABOVE: KING HENRY V.
Peace was made between the two warring nations of England and France in May 1420 and a treaty signed in which Charles VI acknowledged King Henry V of England as his heir to the French throne.
Catherine of Valois, was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey in the February of 1421 and became pregnant soon after. She gave birth to a boy on 6th December 1421 at Windsor, but the father and son would never see each other.
The previous June, King Henry V had returned to France to resume his military campaigns but fell ill and died. He had contracted a fatal illness during the siege of Meaux, believed to have been dysentry, which was the scourge of many an army. He passed away on 31st. August 1422.
He had not quite reached his thirty fifth birthday, which would have fallen on 16th September and left Catherine a widow just two months before she would have celebrated her twenty first birthday.
Catherine's father King Charles VI died a short while later, which left the young infant Henry, the King of England and also the King of the English occupied territories in northern France.
The king's uncle Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester had concerns that Catherine, being so young might wish to remarry and his worries were perhaps well founded. There were many rumours circulating that Catherine was planning to marry her late husband's cousin Edmund Beaufort, Count of Mortain.
This match, the Duke of Gloucester was vehemently opposed to and a Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1427-28 setting out the rules for the remarriage of a Queen Dowager.
The Bill stated that if the Queen was to remarry without the consent of the King, then all the lands and possessions of the husband would be forfeit. Any children produced by the union however, would still be recognised as being full members of the royal family and would not suffer on account of it.
The king's permission could only be granted once he had reached his majority and in the case of Catherine of Valois, the king was only six years of age, therefore no permission could be obtained for a number of years hence. She continued to live in the King's household where she could care for her young son and doted on him during his early years.
Despite all the close attention she was receiving, she was able to enter into a relationship with a Welshman by the name of Owen Tudor. It is thought that he had been appointed keeper of the Queen's household or wardrobe after seeing war service with her husband King Henry V in France.
She had become pregnant with Owen Tudor's child while living at Windsor Castle and in May 1432, Parliament granted Owen the rights of an Englishman. Civil rights for Welshmen, had been curtailed by laws implemented under King Henry IV.
It was at some time during this period that Catherine of Valois ceased to live in the king's household. She left court and moved to Wallingford Castle, taking Owen Tudor with her.
There is no documentation in existance of a marriage having ever taken place between Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor. In any case would the marriage have been considered legal, as it had not complied with the Act of Parliament of 1428, which clearly stated no such marriage was allowed to take place without the express permission of the King.
Tudor scholars have maintained with assurance that they did marry, for it was vital that a lawful marriage had taken place between them. It was from the union of Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor that the first Tudor King, Henry VII had descended.
Henry Tudor's claim to the throne was already extremely weak, due to him being a member of a previously illegitimate line, descended from John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford and also descending as he did through the line of a woman, his mother, Margaret Beaufort. A lawful marriage therefore, was vital to win the argument for the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty.
The general concensus of opinion however, is that they did marry in secret.They are documented as regularly receiving Holy Communion and they kept a chaplain, which points to them having the belief that they were still keeping to the Ten Commandments, which forbade living out of wedlock.
ABOVE: KING HENRY VI.
King Henry VI knighted his stepfather Owen Tudor and made him Warden of Forestries. He gave his two half brothers Edmund and Jasper Tudor, the rank of Earl and also issued an edict, which stated that the legitimization of his two Tudor half brothers was unnecessary.
Catherine of Valois died on 3rd January shortly after childbirth at Bermondsey Abbey and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Her newborn child, a baby girl also died. Owen Tudor was arrested after her death but later released. He was in the Kings household until the middle of the 1450s. For further reading click Owen Tudor.
Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor had at least six children, including Margaret, who died shortly after her birth.
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