Catherine of Valois

CATHERINE of Valois (1401–1437), queen of Henry V, was the youngest daughter of Charles VI of France by Isabel of Bavaria. She was born at the Hôtel de St. Pol, Paris, on 27 Oct. 1401. Her father was subject to long and frequently recurring fits of lunacy, and her mother, a woman of low character, shamelessly neglected her children. At an early age Catherine was sent from home to a convent at Poissy, In 1413 Henry IV proposed a marriage between the princess and his son Henry, afterwards Henry V. The prince had already made advances—which had been rejected—to Catherine’s two elder sisters, Isabella, the widow of Richard II, and Marie, who was destined for the cloister. While the negotiations with regard to Catherine were pending Henry IV died, and when Henry V was firmly seated on his father’s throne he renewed the suit. He demanded a dowry of two million crowns and the restoration of Normandy and the French territory which had been the inheritance of Eleanor of Aquitaine. These exorbitant terms were naturally rejected, and Henry V made their rejection a pretext for declaring war with France (1415). The English army was signally victorious in northern France, and when Rouen fell into Henry’s hands (1419) negotiations for peace were opened. Queen Isabel had meanwhile obtained full control of Catherine, and had endeavoured in the course of the war to keep Henry in remembrance of his former suit. She had sent him the princess’s portrait, and at the peace conference held at Meulan (1418-19) both Isabel and Catherine saluted Henry V, who treated the latter with much gallantry. In accordance with the terms of the treaty of Troyes, which practically made France over to Henry V, Henry and Catherine were betrothed on 21 May 1420 and married at Troyes on 2 June following. After visiting Sens and spending their Christ mas at Paris, Henry und his bride arrived at Dover on 1 Feb. 1420-1. On 24 Feb. the queen was crowned at Westminster; she accompanied the king on a northern tour later in the year, and on 2 Dec. 1421 gave birth to a son (afterwards Henry VI) at Windsor. On 21 May she and Henry were at Harfleur, and on 30 May at Paris. Catherine returned a widow from this visit to France. Henry V died at Vincennes on 31 Aug. 1422. The queen accompanied the funeral cortège to London and afterwards took up her residence at Windsor Castle with her infant son. She was at Hertford Castle with James I of Scotland as her guest at Christmas 1423, and in the following year Parliament granted her Baynard’s Castle as her permanent home. She tried to compose the quarrel between the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester in the same year, and accompanied her child in grand procession to St. Paul’s before the opening of parliament in 1425. Soon afterwards rumours were spread that Catherine was concerned in a no very reputable liaison. Owen Tudor, a poor Welsh gentleman and an esquire of the body attached to her late husband at her son’s household, had obtained complete control over her, and the nature of their relationship was soon obvious. In 1428 the Duke of Gloucester induced the parliament to pass a law prohibiting any person marrying the queen-dowager without the consent of the king and his council, but at the time Catherine and Owen Tudor were reported to be already married. Catherine lived in obscurity for many years, but in 1436 Tudor was sent to Newgate and his wife retired to Bermondsey Abbey, where she died on 3 Jan. 1437. Her body lay in state at St. Katharine’s Chapel, by the Tower of London, on 18 Feb. 1437, was then taken to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and was buried in the Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Henry VI erected an altar-tomb with an inscription describing her as his father’s widow, and making no reference to her alleged marriage with Owen Tudor.

By Tudor Catherine had a daughter, Tacina, wife of Reginald, seventh lord Grey de Wilton, and three sons. Edmund, the eldest son, created by his half-brother Henry VI Earl of Richmond in 1452, married Margaret Beaufort, and was by her the father of Henry VII. The second son, Jasper, became Earl of Pembroke, and the third, Owen, a monk of Westminster. Catherine’s grandson, Henry VII, replaced the tomb originally erected to her memory by another monument on which her marriage with Owen Tudor was duly inscribed. When Henry VII pulled down the Lady Chapel at Westminster, the corpse loosely wrapped in lead was placed by Henry V’s tomb, where it remained till in 1778 it was placed under the Villiers monument . In Pepys’s time the body was publicly exhibited (Diary. 23 Feb. 1667-8). Pepys kissed the face on his birthday. In 1878 the body was reburied in the chantry of Henry V.

[Miss Strickland’s Lives of the Queens of England, vol. iii.; Monstrelet’s Chronicle; Waurin’s Recueil des Chroniques, vol. iii. (Rolls Ser.); Capgrave’s Chronicle (Rolls Ser.); Stanley’s Westminster Abbry, 133-4.] Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 09
Catherine of Valois by Sidney Lee

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