Catherine of Valois


Catherine of Valois,

wife of King Henry V



27 October 1401, daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria, at Paris, France


  1. 2 June 1420, Henry V, at the parish church of St. John, Troyes, France
  2. before 1430, Owen Tudor


23 February 1421 at Westminster Abbey, London


3 January 1437 at Bermondsey Abbey, now Southwark, London


Westminster Abbey

atherine, the neglected child of an impoverished royal family, with a deranged father and uncaring mother, was regularly dressed up and dangled as “marriage bait” in hopes of peace with England. Finally, in 1420, after Henry V had conquered wide swathes of French territory, Catherine was married to the English king for the sake of that elusive peace. Her father Charles VI named Henry as his heir.

Catherine and her twice-royal husband honeymooned at a succession of sieges of French towns. Henry V was not entirely without romance, however. Two harps were brought from England for the couple’s use.

In 1421, Henry and Catherine journeyed to England for Catherine’s coronation.

When Henry returned to France, Catherine remained behind to give birth to her son Henry. She returned to France without her baby in May 1422. Henry died soon thereafter, never having seen his son. Catherine accompanied his body back to England for burial.

Now honored as the king’s mother, Catherine was given considerable estates. She was present at baby Henry’s coronation, accompanied him to official functions and shared his household.

In 1425, rumors of her romance with a young English noble led Parliament to enact a law forbidding the queen’s marriage without royal consent. The precipitating romance, if it had ever started, did not proceed.

Catherine was not, however, about to spend her life as a royal widow. Showing a previously-unrecognized independent streak, she contracted a secret and thoroughly unauthorized marriage with a young Welsh nobody named Owen Tudor. Their first child Edmund, ancestor of the future royal Tudors, was born around 1430. He was followed by a second son, Jasper, and then by two others.

Although news of the marriage had leaked out by 1431, it was only after Catherine’s death in 1437 that her second family was publicly acknowledged.

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