Catherine of Valois: A Tale of Love, Politics, and Legacy

Catherine of Valois, also known as Catherine of France, was a remarkable figure in English history. Born on 27th October 1401, she was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. Catherine of Valois’s life was intertwined with politics, strategic alliances, and her own personal tragedies. From her marriage to King Henry V of England to her subsequent relationship with Owen Tudor, Catherine of Valois‘s story is one of love, power, and the seeds of the Tudor dynasty.

Early Life and Royal Marriage

In her early years, there were discussions of a potential marriage between Catherine of Valois and the Prince of Wales, who would later become Henry V of England. However, negotiations were halted by the untimely death of King Henry IV. It was only in 1414, when Henry V reopened the discussion, that plans for the union resurfaced. The marriage was seen as a means to strengthen the claim of Henry V to the French throne and potentially end the long-standing Hundred Years’ War.

Catherine of Valois, known for her beauty, captivated Henry V when they finally met in Meulan. The peace agreement between England and France, known as the Treaty of Troyes, was reached in May 1420.

As a result, Catherine and Henry were married on 2nd June 1420, and she became the Queen of England. Her coronation took place on 23rd February 1421 in Westminster Abbey. Tragically, Henry V passed away during the siege of Meaux on 31st August 1422, leaving Catherine of Valois widowed at a young age and their son, Henry VI, as the heir to both the English and French thrones.

The Relationship with Owen Tudor

Following the death of Henry V, Catherine’s brother-in-law, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, acted as the guardian of her young son, Henry VI. Rumours circulated that Catherine planned to marry Edmund Beaufort, her late husband’s cousin, which alarmed the Duke of Gloucester. In response, a bill was passed in Parliament in 1427-8, requiring the king’s consent for Catherine to remarry. However, Catherine entered into a relationship with Owen Maredudd Tudor, a Welshman who had served in Henry V‘s household.

The precise details of Catherine and Owen’s marriage are unclear, but their relationship was significant in shaping English history. They had at least six children together, including Edmund, Jasper, and Edward. The descendants of their union would go on to establish the Tudor dynasty, with their son, Henry Tudor, later becoming King Henry VII.

Legacy and Aftermath

Catherine’s life was cut short on 3rd January 1437, shortly after giving birth. The cause of her death remains a subject of debate, with conflicting accounts suggesting it was either childbirth-related or due to an illness she had been suffering from. Catherine was buried in Westminster Abbey, and her wooden funeral effigy, which survived to this day, serves as a testament to her legacy.

Following Catherine’s death, Owen Tudor faced scrutiny and legal repercussions for his marriage to the queen dowager. He was arrested and imprisoned, but later released on bail and eventually pardoned. Catherine and Owen’s sons, Edmund and Jasper, were taken under the care of Katherine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking, until their half-brother, King Henry VI, assumed responsibility for their upbringing.

The Tudor dynasty, initiated by Catherine and Owen’s descendants, had a lasting impact on English history. Their son, Edmund Tudor, married Margaret Beaufort, whose lineage traced back to John of Gaunt and bestowed a disputed claim to the throne. This lineage ultimately led to their grandson, Henry Tudor, ascending the throne as King Henry VII, thus ending the Wars of the Roses and solidifying the Tudor dynasty’s rule.


Catherine of Valois: A Tale of Love, Politics, and Legacy
Image: Caxton Master, “The Beauchamp Pageants”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Catherine of Valois, a queen of beauty and grace, played a pivotal role in English history. From her marriage to Henry V to her relationship with Owen Tudor, she navigated the complex political landscape of her time. Although her ambitions to secure the French throne were never realized, her union with Owen Tudor laid the foundations for the Tudor dynasty. Catherine’s story is one of love, tragedy, and the enduring legacy of her descendants, forever shaping the course of English history.

*Feature Image: Wikimedia