Catherine of Valois

Catherine was born on 27 October 1401 at the Hotel Saint-Pol in Paris. She was the youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria.

Catherine lived a dismal childhood at a time of instability in France. She was used by her mentally ill father and ruthless mother, as her sister Isabella had been used before her, as a pawn to be sold off for political peace. Her mother thought little more of her than a commodity to further her own ambitions.

When Catherine was very young, a marriage between her and the future King Henry V of England, was discussed, but not agreed; however, In 1414 Henry, now king re-opened marriage negotiations.

As part of the marriage agreement, Henry wanted an acknowledgement of his right to the throne of France, but the French refused this,

Henry was now to invade France and he fought and was victorious at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Following this victory France and England negotiated peace and the Treaty of Troyes was signed on 21 May 1420.

Henry still wanted Catherine as his wife and she was crowned queen on 23 February 1421 in Westminster Abbey.

In June 1421 Henry returned to France to continue his military campaigns.

Catherine was already pregnant at the time of Henry’s departure to France and she gave birth to a son, Henry on 6 December 1421 at Windsor.

Henry V was never to meet his son, he contracted dysentery during the Siege of Meaux and died on 31 August 1422; Catherine’s father died shortly afterwards.

Catherine’s infant son was now king of both England and France.

Parliament was concerned. Catherine was still a young marriageable woman, and if she remarried it could send both countries into turmoil.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester heard rumours that Catherine was to marry Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, a cousin of her deceased husband. Parliament passed a Bill in 1427 – 1428 that stated that if the queen dowager remarried without the king’s permission, her new husband would forfeit all his lands and possessions. The Bill also stated that the king could not make this decision until he reached his majority. At the time, Henry was only 6 years old.

Catherine did start a relationship with Welshman Owen Tudor, who had served under her husband Henry. There are no records to show that the couple ever married, but they were to have at least 5 children together.

Catherine died on 3 January 1437 aged 36. She rests at Westminster Abbey.

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