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Catherine of Valois (27 October 1401 – 3 January 1437) was the Queen consort of Englandmarker from 1420 until 1422. She was the daughter of King Charles VI of France, wife of Henry V of Monmouth, King of England, mother of Henry VI, King of England and King of France, and through her secret marriage with Owen Tudor, the grandmother of King Henry VII of England. Catherine's older sister, Isabella of Valois, was Queen consort of England from 1396 – 1399, as the child bride of King Richard II of England.

Catherine was buried at Westminster Abbeymarker, and during the reign of Henry VII her coffin lid was accidentally raised, revealing her corpse, which for generations became a tourist attraction; Catherine's remains were not properly re-interred until the reign of Queen Victoria.

Summary of Catherine

Catherine of Valois was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and his wife Isabelle of Bavaria. She was born at the Hotel of St. Pol (a royal palace in Paris) on 27 October 1401. Early on there had been a discussion of marrying her to the son of Henry IV, but the King died before negotiations could begin. The new king, Henry V, also proposed the match, but demanded a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne of France.
Henry V went to war with France and even after the English victory at Agincourt, plans for the marriage continued. Catherine was said to be very attractive and when Henry finally met her at Meulan he became enamored. In May 1420, a peace treaty was made between England and France and Charles acknowledged Henry of England as his heir. Catherine and Henry were married at the parish Church of St. John.

Catherine went to England with her new husband and was crowned as Queen in Westminster Abbey in February 1421. In June 1421, Henry returned to France to continue his campaigns.

By this time, Catherine was several months pregnant and gave birth to Prince Henry on 6 December 1421 at Windsor. The boy and his father would never see each other. During the siege of Meaux, Henry V contracted a fatal illness and died on 31 August 1422, just before he would have turned 35 years old. Catherine was not quite 21 and was left a widow and Dowager Queen of England.

Charles VI died a couple of months after Henry V, which made the young Henry VI king of both England and France. Catherine doted on her young son during his early childhood.

However, Catherine was still young and might wish to remarry, which was of concern to the Protector, the king's uncle, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. Rumours abounded in the years following Henry's death that Catherine planned to marry Edmund Beaufort, Count of Mortain, her former husband's cousin. Humphrey was strongly against this match, however, and in the Parliament of 1427-8, a bill was introduced setting the rules for the remarriage of a Queen Dowager. The bill stated that if the Queen and a new husband married without the King's consent, the husband would lose his lands and possessions, although any children from the marriage would still be members of the royal family and would not suffer punishment. Another rule was that the king's permission could only be granted once he had reached his majority. At the time the bill was written, the king was only six years old.

Catherine lived in the king's household, presumably so she could care for her young son, but it also carried the benefit that the councillors could watch over the Queen herself.

Despite all of this, Catherine entered into a relationship with Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur of Walesmarker. There are many tales, most unsupported, of how Catherine and Owen met. Owen was probably born in about 1400, and may have gone to war in the service of Henry V's steward Sir Walter Hungerford in 1421 in France. Tudor was most likely appointed keeper of the Queen's household or wardrobe. The relationship began when Catherine lived at Windsor Castle, and she became pregnant with their first child there. At some point, she stopped living in the King's household and in May 1432 Parliament granted Owen the rights of an Englishman. This was important because of Henry IV's laws limiting the rights of Welshmen.

[[Image:Catherine of Valois Arms.svg|thumb|right|upright|Catherine of Valois's arms as queen consort]]

It is unclear whether Catherine and Owen Tudor actually married. No documentation of such a marriage exists. Moreover, even if they had been married, the question exists whether the marriage would have been lawful, given the Act of 1428. From the relationship of Owen Tudor and Queen Catherine descended Henry VII of England and the Tudor Dynasty. Tudor historians asserted that Owen and Catherine had been married, for their lawful marriage was a vital link in the argument for the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty.

Owen and Catherine had at least four children, although their only known daughter died young (four named later in this article, three living to adulthood). Edmund, Jasper and Owen, the three sons born to the couple, were all born away from court.

Catherine entered Bermondsey Abbey, possibly seeking a cure for an illness that had troubled her for some time. She made her will just three days before her death on 3 January 1437. She now rests at Westminster Abbey in Henry V's Chantry Chapel.

After the Queen's death, Owen and Catherine's enemies decided to proceed against Owen for violating the law of the remarriage of the Dowager Queen. Owen appeared before the Council, acquitting himself of all charges and was released. On his way back to Wales, he was arrested and his possessions seized. He tried to escape from Newgate jail in early 1438 and eventually ended up at Windsor Castle in July of that year.

Meanwhile, Owen and Catherine's two older sons, Edmund and Jasper, were sent to live with Catherine de la Pole, who was abbess of Barking and sister to the Earl of Suffolk. Sometime after 1442, the King (their half-brother) took a role in their upbringing. Owen, their father, was eventually released on £2000 bail, but was pardoned in November 1439 (and the bail canceled in 1440). Owen was treated well afterwards and was in the household of the King until the mid-1450s.

Death and burial

Catherine died on 3 January 1437, shortly after childbirth, in Londonmarker, and was buried in Westminster Abbeymarker. Owen Tudor, was arrested on unspecified charges shortly after her death, but later released. He lived until 1461, when he was executed by the Yorkists following the Battle of Mortimer's Crossmarker. Their sons were given Earldoms by Catherine's son King Henry VI. Edmund married Margaret Beaufort, a lady of Royal descent with their son eventually becoming King Henry VII.

The wooden funeral effigy which was carried at her funeral still survives at Westminster Abbey and is on display at the Undercroft Museum. Her tomb originally boasted an alabaster memorial, which was deliberately destroyed during extensions to the abbey in the reign of her grandson, Henry VII. It has been suggested that Henry ordered her memorial to be removed to distance himself from his illegitimate ancestry. At this time, her coffin lid was accidentally raised, revealing her corpse, which for generations became a tourist attraction. In 1669 the diarist Samuel Pepys kissed the long-deceased queen on his birthday:

Catherine's remains were not properly re-interred until the reign of Queen Victoria.

Ancestry



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