Fact of the day: 27th October

On this day in 1401 Catherine of Valois (d. 1437) was born.

Catherine of Valois was the youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France and his wife Isabeau of Bavaria. She was born at the Hôtel Saint-Pol (a royal palace in Paris) on 27 October 1401.

Early on, there had been a discussion of marrying her to the Prince of Wales, son of Henry IV of England, but the king died before negotiations could begin.

In 1414, his successor, Henry V, re-opened discussion of the match, along with a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne of France.

Henry V went to war with France, and even after the great 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 enamoured. 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 or at Troyes Cathedral on 2 June 1420. Catherine went to England with her new husband and was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey on 23 February 1421. In June 1421, Henry returned to France to continue his military campaigns.

By this time, Catherine was several months pregnant and gave birth to a son named Henry on 6 December 1421 at Windsor. Her husband never saw their child. During the siege of Meaux, he became sick with dysentery and died on 31 August 1422, just before his 36th birthday.

Catherine was not quite 21 and was left a queen dowager. Charles VI died a couple of months after Henry V, making the young Henry VI king of England and English-occupied northern France. Catherine doted on her son during his early childhood.

Catherine lived in the king’s household, presumably so she could care for her young son, but the arrangement also enabled the councillors to watch over the queen dowager herself. Nevertheless, Catherine entered into a sexual relationship with Welshman Owen Tudor, who, in 1421, in France, had been in the service of Henry V’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford.

Tudor was most likely appointed keeper of Catherine’s household or wardrobe. The relationship began when Catherine lived at Windsor Castle, and she became pregnant with their first child there.

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.

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