period makeups: Queen Catherine of Valois

The Hollow Crown: Henry V
Henry V
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Period makeups: Queen Catherine of Valois

Catherine of Valois (1401–1437) was the Queen Consort of England from 1420 until 1422. She was the daughter of King Charles VI of France, wife of King Henry V, mother of King Henry VI, and, through her later marriage with Owen Tudor, the grandmother of King Henry VII.

Following his victory at Agincourt and in subsequent campaigns Henry V was recognised by the French in the Treaty of Troyes (1420) as the regent and heir to the French throne. This was cemented by his marriage to Catherine of Valois, the daughter of King Charles VI. This was meant to resolve the long-standing claim of English Kings to the title of King of France but as it turned out the Hundred Years’ War continued until the Battle of Castillon in 1453 – the more observant may have noticed that the French do not speak English.

Catherine went to England with her new husband and was crowned Queen in in February 1421. In June 1421 Henry returned to France to continue his military campaigns where he died of dysentery during the siege of Meaux in August 1422.

iHaving a young young and marriageable Queen Dowager was a source of concern to the Lord Protector and a Bill in the Parliament of 1427–8 set the rules for the remarriage of a queen dowager: if the Queen remarried without the King’s consent her new husband would lose his lands and possessions (although any children would still be members of the royal family – having shared a womb with the King). Moreover the King’s permission could only be granted in person, that is once he had reached his majority; the King was then only six years old.

Despite this Catherine entered into a relationship with Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor and she became pregnant. In May 1432 Parliament granted Owen the rights of an Englishman. No documentation of a marriage exists and it would, in any case, have been unlawful given the Act of 1428. But 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.

Catherine died in January 1437, shortly after childbirth, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Her tomb originally boasted an alabaster memorial which was deliberately destroyed during extensions to the abbey in the reign of her grandson, Henry VII. Her coffin lid was accidentally raised in the process revealing her corpse which became a tourist attraction for generations; In 1669 the diarist Samuel Pepys kissed the long-deceased queen on his birthday.