Catherine of Valois
Queen of Henry V of England
Catherine of Valois, was the youngest child of Charles VI of France and Isabelle of Bavaria. She was born on October 27, 1401, at the Hotel de St. Paul in Paris during her father’s period of insanity. Catherine was almost entirely neglected during her childhood due to her father’s frequent bouts of insanity and her mother’s selfish indifference. While the king was ill, her mother joined the king’s brother, the Duke of Orleans, in pilfering the revenues of the household. When Charles recovered, Isabelle fled with he Duke of Orleans to Milan, followed by her children, who were pursued and brought back by the Duke of Burgundy.
Catherine was educated in the convent at Poissy, where her sister Marie was consecrated. When she was twelve years old, King Henry V of England renewed negotiations begun by his father, Henry IV for the hand of Catherine. Henry demanded a large dowry and restoration of former English lands and when they were rejected it led to war. Henry invaded France and forced compliance with his terms. After signing the Treaty of Troyes, Henry V married Catherine in Troyes, France in June of 1420. The Treaty not only restored to England the land of Normandy and Aquitaine, but also gave Henry the regency of France during the reign of Charles VII, because he was again insane, and the right to succeed to the French throne after Charles’s death, to the exclusion of Catherine’s brother and three older sisters. Catherine was crowned in Westminster Abbey in February 1421 and gave birth to a son, Henry VI at Windsor in December of that year, while Henry
was in France. The queen joined her husband in Paris in 1422, leaving her infant son in England, and was with him when he died at the castle of Vincennes, in August 1422. She returned to London and resided first at Windsor Castle then at Baynard’s Castle, London.
Some years later Catherine married Owen Tudor, an officer of Welsh descent, who was clerk of the queen’s wardrobe. This marriage was kept secret for several years because English Parliament forbade her marriage without consent of king and council. They had three sons and two daughters, one of which died in infancy. While they lived together, Catherine was a devoted mother and wife and lived very happily. In 1436, when the marriage was found out, Owen Tudor was imprisoned and Catherine was removed to Bermondsey Abbey, London. Being torn from her children was an act of cruelty that probably hastened her death. Catherine died in the care of pious nuns who did their best to comfort the Queen in her last days.