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OWEN TUDOR AND KATHERINE OF VALOIS

 

Katherine 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 October 27, 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. Katherine 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. Katherine and Henry were married at the parish Church of St. John.

Katherine 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, Katherine was several months pregnant and gave birth to Prince Henry on December 6, 1421 at Windsor. The boy and his father would never see each other. During the siege of Meaux, Henry V contracted some sort of illness and died on August 31, 1422, just before he would have turned 35 years old. Katherine 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. Katherine doted on her young son during his early childhood.

However, Katherine was still young and might wish to remarry, which was of concern to the Protector, the king's uncle, Henry Duke of Gloucester. 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.

Katherine 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, Katherine did remarry in secret, sometime in 1431 or 1432. Her new husband was Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur of Wales. Somewhere at this time, the Queen 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.

There are many tales, most unsupported, of how Katherine and Own 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. We don't know for sure what position Owen held when he met the Queen, but he was most likely keeper of the Queen's household or wardrobe.

Despite all the romantic embellishments by later writers, it seems that Owen and Katherine were attracted to one another and were legally married in the early 1430s. At some point, an English bookkeeper or scribe (possibly confused by the Welsh patronymic naming scheme) recorded Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur as "Owen Tudor".

Owen and Katherine had at least four children, although their only known daughter died young. Edmund, Jasper and Owen, the three sons born to the couple, were all born away from court.

Katherine 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 January 3, 1437. She now rests at Westminster Abbey in Henry V's Chantry Chapel.

After the Queen's death, Owen and Katherine's enemies decided to proceed against Owen for violating the 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 Katherine's two older sons, Edmund and Jasper, were sent to live with Katherine 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.