Saturday, August 7, 2010

History Saturday - Katherine Valois and Owen Tudor - Founders of a Dynasty

Katherine Valois and Owen Tudor
Founders of a Dynasty

Katherine's marriage to Henry V was short lived, yet produced a son, Henry VI. When her son was 9 months old, he was made the King of England upon his father's death. Katherine was barely 21 and just coming into her own beauty.

The young king's royal protector was Humphrey, the Duke of the Gloucester, and Henry V's youngest brother. Wanting to limit Katherine's influence over her son, he sent her to Windsor. He was also concerned Katherine might remarry since she was so young and pretty. He was influential in passing a law establishing criteria for which Dowager Queens had to meet to remarry. If Katherine remarried without the consent of the king then her husband would forfeit all his possessions. Any children from such a union would be considered royal and not made to suffer.

What's the kicker? The king had to reach "majority" (18 years old) to give his consent to marry. Henry VI was only 6 years old.

Katherine wasn't getting married anytime soon. Or so Humphrey thought.

Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur was from Wales, and had accompanied Henry V to France, participating in many of his campaigns. After Henry's death, Owen found himself Keeper of the Queen's Wardrobe.

When Katherine's affair with Owen began no one really knows. The attraction was raw, passionate and undeniable for the young dowager queen and the handsome Welshman. Jean Plaidy, author of "The Queen's Secret," puts the affair starting in the late 1420's. Owen, who is not much of a dancer, falls into Katherine's lap during a dance. Their eyes give their feelings away to those who know them. At Windsor, the couple embark on a torrid affair.

That begs the question: were Own and Katherine married? Plaidy offers they were in a secret marriage. For me, it makes sense. I can't imagine a young woman of Katherine's nobility in that day and age having sex and making love without the protection of marriage.

Interestingly, there is no historical proof Owen and Katherine entered into marriage. It was so long ago and record keeping was poor. Not only that – according to the law regarding dowager queens - a public marriage would not have been valid. Knowing that, I submit Owen and Katherine married secretly.

Katherine hid at least four pregnancies from court and Humphrey. Edmund, Jasper, and Owen lived to adulthood. A daughter died young.

Katherine died in 1437 in Bermondsey Abbey. Plaidy puts forth that Humphrey discovered her secret marriage and her children with Owen and sent her to Bermondsey when she was heavily pregnant expecting another child. That child died in birth and Katherine died shortly thereafter from poor medical treatment after childbirth.

It is also suggested that Katherine died of some type of cancer.

Rosemary Hawly Jarman in "Crown in Candlelight," submits Katherine was afflicted with mental illness like her father, Charles VI (the Mad, of France) but I tend to disregard this theory. While Charles VI (her father) and Henry VI (her son) suffered from mental illness, there was no recorded medical history of Katherine suffering from mental illness herself. (Charles VI and Henry VI suffered from symptoms of schizophrenia and bi-polar.) I believe Katherine was a carrier, but didn't exhibit mental illness herself. I tend to support Plaidy's theory that Katherine was discovered by Humphrey and sent to the abbey for disobeying the law.

After Katherine died, Owen was stripped of his possessions and sent back to Wales. On the way to Wales he was jailed. Henry VI, now older, took an active role in bringing up his half-siblings, Edmund and Jasper. (who, by the way, never showed signs of mental illness)

Owen was later released from jail and he and his sons were in Henry VI's court in service to him during the 1450's.

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