Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Love & The Throne #4 - Henry V and Katherine of Valois

Kenneth Branagh & Emma Thompson as Henry & Katherine

Oh, how Henry V has been romanticized! There are plays and movies, but is this a guy that is deserving? I'll leave that up to you.

Henry is definitely an interesting character. He was born at Monmouth Castle, the eldest son of Henry IV. At the time he was born, he was not in line for the throne. The dates for his birth are in dispute, but he was born in either 1386 or 1387.

In 1398, when Henry's father was exiled by Richard II, Richard took Henry to Wales. Back then Wales was the untamed country and Henry did his part to tame it.

In 1399, Henry's father came to the throne. Henry V was named the Prince of Wales and he stayed there as he continued to tame it.

Henry was tall, 6'3", slim with dark hair that he wore in a cropped style above his ears. He was clean shaven.

Henry was a pistol on the battlefield. When he was 16, he got an arrow stuck in his cheek. Henry was treated well. Over a couple of days, the royal doctor treated his wound with honey, which acted as an antiseptic, screwed out the arrow with a special tool, and then flushed the wound with alcohol. The operation was successful, but left him with a scar on his cheek. Henry was wild off the field in Wales, too. He had plenty of meaningless liaisons, mostly with serving wenches.

One account says Henry met a woman who told his fortune while in Wales. Henry would become king and father a son, but if his son was born in Windsor Castle, Henry would not live out the year. Henry look it to heart and never forgot.

Now, when he was Prince of Wales, Katherine Valois, the daughter of the French king, Charles VI, was suggested to be his bride. Henry asked for a portrait to be painted. When he saw it, he set his heart on the French princess. The painting was done in either 1412 or 1413. I think it was 1413, but I'm not sure. At the time of the painting, Katherine was either 12 or 13. Henry was 28.

Was it love or something else? According to accounts, Henry did not have any lovers or mistresses upon ascending to the throne. He didn't know any women until he married Katherine. He was true to her body and soul, even though he wouldn't marry her until 1420.

Katherine was born in 1401, to Charles VI. Charles was called "the mad." Why? Well, from examining the symptoms the physicians reported at the time, Charles had schizophrenia. He had periods of madness and lucidity and every time he was lucid, he would get his wife, Queen Isabeau pregnant. He had 7 children by her. Isabeau's last child was Charles (born just after Katherine) His paternity was in doubt. Seems Isabeau had had it with her mad husband and was having an affair with his brother.

Isabeau shuffled the kids off to be raised by governesses and when the girls were old enough, they went to a monastery.

Katherine was very pretty, taking after her mother. Between 1413 and 1420, Katherine grew into a woman and was "groomed" as a princess of the royal blood by her mother. Considering her mother's lack of priorities, Katherine got some attention, but her education wasn't the greatest. For a princess, she was raised in poverty, wearing hand me down dresses from her sisters.

Henry kicked French booty in the Battle of Agincourt and brought the nation to its knees. In May 1420, the Treaty of Troyes made Henry V the next king of France when Charles VI died.

Part of the treaty? He got to marry Katherine. They went back to England and Henry crowned her Queen. He took her on a progress around England. They laughed and giggled and Katherine grew quite fond of her husband.

Katherine got pregnant and Henry shared the prophecy he'd heard so long ago with her. Just before he set off for France, he begged her not to give birth at Windsor Castle. She told him she wouldn't.

She lied. Well, not intentionally, of course, but what Henry didn't realize was that Windsor Castle was Katherine's favorite castle. She meant to leave, but a snowstorm hit, delaying her departure. Because of this delay, her baby was born at Windsor Castle.

Henry wept when he heard the news. In that moment he realized he had lost everything he fought to gain, but he harbored no ill will for Katherine. He sent for her in England and she joined him after her son was born. They were reunited and Henry was happy. In August 1421, he died of dysentery. His son was only 9 months old and had never seen him. Katherine was 20 and was devastated.

Check out my short story about Henry V & Katherine: The King's Desire at my website:

NEXT: Love & The Throne #5 – The Queen's Secret Marriage


Savanna Kougar said...

Fascinating as always!
Henry V lived life to the fullest, it appears.

StephB said...

Oh, he certainly did. teehee. Thanks for popping in Savanna!


Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree with Savanna, Steph - really fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing. That detail about Windsor Castle is really intriguing.