Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Love & The Throne #5 - Katherine Valois & Owen Tudor by Stephanie Burkhart

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.

Thing is - we'll never know what Katherine really died of.

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.

Love & The Throne #6 – Henry VI becomes a man and is haunted by his grandfather's mental illness.

Love & The Throne #7 – Edmund Tudor (Owen and Katherine's son) gets married to Margaret Beaufort.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Oh man! And we think our extended families are whacked out! People are people no matter what era. We all long for power and authority, but love always finds a way, doesn't it?

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I love this post. I'm actually going to keep it bookmarked so I can re-read occasionally. The foundation of the Tudor Court now makes much more sense. I think I'll get a copy of the book too!

StephB said...

Julia, Jean Plaidy's book is well researched. I found that Plaidy (Holt) did a lot of research into her novels using a bunch of primary sources. In some places she makes educated guesses, but for me, her educated guesses make a lot of sense using common sense.

I don't know if Plaidy's book is available - I'm sure it is. It might have a different cover. I bought the copy I have in the late 1980's.

The foundations of the Tudors build in #7 with Edmund and Margaret. That will be up sometime in June.


Mona Risk said...

Steph, I always learn something interesting through your posts, didn't know those two kings suffered of mental illness. Great gift for rulers!!!
I love History.

Patti said...

Wow, great posting! I find it so interesting that Henry took an active role in raising up his siblings! Most royalty are known for their proclivity towards disposing of any rivalry for the throne especially relatives who may present a "legitimate" claim. I did not know this about Henry and love that you brought up this small but (to me)admirable behavior! I love history.

StephB said...

Mona, and Patti *waves* Hi.

There's always a very personal story behind any monarch. That's why I find history so fascinating.

Henry VI as a child was noted to be very religous. At a *critical* point in his upbringing, as he was entering puberty, he had a monk for a teacher who basicaly taught him to "fear" sex, per se. Henry VI loved his mother, Katherine, very much and hated that he didn't have enough time with her. I have no doubt he embraced his siblings because it was his way to show his love for his mother. Interestingly, he started to show signs of his "madness" the same time his grandfather did, in his late teens, just as he was coming into his majority and his own on the throne. His regency was very peaceful and the British people were happy with it.

I think Henry VI would have made a decent king if it wasn't for his mental illness.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks for this fantastic historical series, Steph! I look forward to reading each essay.

Savanna Kougar said...

Steph, fascinating as usual. The complexities of English royalty always boggles my mind.

I'm glad Henry raised his siblings. At least, they had each other for a time.

Linda Acaster said...

Great post, Steph, as always. This period isn't mine and it's so interesting to learn all this information.

StephB said...

Thanks everyone for popping in. I'm glad you enjoy it.