Catherine of Valois (1401-1437) and Sir Owen Tudor (1400-1461) – The Making of a Dynasty

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Catherine Valois

Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor

Catherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England, was the beautiful daughter of King Charles VI of France and Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. Catherine’s first husband was Henry V (House of Lancaster), King of England. When Henry V married the French Princess he was named the heir of Charles VI. The marriage was political in nature, as Charles VI wanted Henry V, who claimed the crown of France, to cease his invasions of France. However, it is known that Henry V was smitten with Catherine. Catherine went to England with her husband, was crowned, and Henry V returned to France to keep an eye on his future Kingdom. They had one son named Henry. The King never set eyes on his son, as he died while in France soon after Catherine gave birth to him. The baby was now King of England and young Catherine a very beautiful widow. Not long after that, the baby became King of France after Charles VI died.

The Duke of Gloucester, Catherine’s brother in law, was Lord Protector until Henry VI became of age. As Henry VI and his mother were close, the Duke needed a way to control the Dowager Queen and any others who would hope to influence her. He passed a law stating that the Dowager Queen could not remarry without the King’s permission, or the husband would forfeit all his titles and estates to the crown. Also, the King could not give that permission until he came of age. In other words, the Duke controlled when Catherine would remarry. It pleased him that she not remarry at all so a step-father could not influence the King. No matter how beautiful the Dowager Queen was, no nobleman was willing to lose his heritage over her. As young as the King was, the Queen would have to wait a very long time for her son’s permission to remarry.

Catherine turned her attentions to Sir Owen Tudor, a Welsh knight in charge of her household. As a man with no titles and estates to lose, he cared nothing about the Duke’s law. Soon, Catherine found herself with child.

Catherine of Valois had undisputed Royal blood, Owen Tudor was said to have an ancient royal Welsh lineage. This is hard to say though, because when the Tudor’s came to throne, they may have tried to strengthen their claim by making their family seem more prestigious. There could have been some rewriting of family history (which was not unheard of) and some exaggeration.

Catherine and Owen had six children, four of them reached adult hood. There is no record of Catherine and Owen ever marrying, though given her station there may have been a secret wedding. Medieval noble women did not tend to live openly with lovers and have several children by them. This does not mean that her marriage would have been accepted by the Duke or the other nobility of the realm. It would have been scandalous either way, as Owen Tudor was a commoner. Either way her marriage would have been deemed invalid and her children tainted with the stigma of illegitimacy. Catherine and Owen seemed of the type to have not cared much. They probably only wanted to live in peace with each other and their family.

When Henry VI became of age, he treated his half brothers very well, granting them titles and estates. They were all fond of each other. Through Henry VI’s eldest half brother, Edmund Tudor, came Henry VII, the first Tudor king. Catherine of Valois was the paternal great-grandmother of Henry VIII.

Catherine of Valois possibly had a total of six children, and Owen Tudor possibly had a total of six children. With Catherine’s first husband Henry V, King of England she had:

Henry VI (1421-1471), King of England

With Owen Tudor she had:

Lord Edmund Tudor (1431-1456), 1st Earl of Richmond
Lord Jasper Tudor (1431-1495), 1st Duke of Bedford
Brother Edward Tudor (1432-1501), Monk at Westminster Abbey
Possible Daughter who became a nun (disputed)
Lady Margaret Tudor (1437-1437), died shortly after birth

Owen Tudor had one known illegitimate son:

Sir David Owen (1459-?)

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