3rd January 1437.

Diarist Samuel Pepys ever fond of the macabre recorded on his 36th birthday that he went to Westminster Abbey in 1688: ‘Here we did see the body of Queen Katherine of Valois and I took the upper part…in my hands, And I did kiss her mouth’.

The mummified body of the Queen, had been ‘temporarily’ moved at the time of alterations to the Abbey in the reign of Henry VII and was to remain on show for 250 years until 1776.

Wooden funeral effigy of Katherine of Valois, grandmother of Henry VII.

Wooden funeral effigy of Katherine of Valois, grandmother of Henry VII.

The 36 year old Katherine, and late wife of Henry V died today in 1437 at Bermondsey Abbey, London.

She was to lie in state at St Katherine’s Chapel in the Tower of London, before being taken to St Paul’s Cathedral, to be finally buried in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey.

Her claim to fame lies in her seven years’ relationship and rumoured marriage to Welshman Owain Twdwr, ‘a valorous Welsh gentleman’, who had fought in the 15th century Wars of the Roses.(1) 

Two sons Jasper and Edmund, came to be the founders of the Tudor monarchy and were later legitimized by Katherine’s son, Henry VI in 1453.

They now became half-siblings of the king, and so produced a line of French-Welsh half-bloods.

Edmund married Lady Margaret Beaufort, heiress to the House of Somerset. He died in 1456, leaving a son, under the guidance of his brother Jasper.

This son, the grandson of Owen and Katherine, became Henry of the House of Lancaster and after the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII. Two years’ later he finally beat off any opposition  at the Battle of Stoke.(2)

Not surprisingly he was regarded by the Welsh bards as the country’s long prophesied liberating hero and also described as the ‘the only impe now left of Henry VI’s blood’, as by the 1480’s almost every other male with Lancastrian blood had been slaughtered.

It is also well to remember that Henry only became a serious candidate for kingship after Edward IV had died, Richard III had lost his crown at Bosworth, and the ‘Princes in the Tower’ (sons of Edward IV) had ‘disappeared’.

(1) Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudor aka Owen Tudor

(2) Henry unsure of his legitimacy, had the alabaster effigy of Katherine destroyed when Westminster Abbey was being reconstructed.

The wooden effigy carried at her funeral can be seen, as with many others, in the Undercroft, the remains of the original 11thc building of Edward the Confessor.

Up until c1300, real corpses were displayed on top of the coffin, but replaced later by wood and wax effigies, when putrefaction and explosion of the remains, suggested it might be a better idea.

Ref: pinterest.com/thetudorqueens/catherine-of valois. Pic Ref.

Ref: Catherine of Valois. britannia com/hist/biographies.

Ref: Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors Chris Skidmore Wiedenfield and Nicholson 2013.

Ref: wikipedia.org/effigies.

Ref: westminsterabbey.org.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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