14 July 2010

Good Times: Royal Marriage

By Margaret Mallory

On June 2, 1420, Henry V of England and Catherine de Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, were wed. Although Henry was said to be enamored with the French princess upon first sight, he waited until his military victories in France ensured that his political and dowry demands would be met. Henry was the sort who always put duty first--something Catherine would have to get used to during their short marriage.

You might expect that the joining of two royal families would be followed by days of feasting. Henry did stay the night to consummate the marriage. The next day, however, the busy king left his bride with her horrid mother and set off to take yet another city. And then another. And, alas, another. Catherine must have felt as if she'd married a soldier on a weekend pass--and a soldier she barely knew, at that.

Finally, enough cities had surrendered that Henry was ready to make his grand entry into Paris and celebrate.

I don't have a picture of Henry V and Princess Catherine entering Paris, but this painting is of Catherine's mother entering Paris thirty years earlier. I believe the castle is the Louvre.

And celebrate they did. Henry and his bride entered Paris with great fanfare--and accompanied by the bride's frequently-insane father, who had named Henry as his heir. The crowds in Paris gave them an enthusiastic welcome, in hope that the English king would bring peace.

For nearly four weeks, the royal couple celebrated Christmas, their marriage, and the joy of Henry's conquests in grand style at the Louvre Palace. Then it was time to move the celebration to England.

Henry and Catherine left Paris on Dec 27 and spent Epiphany (January 6) at Rouen--a business stop for Henry. At the end of January, they crossed the channel to Dover, where the conquering hero and his bride were greeted with wild rejoicing. On February 21, 1421, they entered London to yet more wild rejoicing. Catherine was crowned Queen of England in a splendid ceremony two days later.

Even in the midst of celebration, matters of state were foremost on Henry's mind. The war in France was expensive. Now that there was peace in England--thanks to Henry's efforts--Parliament was squawking about the cost. The crown already owed a fortune to the king's uncle, Bishop Beaufort, for the war effort.

So, why not use this joyous occasion for fundraising? Henry decided to take a tour of the kingdom to introduce his new queen--and raise money for the war. They set out "on progress," visiting St. Albans, Bristol, Shrewsbury, York, Lincoln, Norwich and King's Lynn. The king's English subjects were thrilled with their new queen, and the royals drew crowds everywhere they went. Men with money pledged funds for the war effort.

Adding to their joy, Catherine was with child.

The good times rolled--and funds were raised--until the King received news from France of a disastrous battle. His brother, the Duke of Clarence, who was in charge of Henry's forces in France, had been killed. The King prepared to return to France.

With his heir conceived, his bride crowned, and funds raised, it was time to end the celebrations and consolidate his control over France.

By my estimation, the couple had less than six months of good times together, from December, when they entered Paris, until June, when Henry returned to France for his last campaign. The following summer, Catherine left their baby, Henry's heir, in England when she went to France to join her ill husband. Henry died August 31, 1422 near Paris.

*All images courtesy of Wikipedia


Deb said...

(Long-time lurker; first-time poster.)

After Henry V died, Catherine eventually married (although some historians claim there's no record of a ceremony) one Owen Tudor. It was through the advantageous marriages of their children that the Tudor dynasty was born.

Margaret Mallory said...

Thanks for the great segway, Deb! Henry V's young widow & Owen Tudor are important secondary characters in my current release, KNIGHT OF PASSION. ;)

Although I made light of the king's devotion to duty in this piece, you can see that a great king may not have made a great husband. For Henry V, at least, the job required a lot of travel.

Donna Goode said...

Wonderful story, Margaret! The tale never fails to stir my imagination. Just think where England might be if the Tudor dynasty had never come about. I have your book and can't wait to read it, by the way!

Margaret Mallory said...

Thanks, Donna. What I wonder about is what would have happened if Henry V had lived a long life instead of dying at 35. He very likely would have been crowned king of France as well as England. He was a great administrator as well as warrior.

Perhaps he would have whipped his son Henry VI into shape or kept the crown from him, & England would have avoided the War of the Roses. Who knows!

Miranda McTavish said...

From Henry the V all the way down to Elizabeth I is such a passion for me! These monarchs were certainly some of the most noteworthy in history. I'm SO GLAD that you chose this time to weave your story.

Can't wait to read it!

Margaret Mallory said...

Miranda, I love hearing that someone else shares my passion for this period. :)

Angelique Armae said...

Great post, Margaret! I enjoyed reading it.

Harper said...

I had to stop in and tell you that I read this earlier today and it was fantastic. It inspired my own blog post today and I about died when I noticed you'd commented, Margaret!

Thanks for the wonderful snippet and for the love! :)

Margaret Mallory said...

Thanks, Angela & Harper. Henry V is my main man of the moment--in terms of real historical figures--so I'm glad you enjoyed the post. ;)


Laurie Ryan said...

I learn something new every time I check out a blog of yours, Margaret. Wow. This age was a tough time to be a woman, wasn't it? They really had to be strong to endure.

librarypat said...

I had no idea Henry V's reign was so short. Actually their marriage mirrors my first year of marriage, minus my DH's death. Most military marriages during wartime are like this.
Thank you for an interesting post. Your first two books in the ALL THE KINGS MEN series are sitting on the shelf. I have been waiting for book three, then I'll read them all.

Margaret Mallory said...

LibraryPat, FYI, Henry V's reign was 9 years.
The 3rd book is out, so you don't need to wait any longer! Hope you enjoy the trilogy.