Katherine of Valois was born a princess, the daughter of King Charles VI of France, but her father was known to most of the nation as “Charles the Mad” by the time Katherine was old enough to know him. Given to unpredictable fits of insanity, the monarch was not a reliable parent. The young princess lived a secluded, unsteady life with her brothers and sisters, awaiting their father’s sane moments, suffering through his madness, watching their mother take up with their uncle, and wondering what the future would hold. Katherine’s fortunes appeared to be changing when she was married off at age nineteen to King Henry V of England. Within two years, she gave birth to an heir, but her happiness was fleeting—soon after the birth of her son, she lost her husband to an illness acquired in battle.
Exiled from court, forbidden to return to France, and no longer allowed access to her child, Katherine’s every action was watched carefully; with Joan of Arc inciting the French to overthrow English rule, the Queen’s loyalty to England was a matter of intense suspicion. A relic of a former age, Katherine had brought her dowry and borne her heir, what use was she to England? The matter was quickly settled, she would live out her remaining years alone, far from the seat of power. But no one, even Katherine herself, could have anticipated that she would fall in love with and secretly marry one of her guardians, Owen Tudor—or that a generation later, their grandson would become the first king of the great Tudor dynasty.
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