Royal wedding: previous Catherine queens and consorts

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Kate Middleton won’t be the nation’s first Queen Catherine, so there is plenty for her to live up to – and to avoid

Catherine has not been a lucky name for English monarchs; the first Queen Catherine was widowed and disgraced, the next abandoned and divorced, one was beheaded and one infertile. But our future Queen Catherine, Kate Middleton, can be reassured that there are positive associations for the name, too. Every Queen Catherine was deeply loved by her husband (for a time, at least) – a rare event when marriages were arranged for policy reasons.

The first Queen Catherine of England was Catherine of Valois. A beautiful French princess, her betrothal to the warmongering Henry V of England was supposed to bring peace in the Hundred Years War. The heroic young King fell in love with his bride and married her in 1420 when she was 19. She conceived a son and heir almost at once, but Henry V, campaigning in France, died without seeing him.

Queen Catherine was a widow at 20 and, to safeguard the throne, laws were passed restricting whom she might marry. But a young widow is hard to repress. Catherine took a lover, Owen Tudor, and may have secretly wed the Welshman. They had five children including two boys, Edmund and Jasper. Edmund later married Margaret Beaufort and fathered Henry Tudor, who would invade England and put himself on the throne as Henry VII, the first Tudor king and founder of the line. Jasper Tudor was his loyal uncle who masterminded his success. It is almost impossible not to warm to Jasper Tudor; he was loyal to the doomed House of Lancaster when half the country had changed sides, and went into exile with his nephew to keep him safe from the victorious House of York. He returned to England with Henry Tudor for the Battle of Bosworth – an exemplary son of a wayward Catherine...

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