More evidence from Bertram Fields

You may recall that, about two years ago, we published the footnotes to Bertram Fields’ Royal Blood. Now it seems that, on page 152 of the paperback edition, he has something to say about Catherine de Valois’ apparent relationship with Owain Tudor. Just like G.L.Harriss (1988) and John Ashdown-Hill (2013), he holds that they are unlikely to have been married at all.

As cited on Catherine’s Wikipedia page, despite its relevant editors being Alexandria dwellers, he wrote: “There was no proof of [the marriage] beyond Owen’s word”.[8]



By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.


  1. It’s all very murky, and I have always been surprised that Henry VII didn’t arrange for proof of the marriage to turn up somewhere. He was good at making important documents disappear, and equally good at doctoring documents so they said/showed what he wanted. Yet when it comes to his paternal grandparents’ so-called marriage, nothing at all. Whispers and scandalmongering were around at the time about Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor (and about another Beaufort, as I recall!) and are around again now. Are we supposed to think they disappeared in between? Henry was very twitchy about legitimacy, and it was bad enough for him that he had to claim English royal descent through his Beaufort mother. There is a strong likelihood that (marriage or not) Owen Tudor wasn’t Henry’s grandfather, but that descent was through the Beauforts on BOTH sides of Henry’s family. Small wonder he claimed the crown through conquest.That he and the other Tudors ended up on the throne must surely be one of the great injustices in our history!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Right. Not a chance that Cecily Neville cheated on her husband, nothing but rumor. But of course Catherine de Valois did. Not only that, she was unfaithful to the man she wasn’t married to! Well, she was French, don’t you know!
      Human nature being what it is, there is no proof either of these affairs could not have happened. But considering the punishments in store for an unfaithful wife, I doubt that it happened very often.
      Besides, if Henry VII wasn’t a ‘Tudor’ what was he? If his grandmother wasn’t married to Owain Tudor, then her son Edmund (Henry’s father) would have taken her name rather than his. Since she was a widow, her name was that of her deceased husband – Plantagenet! So enough with the inverted commas already! :-).

      (In his most recent book, about Edward IV, John Ashdown-Hill, puts both ‘Plantagenet’ and ‘Tudor’ in inverted commas, which is at least ecumenical, but he insists on spelling Woodville/Wydeville as ‘Widville.’ My quotes, not his. He also suggests that some ‘Plantagenets’ called themselves ‘Martel.’ Pity that didn’t catch on. It would have been easier to spell.)


  2. Medieval rules hold: you were married if the two of you committed — either “I do” or “I will” plus sex. No priest, no witnesses necessary for a canonically valid marriage. Also no “automatic” record until after 1538 parish church record requirements. Therefore, no record necessarily created at the time of the marriage.


    1. Right. Owain & Katherine’s marriage might have been considered void or voidable, on the grounds that she was forbidden to marry without permission, though that might have been remedied by payment of a fine. In any case, ‘no record’ means nothing.


  3. In the end, it matters not. The claim of Henry VII to the throne was through his mother, Margaret Beaufort. Katherine of Valois and Owain Tudor’s marital state is, really, irrelevant.
    And, to be honest, I will accept as married the mother and father of children, unless there is reason not to.


  4. Everyone seems to forget that Parliament had passed a law stating that a widowed Queen Dowager could not remarry without the express permission of her husband’s adult successor or they would lose all their possessions. It has been assumed that this was passed to keep Katherine from marrying Edmund Beaufort. As Catherine died well before Henry VI’s majority, in all practicality she couldn’t have legally married anyone.


    1. Church law was independent of civil law, though. Catherine might have been liable to forfeit her jointure, but a canonically valid marriage should have remained valid unless the Pope ruled otherwise.


    2. That is precisely the first point.
      The second is that the “evidence” connecting her to Owain Tudor dates from 1470, yet we know she was linked to Edmund Beaufort and he is the more likely father. Without a legal marriage to anyone, if at all, the Statute of Merton does not apply.


  5. What ‘evidence’? Owain was arrested shortly after Katherine died. Henry VI recognized his half-brothers at about the same time. (Must have been something of a shock to him, if he didn’t know before.) And none of this was even noticed until 1470? And ‘we’ know that she was linked to Edmund Beaufort? How do we know? When does this evidence date from? Why would Beaufort be the more likely father? Because he was a nobleman? None of this is necessarily false, but it is all based on speculation.
    As Ricardians, we are arguing ourselves into a corner here. Yes, Edward IV’s secret marriage to Eleanor Talbor was absolutely legal, but no, nobody else’s secret marriage could be legal. Sauce for the goose, and all that.
    I know, I am arguing above that the Tudor marriage was extra-legal and voidable. A marriage between under-age persons, for example, is voidable, but will stand if no one takes steps to annul it Henry VI and his advisors took no such steps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do know that Edmund and Jasper shared Henry VI’s mother but that is all. We also know that Owain boasted a little – see our post on 4 February this year.
      Edward IV’s 1461 wedding was probably witnessed by a Canon who was alive in 1483. For Katherine de Valois to have remarried anyone at all before 1438, by when she had died, was precluded by a particular Act of Parliament. Other realms had been influenced by the stepfathers of child monarchs.
      We have mentioned before that the elder stepbrother was called Edmund, the heraldry and that Somerset only legally married close to Katherine’s death.


  6. My younger son was named after his great-uncle. Doesn’t mean that there was anything untoward going on; we just wanted to please him, and we like the sound of the name.
    As for the heraldry, Edmund’s coat of arms was given him by his half-brother (that was the relationship, not stepbrother) Henry VI. Is it likely that that very pious king admitted that his mother had been sleeping around, condoned it, agreed to keep her secret – and then blew the gaff by giving the boy armoral bearings that gave the secret away?
    Since nobody has ever claimed that Edmund Beaufort & Katherine were married, why is the date of his marriage significant? Did he know when she was going to die?


  7. As I understand it, there is a further complication – marriage between an English person (which Katherine was by virtue of her marriage to Henry V) and a Welsh person was not permitted in law at the time.

    I do agree with halfwit 36’s comments regarding the approach by some Ricardians regarding Edward IV and Eleanor Talbot’s secret marriage being ‘fact’ and everyone else’s being ‘fiction’.

    English common law regards your name as that by which you are usually known. The trend lately to put dynastic names in quotation marks is getting very silly.


    1. It is clear the union between Catherine and Owen was recognized retrospectively as marriage (just like that between Edward IV and Eleanor Talbot). Their offspring were not regarded as bastards, so we can take it for granted that neither of them had a living spouse at the time (unlike John of Gaunt/Katherine de Roet). Owen was punished for the illegality of the way they entered into their marriage. The fact of the punishment = it was then viewed as a marriage. And King Henry VI later recognized the offspring as family. There is no evidence to support the story about Edmund Beaufort. So much for matters of civil law.
      In terms of canon law they were married when they exchanged vows and had sexual intercourse, which nobody denied they had done. In mediaeval Church eyes such matters were accepted as fact unless challenged, and nobody challenged that they had entered into the sacrament of marriage, so canon law was satisfied.
      It is evident that the flouting of two statutory laws caused a scandal that was still remembered half a century later. Nothing can change that. In similar fashion, Gaunt’s adulterous fathering of bastards caused an even bigger scandal, one that even the Pope and Parliament could not erase. Then and now, public knowledge of such goings-on in the royal family has reverberated through succeeding generations (and we’re still discussing them now). Which was of course the underlying reason why, in 1483, knowing that a legitimate alternative heir was available, it was better to set Edward V aside rather than have him beget a dynasty tainted by accusations of illegitimacy.


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