Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Katherine de Valois - The Forbidden Queen - A Novel by Anne O'Brien


Katherine de Valois

Katherine de Valois was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabelle of Bavaria. When she was fourteen, her parents entered into negotiations to marry her to King Henry V of England who demanded a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne of France. 


Henry V

After much bantering back and forth, the deal was struck. The moment Henry saw Katherine, he was smitten by her great beauty and they were soon married. True love grew between them and Katherine was very happy with her new surroundings and husband.


Katherine's marriage to Henry V

In 1421, while Henry was fighting in France, she gave birth to a son and named him after his father. 


King Henry VI
Katherine and Henry V's son as an adult

Before the king could return home to meet his namesake, he died of dysentery. At the tender age of 21, Katherine became a widow. Not long afterwards, her father died, leaving the infant Prince Henry to be become king of England and in parts of France.

In time, Katherine fell in love with Edmund Beaufort, her late husband’s cousin. Humphrey, her late husband’s brother, concerned she might remarry, introduce a bill in Parliament making it impossible for Katherine to remarry without the king's consent. If she did so, her husband would lose his lands and possessions, but their children would be considered members of the royal family. Oh, and he also included the clause that the king must have reached his majority before he could grant his approval. At the time this new law was set in place, the king was only six years old. Edward Beaufort abandoned his ambitious quest to marry the dowager queen and soon found himself another wife. Katherine was trapped, kept under watch by the king’s counsellors.

Ah, but soon, love returned to her life in the form of a handsome man named Owen Tudor of Wales. An impoverished noble, he worked as the keeper of her household and wardrobe. Their love burgeoned, they secretly married, and she soon bore him a child, sending shock waves and scandal through the court.

Author Anne O'Brien captures the details of Katherine's life in a fabulous biographical novel.


Synopsis

1415. The Battle of Agincourt is over, and the young princess Katherine de Valois is the prize to be offered to Henry V of England. The innocent Katherine is smitten with Henry, but soon understands that her sole purpose is to produce an heir to unite England and France. When Henry leaves her a widow at the age of 21, Katherine is forced to resign herself to a quiet life as the Dowager Queen; her duty is to raise her son, the young King of England, and little more.

But Katherine is still young and passionate. Many desire her, and her hand in marriage is worth a kingdom. Setting aside those driven by ambition, Katherine falls in love with her servant Owen Tudor, and glimpses the happiness that love can bring. But their enemies are circling, all battling for power and determined to prevent their marriage. Katherine will have to fight to control her own destiny…

My Review

The Forbidden Queen is a historical novel that sticks close to the facts. The story is conscientiously written with lush detail and historical insight. What I found most compelling were the struggles Katherine faced as she fought to stay close to her son while machinations were at work to keep her at a good distance from any decision making. She was to appear by the boy-king’s side, but was prevented from holding any influence over him.

I had never read a novel about this lesser known queen, and was thrilled to have her story portrayed with such passion, elegance, and vivid detail. The writing flowed easily, making it a pleasant read. Highly recommended.  


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