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GOOD TIMES: CELEBRATING A ROYAL MARRIAGE

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.

louvre

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.

Charles V

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.

duc de berry

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.

henry V

*All images from Wikipedia.

 

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