Guest article by P. Deegan
Following on from my piece on the various Marys that were notable figures in the Tudor period, I now intend to do a quick article on another name that crops up a lot during this period: Katherine or Catherine. Both forms of this name were used in this period and sometimes it is possible to find both forms used for the same person when different historians write about them.
The Kates Who Birthed A Dynasty
The Tudor period is usually specified as 1485-1603, which covers the rule of the Tudor monarchs. But I wish to start with two earlier Catherines who are crucial as to why there was a Tudor period in England. These two Catherines are the reasons why an obscure Welsh noble family ended up on the English throne for over a hundred years and why their descendants, through a daughter who married into the Stuart line and whose descendants then married into German royalty, still sit on the English throne.
- Katherine Swynford: 1350 – 1403
Also known as Katherine Roet 1350-1366, Katherine Swynford 1366-1396, Duchess of Lancaster 1396-1399, Dowager Duchess of Lancaster 1399-1403.
Daughter of Payne Roët of Guienne though her marriage record to John of Gaunt calls her the daughter of “Guyon King of Armes”
Katherine had a long affair with the prince known as John of Gaunt, third son of King Edward III, that started whilst she was governess to his daughters by his first wife. Her first husband, Hugh Swynford died in 1371 and she had four children with John of Gaunt between 1373 and 1379. These children were given the surname ‘Beaufort’, after one of the prince’s estates in France, and they were retrospectively legitimised when their parents finally married in 1396. The Pope legitimised these children on the marriage of their parents in 1396 and Richard II had issued Letters Patent to that end the following year, in 1397, which became an Act of Parliament. Their half brother, who eventually became king Henry IV, had been very kind to Katherine even calling her the ‘king’s mother’. But after her death, in 1407, he issued amended Letters Patent that specifically barred his Beaufort siblings from the throne by adding the words ‘excepta dignitate regali’ to the Letters Patent. This Katherine is therefore important to the Tudors as it is through her son, John Beaufort 1st Earl of Somerset, that her great grand-daughter Margaret Beaufort inherited her royal blood and the Lancastrian claim on the throne. It was the Lancastrian blood of his mother that allowed her son Henry to gather men and make a challenge for the throne. Though after the Battle of Bosworth Henry VII then claimed the throne by right of conquest rather than bloodline. Probably because people could argue about the right of his bloodline but couldn’t argue that he won the battle.
- Catherine de Valois: 1401 – 1437
Also known as Princesse Catherine, Queen Catherine (consort of King Henry V) 1420-1422, Katherine, Catherine of France, Dowager Queen of England 1422-1437, Catherine Tudor unofficially from either 1429  or 1431/1432  to1437.
Daughter of King Charles VI of France and his wife Isabelle of Bavaria
This French princess was the mother of King Henry VI but was widowed very young. The Protector of her son (who became king as a baby), and his councillors, worried about another man exercising power in the land, through marrying the king’s mother, instead of them. Rules were passed to effectively stop her remarrying – she had to have her son’s consent… and this could only be given when he was an adult. But she and Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur fell in love and married in secret. (Though some scholars dispute whether they were actually married). At some point an English scribe wrote his name as ‘Owen Tudor’, not understanding the Welsh patronymic. Catherine may have carried no English blood, and therefore no right to the English throne, herself but she gave her Tudor children a brother who was the English King, from her previous marriage to the victor of Agincourt. It was King Henry VI who made his Tudor brothers Earls and gave them custody of the great Lancastrian heiress Margaret Beaufort, allowing Edmund Tudor to marry Margaret himself and father the son who would eventually become the first Tudor king: Henry VII.
I think that both women effectively defied the expectations of the societies they lived in for love. Living together with John of Gaunt, as his wife when she was not married to him, had damaged Katherine Swynford’s reputation in general society as this situation was considered to bring shame on the woman in medieval times. One chronicler called her “that unspeakable concubine”. The dowager queen, Catherine de Valois, had married someone who was a ‘mere’ squire – as a royal woman she had married ‘below’ her. When her secret marriage was discovered it caused a scandal and her husband was imprisoned.
Both women had lived bravely and fully by following their heart rather live a restricted but safe and acceptable life at court, as might have been expected of widows in their situations. Together their descendants together created the dynasty known as the Tudors.
Now I will briefly touch on the various notable Katherine or Catherines that may be read about in the main Tudor history period.
Tudor Period – Major Players
Katherine of Aragon: 1485 –1536
Also known as Catalina 1485-1501, My Lady Princess (in England prior to her marriage), Princess of Wales 1501-1502,
- Dowager Princess of Wales from 1502 but the year this title ends is contentious:
- Up to 1509 ~ according to
- The English court up to 1533
- Katherine herself together with her contemporary supporters
- Up to 1536 ~ according to
- Henry VIII and most of the English court – but they only claimed it hadn’t ended in 1509 after 1533 .
- Up to 1509 ~ according to
- Queen Katherine from 1509
- Up to 1533 ~ according to
- The practise of the English Court – she was acknowledged as, and treated as, Queen even by Henry himself even when he sent her away from court. This continued until 1533 when their marriage was annulled and she was formally instructed she was still the Dowager Princess.
- Up to 1536 ~ according to
- Katherine herself, the Emperor and his ambassador, plus the Pope.
- History though Anne Boleyn is also accepted as Queen from 1533-1536 which partially covers the end of this period.
- Up to 1533 ~ according to
The daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon.
I have written her name as ‘Katherine’, although many sources, such as David Starkey, write her name as Catherine. I have gone with the ‘K’ spelling as there survives one of Henry VIII’s suits of armour from 1515 and the initials ‘H’ and ‘K’ are intertwined around the hem. She was a Spanish princess who came to England to marry prince Arthur Tudor. She also married his brother, Henry VIII. Most of her children died: two sons (one called Henry lived for 52 days and one who lived for a few hours or days), three stillbirths (a boy and 2 girls) plus her live daughter Mary, who survived to become queen regnant. She fought her husband’s attempt to have their marriage annulled, though ultimately unsuccessfully, but never gave in and accepted that despite immense pressure.
Catherine Howard: (Her birth wasn’t recorded) approximately 1521 to 1523 – 1542
Also known as Kathryn (or Katheryn – how she signed herself) Howard birth – 1540, Queen Katherine/Catherine 1540-1542
Daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, younger brother of the Duke of Norfolk, and his wife Joyce.
First cousin of Anne Boleyn. Sent to live at a relatives’ (Agnes Tilney’s) house when young, she had early sexual experience at 13 though this would now be termed child abuse and she comes across as very naïve even when an adult. Married to the aging and ill Henry VIII, she fell in love with the courtier Thomas Culpepper (and probably had an affair with him). Her early sexual history, and the affair with Culpepper, came to light and Katherine was executed by beheading.
Katherine Parr: 1512-1548
Also known as Kateryn/Catherine Parr 1512-1529, Lady Borough 1529-1533, Lady Latimer 1534-1543, Queen Katherine 1534-1547, Dowager Queen 1547, Lady Katherine Seymour 1547-1548.
Daughter of Sir Thomas Parr and his wife Maud.
Last wife of Henry VIII and a good stepmother to his children. She survived the irascible king (just). Devoutly Protestant. Her last marriage was to Thomas Seymour, uncle of king Edward Vi, that she had originally wanted to marry before her marriage to the king. She finally got pregnant (for the first time in four marriages) and gave birth to a girl called Mary but died of childbed fever (puerperal sepsis).
Tudor Period – Notable but Minor Players:
Kat Ashley/Astley: 1502–1565
Also known as Katherine Champernowne (though Elizabeth always called her ‘Kat’) 1502-1545, Kat Ashley 1545-1565
Daughter of Sir Philip Champernowne.
Married to John Ashley/Astley who was a kinsman of the Boleyns. Governess to Princess Elizabeth from 1536 to 1549 and was a much loved mother figure to her. She was briefly dismissed, against Elizabeth’s wishes, for being involved in a marriage plot. She was reinstated and stayed in Elizabeth’s household, when she became Queen, as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber.
Katheryn of Berain: 1534/5-1591
Also known as Katheryn Tudor, Katherine Salusbury 1557-1566, Lady Katherine Clough 1568-approx 1574, Katherine Wynn ??, Katherine Thelwell ??-1591, ‘Mam Cymru’ or “the mother of Wales”
Daughter of the daughter of Tudur ap Robert Vychan of Berain (Clwyd) and the granddaughter of a bastard son of Henry VII .
Said to have been a ward of queen Elizabeth, she was the heiress to the Berain and Penymynydd estates in Denbighshire and Anglesey. Married four times. Gained her nickname for the extensive number of descendants.
Katherine Broughton: 1514 – 1535
Also known as Lady Katherine Howard 1531-1535
Daughter of John Broughton of Toddington and his wife Anne (née Sapcote).
When her father died, her wardship was granted to Cardinal Wolsey. In 1529 her wardship was purchased by the dowager duchess of Norfolk.
Catherine Brydges: There appear to be two within the main Tudor period… 
- 1497-1556 ~
Also known as Catherine Pole or Poole 1515-1539, Lady Catherine Broke/Brooke/Brook of Bristol 1539-1556.
Daughter of daughter of Sir Giles Brydges or Brugge of Coberley and his wife Isabel (née Baynham).
Served as one of the nurses to the baby Princess Mary in 1516 and stayed with her at least to 1525 when Mary’s household moved Ludlow as the Princess of Wales. Catherine rejoined her household, when Mary became Queen.
- 1524 – 1566 ~
Also known as Lady Catherine Brydges 1524-1556, Lady Catherine Dudley 1556-1566
Daughter of John Brydges, 1st baron Chandos and his wife Elizabeth (née Grey).
Gentlewoman of the privy chamber to Queen Mary. Married to the brother of Sir Henry Dudley, who conspired to depose Queen Mary.
Katherine Brydges: 1554-1596
Also known as Lady Katherine Sandys 1573-1596
Daughter of Edmund Brydges, 2nd baron Chandos and his wife Dorothy (née Bray).
Noted beauty and maid of honour, with her sister, to Queen Elizabeth.
Catherine Bulkeley: c.1500-1570
Daughter of Rowland Bulkeley of Beaumaris, Wales and his wife Alice (née Beconsall).
The last abbess of Godstow in Oxfordshire. She offered Cromwell, in March 1538, the stewardship of the abbey in the hopes of saving it but in November they started to suppress the abbey. The abbey surrendered in 1539. She was granted a pension of £40 for life and conformed to the state religion, leasing the parsonage of Cheadle church in Cheshire.
Catherine Carey: c. 1524 – 1569
Also known as Lady Catherine Knollys 1540-1569
Officially the daughter of Sir William Carey and his wife Mary (née Boleyn). It has been argued by a number of historians that she may be the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII as her mother was Henry’s mistress about this time – though she was never acknowledged as such by the king himself.
Maid of honour to Queen Anne of Cleves and Queen Catherine Howard. Devout Protestant, she went abroad briefly during the reign of Mary I. She had 14 children of which 12-13 survived to adulthood. Her daughter Lettice married Robert Dudley and her grandson was Queen Elizabeth’s last favourite – the Earl of Essex. She herself was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth and a leading lady of her bedchamber. Queen Elizabeth gave her a lavish funeral in Westminster abbey when she died.
Lady Catherine Gordon: 1474 –1537
Also known as Duchess of York (by those supporting Perkin Warbeck) after her marriage to Perkin Warbeck 1496 – 1497, Lady Kateryn Huntleye 1497- her first marriage, Lady Catherine Strangeways between 1510 and 1512- 1516, Lady Catherine Craddock and ‘Mi Ladi Katerin’ 1517-1531, Lady Catherine Ashton earliest 1535/6-1537.
Daughter of George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Huntly, and his wife Elizabeth, (née Lady Hay).
Scottish noblewoman who was married to Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the throne during Henry VII’s reign, for a time. After his defeat she was placed in the household of the queen (Elizabeth of York) where she became a favoured lady in waiting. Perkin Warbeck was hanged in 1499. She was one of the chief mourners at the queen’s funeral. She was one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies for a time and was a Chief Lady of the Privy Chamber in Princess Mary’s household in the late 1520s.
Lady Katherine Grey: 1540 – 1568
Also known as Lady Catherine Grey, Lady Kathrine Herbert 1553-1554 (marriage annulled), Lady Katherine Seymour, Countess of Hertford 1560-1562 (marriage annulled)
Daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Frances (née Lady Brandon).
Younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. Edward VI’s attempt to disinherit his sisters, and place Lady Jane Grey on the throne also placed Lady Katherine Grey as 2nd in line to the throne (after Lady Jane Grey and her heirs male). She married the Earl of Hertford secretly, without Queen Elizabeth’s permission. This angered the queen and she put both her and her husband into the Tower of London but they had two sons together: one as she came to the Tower pregnant and one whilst in the Tower. A commission had their marriage annulled which made their children illegitimate. She was separated from her husband and eldest son by putting her into house arrest. She died from tuberculosis without reuniting with them. Their children were not legitimised until 1606.
Lady Katherine Howard: 1500-1544
Also known as Lady Rhys or Griffith (she married Rhys ap Griffith of Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire and their children followed the Welsh practise so their family name was ap Rhys) c1514-1531, Lady Daubeney, countess of Bridgewater 1532-1536
Daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk and his wife Agnes (née Tylney).
She was involved with inciting rebellion against the King’s justiciar with her first husband. Her first husband was then executed for treason. She was divorced from her second husband. She also became involved with the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace during it’s early stages. It is likely due to her family influence that she personally avoided punishment. However later in Henry VIII’s reign, she was attainted for ‘Misprision’ which is concealing treason (Catherine Howard’s premarital sexual history). She, along with others, were all found guilty and sentenced to “perpetual imprisonment and loss of goods”. They, unlike Queen Catherine Howard, were pardoned in 1542.
Catherine de Medici: 1519 – 1589
Also known as Caterina Maria Romola di Lorenzo de Medici 1519-1533, Catherine d’Orleans (presumably) 1533-1536 Dauphine and duchesse de Bretagne 1536-1547, La Reine (Queen) Catherine de France 1547-1559, Régente du Royaume de France (Regent) 1560-1563, La reine-mère (Queen Mother) 1559-1589.
Daughter of Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino, and her mother was Madeleine (née de la Tour d’Auvergne)
A major figure in French history but peripheral to British history. She was the mother-in-law to Mary Queen of Scots through her first husband. Most source say she did not like her young daughter in law and encouraged her to leave France when her son, who was Mary’s husband, died. She was the power behind the throne, even acting as Regent for a time, whilst her sons were on the throne.
Catherine Plantagenet: 1479 – 1527
Also known as Princess Catherine (Catherine of York) 1479-1483, Catherine Courtney, Countess of Devon 1495-1511, Dowager Countess of Devon 1511-1527
Daughter of King Edward IV and his Queen Elizabeth (née Woodville).
Sister of Elizabeth of York and one source says the chief mourner at her funeral. Mother to three children, one of whom (her son Henry) was executed by Henry VIII.
- She should not be confused with Katherine Plantagenet who was the illegitimate daughter of Richard III. Little is known of her except that she married William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, in approximately 1484. Her husband attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1487 and was noted to be a widower but it is unknown whether Katherine Plantagenet died in childbirth or whether Katherine had been repudiated, following the triumph of Henry VII, and his widower status referred to his first wife.
Katherine Tilney: ??
Daughter of Sir Philip Tilney.
Brought up with Catherine Howard even sharing a bed with her when young. Favourite Lady in Waiting of Queen Catherine Howard (1540-1542). She helped her meet Thomas Culpepper secretly whilst Catherine was married to Henry VIII and was questioned in the Tower over this. She was charged with Misprision which is concealing treason (Catherine Howard’s premarital sexual history). She, along with others, were all found guilty and sentenced to “perpetual imprisonment and loss of goods”. They, unlike Queen Catherine Howard, were pardoned in 1542.
Katherine Tudor: February 2nd 1503 – February 18th 1503
Also known as Princess Katherine.
Daughter of King Henry VII and his Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth of York).
Katherine was royal but the poor child was premature and only survived a few days. Her mother, Elizabeth of York, died 9 days after her birth and it is thought that the cause most likely was puerperal fever exacerbated by an iron deficiency.
Katherine Willoughby: 1519-1580
Also known as Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk 1533-1545, Dowager Duchess of Suffolk 1545-1552/3, Katherine Bertie 1552/3-1580
Daughter of William, Baron Willoughby, and his wife Maria (née De Salinas – one of Queen Katherine of Aragon’s ladies).
Married at 14 to the 49 year old Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Devout Protestant and friend of Katherine Parr. She took in Katherine Parr’s child Mary after her death though it is thought Mary died young. Her own children by Brandon died in their teens. She and her second husband went briefly into exile when Mary I came to the throne due her beliefs but returned after Elizabeth I came to the throne.
Katherine Woodville : 1458 – 1497
Also known as Catherine Wydeville or Wydville (Woodville is the modern spelling) 1458-1465, Duchess of Buckingham 1465-1483, Dowager Duchess of Buckingham 1483-1485, Duchess of Bedford 1485-1495, Lady Wingfield 1496-1497
Daughter of Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. Catherine Woodville was born to her father when he was simply Baron Rivers and not yet Earl Rivers.
Sister of Elizabeth Woodville (Edward IV’s queen). Married to Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII. Mother of the Duke of Buckingham who was executed for treason by Henry VIII.
- Henry: Virtuous Prince by David Starkey, 2008, Harper Press.
- Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda De Lisle, 2013, Chatto & Windsor.
- Wikipedia: Catherine de Valois, Katherine Swynford, Catherine Woodville, Katherine Tudor, Catherine of Aragon, Kat Ashley, Katheryn of Berain, Catherine Carey
About the Author: P. Deegan
P. Deegan lives in England and has always been interested in history. She finds the Tudor period very interesting. She believes it probably started with the TV series ‘the six wives of Henry VIII’ in the 70s. Also when she studied history in the sixth form (2nd last year in school) it was the Tudors who introduced her to the concept of the ‘vested interest’: those people who gained the land and buildings of the dissolved monasteries gained a ‘vested interest’ in the reformation and maintaining the new status quo.