Saturday, 18 May 2013

Katherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham and Bedford

Today, 18 May, we commemorate the death of Katherine Woodville, who died on this day in 1497.
She was the wife of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke and Sir Richard Wingfield and around 40 when she passed away. She was a sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville and, out of, probably, 13 children, she was very likely the youngest daughter of Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers.

                                             Katherine's sister Queen Elizabeth Woodville

Katherine married three times, first when still a child, somewhere in 1465, to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, with whom she had 4 children. The oldest, Edward, was born in 1478, who would succeed his father as Duke of Buckingham, followed by Elizabeth, Henry, Humphrey (who died young) and Anne.

                              Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Katherine's oldest son

Eventhough fruitfull, the marriage was, according to Dominic Mancini, an observer of English affairs during this time, claimed to be unhappy. Mancini declared that Henry Stafford “had his own reasons for detesting the queen’s kin; for, when he was younger, he had been forced to wed the queen’s sister, whom he scorned to wed on account of her humble origin.”
Katherine's life changed drastically in 1483 when, Buckingham being, along with Richard Duke of Gloucester, responsible for the death of Katherine's brother and nephew, Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey, changed side again when Gloucester had seized the crown as King Richard III and rebelled against the monarch he first had given all of his support. As a result Buckingham was executed on 2 November. Just-widowed Katherine found herself in a difficult situation, with four very young children.

Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, Katherine's brother who was executed by beheading at Pontefract Castle on 25 June 1483

But two years later, when Henry Tudor became King she was soon, on 7 November 1485, married to the King's uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke, who was aroung 20 years her senior. Together they would spend much of their ten years ahead of them together at their Manor at Thornbury. Jasper and Katherine's marriage was a one of strategic benefits and whether they were happy together is unknown.
It is rumoured that the couple had a still born son in 1490.

Victorian stained glass image of Katherine and Jasper at Cardiff Castle

On 15 December Katherine's husband, Jasper Tudor made his will at their manor at Thornbury, mentioning his wife only briefly, nearly at the end of his will: ''I will that my lady my wife and all other persons have such dues as shall be thought to them appertaining by right law and conscience." Jasper died 6 days later, on 21 December 1495, being in his mid-60's.
Jasper's will and the fact that Katherine, who was now in her late 30's, very hastily remarried to a man, twelve years her junior, without a royal license, indicates a not very close relationship to her former husband and perhaps she even had an affair with young Wingfield before Jasper's death. King Henry VII fined the couple two thousand pounds for their presumption. Katherine would have probably known Richard Wingfield for some time; Wingfield’s mother was connected to Anthony Woodville’s second wife Mary and two of Richard’s brothers, and perhaps Richard himself, had served in Katherine’s household. Katherine's 3rd marriage wasn't, unlike her previous two marriages, of any strategic benefit for her and likely this final matrimony was one made for love.
Unfortunately for Katherine she was unable to enjoy her marriage for very long. Barely one year after, she died of unknown cause. Her burialplace is unknown. She did not have any surviving children from either Jasper Tudor or Richard Wingfield. Wingfield did remarry and had many children with his second wife Bridget Wiltshire. In his will in 1525 Wingfield requested masses to be said for Katherine’s soul.