Sunday, August 16, 2009

Myth--Henry Stafford made to marry an older woman--Katherine Woodville

I must thank Susan Higginbotham for the idea to include it as part of the myth-busting series from her Medieval Woman blog post on this topic where she points out that Katherine was about two years Henry’s junior.

My first search was for statements indicating this was a May/September match as some writers of both fiction and non-fiction have recently used to give reason for Stafford’s apparent contempt for his marriage. Interestingly, even the secondary sources I’ve investigated don’t make that claim.

Neither Kendall (1955) nor Ross (1997) claims that Katherine was twice Buckingham’s age when he was made to marry her when he was a boy.

Could it have been confused by some with the John Woodville (aged 20) match to Katherine Neville (aged 65) in 1465 (per Charles Ross in ‘Edward IV’ p 93?) Please forgive any typos I may have introduced transcribing the snippets.

“..In January 1465 the queen brought off a less suitable match -- the marriage of her younger brother, John Woodville, then aged about twenty, to the very wealthy dowager duchess of Norfolk, Katherine Nevill[e], who was then a ‘slip of a girl’ (juvencula) of at least sixty-five,...

“Aristocratic husbands were soon found for three more of the queen’s sisters. Their betrothals or marriages seem to have taken place soon after the baptism of the royal couple’s first child, Elizabeth of York, who was born on 11 February 1466. Katherine Woodville married Henry Stafford, grandson and heir of the duke of Buckingham;...”

So, even if Ross has the year wrong, he doesn’t explicitly state that Katherine was much older than Buckingham and the implication is a stretch since he mentions other matches with the Katherine Woodville/Henry Stafford match.

According to Ross, Stafford’s objection was one of wealth and inheritance in that the Woodvilles had little money and were considered upstarts.

Per the Royal Genealogy at Hull, Catherine Wydeville was born 1458, married Henry Stafford in February of 1466 and died in 1497. The same site gives Henry Stafford’s birth as September 4, 1455 and also lists five children from that marriage.

Then, the real mystery is why and how the myth that Katherine was about twelve years Buckingham’s senior has been assumed as fact by some recent writers of both fiction and non-fiction.

Interesting aside from ‘The dictionary of English history’ by Sir Sidney Low as to why Buckingham turned against Richard: