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Katherine Woodville

Katherine Woodville was very likely, out of thirteen children, the youngest daughter of Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers - making her a sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. She was wife to three husbands, a mother, the queens sister, aunt to a queen and to the "Princes in the Tower" and through marriage also aunt of Henry VII.


Katherine Woodville, detail of a Victorian stained glass depiction in Cardiff Castle

Katherine married three times, first when still a child, somewhere in 1465, to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, with whom she had 5 children. The oldest, Edward, was born in 1478 and would succeed his father as Duke of Buckingham (who would be executed in 1521 by Henry VIII), followed by Elizabeth, Henry, Humphrey (who died young) and Anne.

Eventhough fruitful, according to Dominic Mancini, a contemporary of English affairs, it was claimed to be an unhappy marriage. 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.” It's impossible to say whether or not this is true. What is also known is that Katherine followed her husband in the final stage of his life while fleeing for Richard III after his betrayal.

Queen Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward IV and sister to Katherine
Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham (1478-1521) oldest son of Katherine

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 sides 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.

Two years later, when Henry Tudor became King, Katherine's life once again changed when she was soon, on 7 November 1485, married to the King's uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke. Jasper was around 20 years her senior but together they would spend a considerable amount of their ten years ahead of them together at their Manor at Thornbury and Sudeley Castle. Jasper and Katherine's marriage was one of strategic benefits and whether they were happy together is questionable. It was rumoured that the couple had a still-born son in 1490.

The entire stained glass image of Katherine and her 2nd husband Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke at Cardiff Castle

On 15 December Katherine's husband, Jasper Tudor made his last 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-60s.

This time Katherine decided to take faith into her own hands and quickly remarried once again. Jasper's will and the fact that Katherine, who was now in her late 30s, very hastily remarried a man named Richard Wingfield, a young man twelve years her junior, without a royal license, also indicates a not very passioned relationship with her late husband. She possibly 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. She died of an unknown cause, barely a year after her wedding. Her burial place is also 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. If you are interested in reading a bit more about Katherine Woodville or Jasper Tudor, my book 'Jasper Tudor, Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty' is now available worldwide in paperback or kindle.


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