Katherine of England (Old English: Katerine; 25 November 1253 – 3 May 1257) was the fifth child of Henry III and his wife, Eleanor of Provence. She was born either a deaf-mute or just deaf and mentally challenged and was very sickly. She possibly had a degenerative disease, did not survive her fourth year and died at Windsor.
The little Princess was born early in the morning at Westminster Palace, Westminster, London. She was described as the most beautiful of all Henry's daughters, even though it was obvious something was wrong with her. Matthew Paris described her as "the most beautiful girl, but dumb and useless", although this did not matter to her parents. They adored her for her beauty and delicacy. She was christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy, Katherine's maternal granduncle, who also stood as her godfather. She received the name Katherine because she was born on the feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. A few days after her christening, on the day of Saint Edward the Confessor's death, 5 January 1254, the King held a massive banquet, to which he invited all the nobility, including Emma le Despencer and her son, John. The provisions for this banquet included "fourteen wild boars, twenty-four swans, one hundred and thirty-five rabbits, two hundred and fifty partridges, fifty hares, two hundred and fifty wild ducks, sixteen hundred and fifty fowls, thirty-six female geese and sixty-one thousand eggs".
Katherine, who possibly had a degenerative disease, was either a deaf-mute or simply deaf and mentally challenged. In any case, this ruined their parents' hopes of marriage for her and she was never betrothed to anyone. Soon after the banquet, the Queen had to leave England and join her husband in Gascony, leaving the infant Katherine at Windsor Castle. The aforementioned Emma le Despencer was appointed governess and her aids were two wet nurses, Agnes and Avisa. The next year, the King and Queen returned and the King ordered "gold clothes, with borders embroidered with the King's coat-of-arms", on 2 May 1255 for Katherine.
In the autumn of 1254, Katherine became gravely ill and was sent to Emma le Despencer's house in Swallowfield. She had a few companions of her own age and, for her own amusement, the King sent one of his men into Windsor Great Park to capture a goat, for his daughter to play with. The change seemed to benefit the sickly little princess and she was not brought back, but she had a relapse in late 1256. By the King's command, a report of her condition was sent to him by a special messenger during his expedition to France and when he heard of her convalescence he ordered that a "silver image made after the likeness of a woman" should be placed in Westminster Abbey as a votive offering, and the bearer of the news was given "a good robe". Katherine died on 3 May 1257, after she was urgently brought back to Windsor Castle.
Burial and legacy
The King presented the nurses with a present equal to £100 of our money. There was a magnificent funeral, which cost £51-12s-4d. Katherine was buried in the ambulatory in Westminster Abbey, in the space between the chapels of King Edward and St. Benet, close to the tomb of her uncle William de Valence. A splendid monument was raised to her memory by the King, rich with serpentine and mosaics, and surmounted by a silver image of his child as St. Katharine, made by the King's goldsmith at the cost of 70 marks (£46-13s-4d). The Hermit of Charing was paid fifty shillings a year as long as he lived, that he might support a chaplain to pray daily at the Chapel of the Hermitage for the soul of Katherine.
After Katherine died, both Henry and Eleanor were heartbroken, the Queen becoming sick with grief. They did not have any further children.
|Ancestors of Katherine of England|