Princess Katherine of France by Wright, 1860
Princess Katherine of France by John William Wright, engraver by William Henry Mote, 1860.
This print is from Charles Heath's The Heroines of Shakespeare. It is of Katherine of Valois from Henry V, which was a historical play based on the life of King Henry V of England. Henry V was the fourth part of a tetralogy which included Richard II and Henry IV Parts I and II. Shakespeare uses the scenes with Katherine learning English to emphasize her role as a tool in the negotiations between warring England and France. She is taught to be delicate and sweet, so that Henry might find her desirable as a wife. Since he is English she is taught to speak it to further increase her changes of being chosen by him.
Catherine of Valois (1401-1437) was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and Isabelle of Bavaria. She married Henry V in 1420 gave birth to their only child Henry VI (1421-1471) a year later. Catherine was also the grandmother of Henry VII (1457-1509), through her relationship with Owen Tudor, which produced five children. There is no documentation indicating that Catherine and Owen ever married and the matter has been of some debate. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. Originally there was an alabaster memorial on her tomb but Henry VII had it removed during the extending of the church. During the remodeling the lid on her coffin was raised by accident, exposing the queen's remains. Her body was not properly re-interred until the reign of Queen Victoria.
John William Wright (1802-1848) was a English watercolor painter of genre and portraits, as well as an illustrator. His father John Wright, a miniaturist painter, gave him his first introduction to leading artists of the day. John William was apprenticed to Thomas Phillips (1770-1845) and became a regular exhibitor with the Royal Academy after 1825. The Old Watercolour Society made Wright an associate, in 1831, and a full member, in 1842. He became the Society's secretary in 1844. His work was praised for its careful costume detail and sentimental style. Wright's works were often inspired by the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and engravings of his pieces appeared in a numerous publications.
William Henry Mote (1803-1871) specialized in steel engravings and etchings. He was best known for his portraits though a number of his works appeared in reference books. Mote began his career at age sixteen working for Charles Heath (1785-1848). He became a member of the Royal Academy, in 1831, and was later commissioned by King George IV to create an engraving for Greenwich Hospital. Engravings of beautiful women became fashionable from 1823 to 1857, and Mote became a prolific artist of the subject.
- Naomi Bean