During the summer of 1483 Richard Duke of Gloucester found it necessary to remind Londoners that his late brother was a tad on the licentious side – Jane Shore, the king’s mistress, who was in the duke’s bad books in any event for carrying messages between Elizabeth Woodville and Lord Hastings was required to do penance carrying a lighted taper bare foot through the streets of London in just her shift. It wasn’t news that Edward liked the ladies but it was a warm up for the fact was that apparently the late king forgot to mention to Elizabeth Woodville that he was already pre contracted to Lady Eleanor Butler when he married her in 1464 – in another secret marriage.
As well as illegitimising his nephews Richard was also pulling a media stunt that his father Richard of York and father-in-law the Earl of Warwick would have approved. Essentially he was stating that Edward’s court was corrupt to the core and that a new broom was required. Richard, a pious man, was just the chap for the job having the necessary Plantagenet bloodlines, a dutiful wife and an heir as well. For good measure Ralph Shaa reminded everyone who might care to listen that Duchess Cecily was supposed to have had a fling in Rouen with an archer whilst the Duke of York was busy elsewhere resulting in the arrival of Edward nine months later – who was tall and blond unlike his rather short and dark father.
However, Richard was not without his own past so far as the ladies were concerned. He had two acknowledged illegitimate children – John of Gloucester or Pontefract depending on the source and a daughter called Katherine, a possible second natural son named Richard who turned up as a builder in Kent and another daughter provided by the Victorians with no evidence to support the idea.
Katherine appears in the records in 1484 when Richard III arranged her marriage to William Herbert the former Earl of Pembroke who was created Earl of Huntingdon when Edward IV acquired the title for his eldest son. There is no indication of where or when she was born or who her mother might have been. There is some circumstantial evidence in Richard’s account books. In 1477 Richard granted Katherine Haute, a relation of the Woodvilles through marriage, an annuity of £5 a year from Richard’s estates in East Anglia. Its possible that Katherine’s marriage to James Haute came about when the pair discovered she was pregnant though given Gloucester’s later hostility to the Woodvilles seeking help from Elizabeth Woodville is a little eyebrow raising. The lure of an annual income of £5 may have done the job and ensured that James who was Elizabeth’s cousin took on a wife and child. With no other explanation for the annuity, two and two can be added together but whether Katherine Haute was ever Richard’s mistress will never be certain based on the current written record. Nor can history be sure who Katherine Plantagenet’s mother was.
Huntingdon carried Queen Anne’s sceptre at Richard’s coronation but there is no mention of Katherine being in attendance. The king made sure that the marriage agreement for his daughter included jointure lands of £200 a year which provided for Katherine’s widowhood. She was a young teenager at this point whilst her husband to be was approaching thirty and appears to have been subject to poor health. The king undertook to pay for the wedding and settle lands on his daughter. The king’s accounts reveal the purchase of rich fabrics for the bride and groom but beyond that very little is known. If Katherine had a child by her husband it does not seem to have survived and neither did Katherine. By the time of Elizabeth of York’s coronation as the queen consort of Henry VII in 1487, Herbert was described as a widower – although even that is a matter for some speculation. If Herbert repudiated Katherine it would have been a reference to the death of his first wife. She was buried in St James’ Church Garlickhythe London as the Countess of Huntingdon – no reference to whose daughter she was but if there was any monument or tomb of some description for Richard’s daughter it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London. It is possible that she died of sweating sickness and that her husband did not provide a monument or had yet to commission one when he himself died in 1491. He was buried in Tintern Abbey alongside his first wife – Mary Woodville.
Hammond, Peter, ‘The Illegitimate Children of Richard III,’ in J. Petre, ed., Richard III: Crown and People.
Hammond, Peter, The Children of Richard II
Hicks, Michael, Anne Neville.
Horrox, Rosemary , Richard III: A Study in Service