The Life of Lady Katherine Gordon

From what we know Lady Katherin Gordon was a very beautiful woman and her father was a Scottish nobleman who had royal blood and she married four different men including a man called Perkin Warbeck. who pretended to be the heir to the English throne. She was there for so many important Tudor events at the time

Katherin was born in 1474 and was the daughter of George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Huntly and his third wife Elizabeth Hay who was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Errol. Katherin was the great-granddaughter of King James I of Scotland so that was where the royal blood came from. She was also thought to have spent a lot of her youth in the Scottish court getting the education of her rank and it was here that she may have heard about the war for the English throne. It was July 1495 when a man claiming to be Richard, Duke of York one of the young sons of King James the IV walked into the court of King James the IV. The Duke of York and his elder brother had disappeared from the Tower of London in 1483 following their Uncle Richard III’s proclamation as King. Whether King James believed he was actually the Duke of York or not he thought he could use him for his own political negotiations and international alliances. Apparently, he genuinely liked this man and it didn’t take long for the two men to become friends and James treated him like he was a king and dresses him like one too along with Lady Katherine’s hand in marriage and they married in January 1496 and she became known as the Duchess of York. There were huge celebrations at their wedding including jousting and after they traveled to  Falkland Palace in Fife and James began to make plans to go to war with ”Richard” as his ally. As they were trying to gather support for their cause, English spies had found ”Richards” true identity and they found out he was actually a boatman’s son in Tournai and his name was Pierrechon de Werbecque or Perkin Warbeck to a few others.

Warbeck spent some time in the Scottish court away from James, he was trying to negotiate a marriage to King Henry VII’s daughter Margaret. But Warbeck was seen as an obstacle since Henry wanted to get rid of the threat that Warbeck caused him and in the summer of 1497. For awhile Warbeck considered joining the rebellion to gain another hand on the English throne but instead, James got him, Katherin and his son a boat to Ireland. They spent a month in Ireland trying to raise troops for James but when it became obvious that no one there would support their cause so they went on with Cornwall, landing at Whitesand Bay. Warbeck chose to declare himself king and demanded supporters and it was on the way to Penzance it is believed that he left Katherin in St. Buryans at halfway point but there is some confusion in the records because another citation says he left her at St. Michaels Mount but we do know that he for sure left her so that she was safely away from the action and it would stay that way for the next five weeks while Warbeck gathered troops and went into battle, but things didn’t go well for Warbeck as his troops were defeated and he had to go into hiding but then surrendered in October 1497 and was put under a strong guard.

When King Henry’s men came for Katherin they found her in the clothes of mourning, she was thought to have lost her son or had a miscarriage. It took the king’s men a while to get her to surrender promising that they would be kind to her. She was brought to Exeter where she met with King Henry in person but he didn’t execute her for fear of her being pregnant, even though she was no such thing.

The chronicler Bernard Andre describes a meeting between King Henry, Warbeck and Katherine. Henry met with Warbeck first telling him that he would spare his life and after Katherine entered and it was then when Warbeck confessed his true identity to her. Henry also promised that his Queen would look after Katherine and through her tears and disappointment in Warbeck not being who she thought he was she gave herself over to the king and queen. Henry goes on to compliment her on her high birth and beauty and says that she should be married to someone of equal standard, Andre goes onto say how Henry seems smitten with Katherine. From then on she was either forbidden or chose not to return to Scotland and resume her maiden name but Henry gave her horses, food, clothes and she traveled to the royal palace at Sheen. Queen Elizabeth accepted her gave her a high place in her household according to her rank. It was November 23, 1499, when Warbeck was executed at Tyburn for conspiring against the crown and so it left Katherine Gordon a widow. Queen Elizabeth and Katherine became very close friends as she joined her at a wedding between King James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor as one of her ladies and at Queen Elizabeth’s death in February 1503 Katherine was one of the chief mourners as she took her place in the procession from the Tower of London to Westminster Abby just behind the Queen’s sister and as Elizabeth’s body was being lowered into the ground, Katherine stayed by the Queen’s sisters side the whole time.

Henry kept Katherine around for the rest of his life, relying on her for advice and counsel. She played cards with him and got his medication for when he became ill and painted clothes with religious scenes on them to be layn before him when he was ill. Though she was so close to him they never married and there is no sign that they ever became more than friends during her stay there. Not long before Henry VIII became King, Katherine received grants for land in Berkshire on a promise that she would not leave England and at some point between 1510 and 1512 she married James Strangeways who was a Gentleman Usher of the King’s Chamber but he then died in 1516 leaving all his property to Katherine. She then married again in July 1517 to a Welshmen called Matthew Craddock, a gentleman and a knight from Glamorganshire and she tried to leave England so she could live in Wales with her husbund but she was employed by the King’s daughter Mary Tuder as Chief Lady of the Privy Chamber from 1525 to 1530 but then Craddock died in 1531 leaving all his money to Katherine and it came to about 500 marks.

It was sometime before January of 1536 when she married again to a Gentleman Usher of the Chamber named Christopher Ashton. The last six years of her life were spent on her lands in Berkshire where she was seen regularly riding her horse around the grounds. Katherine past away on October 14th, 1537 but in her will, she never mentions her first husbund or any children, She called herself the ”Sometimes wife” of James Strangeways, referred to Craddock as her ”Dear and well-beloved husbund” and Ashton as her ”Beloved husbund”. Katherine was buried in the chancel of the parish church of Fyfield in Berkshire and her tomb is referred to as Lady Gordon’s Monument.

2 thoughts on “The Life of Lady Katherine Gordon

  1. Debra Atkisson

    Very informative post about this Lady Gordon. I am a member of House of Gordon USA and really appreciate your summary of her life. Thank you for writing. Keep it up please!
    Debra Atkisson


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