‘Once more unto the breach’: Katherine's Victory in Henry V

  • Corinne S. Abate New York University


Needing to marry someone who can legitimate his aspiration for a foreign throne, Henry aligns himself with Katharine Valois, French princess, integral political figure, and emerging bilinguist, who provides Henry with the legitimacy his claim is heretofore without. This article interrogates Katharine's role in allaying Henry's anxiety of creating rightfulness--both with the power she possesses as a member of and pivotal place holder in the French royal family, and in her willingness to learn English--all while retaining an individual and solvent center of power, agency intact. Further, through a discussion of the Salic Law and its (ir)relevance to the final act of Henry V, the article attempts to explain why Henry inflicts his fervent wooing upon a woman with whom, many scholars have argued, he need not have bothered. Henry, therefore, a man engrossed with the idea of playing the role of king, needs Katharine to authorize his vision of familial justification that would both help erase the recent unscrupulous actions of Henry IV, and make a more peaceful, potentially smoother, and rigorously legitimized transition for Henry VI to ascend the thrones of both countries.