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Spanish ancestry and the Portuguese royal blood

Besides her Spanish ancestry and the Portuguese royal blood that came to her through her mother, Katherine also had a strong English inheritance. Both her parents were descended from Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Like her husband, Henry VIII, Katherine was also a descendant by both parents of Prince John of Gaunt (pictured left with wife Constance), son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault: her great-great-grandmother Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal was John’s daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster; her great-grandmother Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile, was John’s daughter by his second wife Constance of Castile. This may well have played a part in Katherine’s colouring (fair skin, blue-grey eyes and red-gold hair), although some of Katherine’s paternal ancestors, most notably her great-grandmother Eleanor of Albuquerque, were also redheads. 

Royal, handsome, intelligent, athletic, powerful and wealthy, John of Gaunt (a Plantagenet) strode across the stage of 14th century England in a blaze of charisma. He was the 3rd son of an English King, Edward III, and the father of another, Henry IV. His legitimate daughters married into the royal families of Portugal and Spain, and were Queens and the mothers of Kings. 

John of Gaunt’s power and wealth were greatly enhanced by two very advantageous marriages, but he made the most of all the opportunities which came his way.

John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster - © Meg McGath

As a young man, he married the heiress Blanche of Lancaster. Through her, he became Duke of Lancaster and the wealthiest man in England.Together they had three children, including Henry Bollingbroke, the future Henry IV.

After Blanche’s death from the Plague, John of Gaunt married Constance of Castile, the usurped and exiled heir to the throne of Castile. He claimed theCrown of Castile by right of his wife. In his old age, John of Gaunt married for a third time. No Duchess or Queen this time, rather he married his long-term mistress through whom the Beaufort line was produced. The Beaufort line proved to be a burden as they were eventually declared legitimate after the marriage of John to his mistress, Katherine Swynford. It was through this line that the son of Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor claimed the throne thus producing the Tudor dynasty and Henry VIII through his marriage to Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth descended from Constance of Castile’s sister, Isabella, who married Edmund of Langley, son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. She also descended from John of Gaunt through the illegitimate line of the Beauforts by John’s daughter, Lady Joan, and her husband Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmoreland’s daughter Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, mother of King Edward IV.