The King: Explaining Catherine of Valois’ comments about usurpers

The King - Steven Elder, Timothée Chalamet, Sean Harris - Photo Credit: Netflix
The King - Steven Elder, Timothée Chalamet, Sean Harris - Photo Credit: Netflix /

At the end of Netflix’s The King, Catherine of Valois taunts Henry V about being the son of a usurper. Here’s a quick explanation of why that was important.

After Henry won the Battle of Agincourt in The King, he agreed to the marriage to King Charles of France’s daughter, Catherine of Valois. She quickly made a snide comment about monarchy being illegitimate and Henry being the son of a usurper. Just how much truth was there to that?

We know that the Dauphin, Catherine’s brother, was never at the Battle of Agincourt. This was an element of the story made up to add drama and flair. After all, it seemed more fitting for Henry to face off the son of a king instead of a duke, right? So, how much more was created for drama’s sake?

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Catherine’s comment was 100% accurate. Okay, she may not have said it (we don’t know) but her words were accurate for Henry’s situation. He was the son of a usurper, and he was never supposed to be king.

While Hal was a descendant of King Edward III, it was through Edward’s third son’s (John of Gaunt) line. Five men would have had to die for Henry to become king, and he likely wouldn’t have minded that. After all, his dream wasn’t to rule the kingdom one day.

Richard II had gained the throne after Edward III. Interestingly, Richard was Edward’s grandson, as Richard’s father, Edward the Black Prince, died before Edward III and so the crown passed to the next in line. Richard and his cousin Henry (of Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt) didn’t get along and Henry was pretty much exiled from his lands.

Still with me? I know, so many people called the same names, right? I’m trying to make this as easy as possible.

Henry of Bolingbroke wasn’t happy and ended up forcing Richard off the throne. Richard was imprisoned (where he died but may have been murdered, the details there aren’t known) and Henry of Bolingbroke became Henry IV of England. That’s the guy we see at the start of The King played by Ben Mendelsohn.

So, yes, Henry forced the crown to skip a few people and go to him, literally usurping it. There are high chances that Richard would have gone on to have children to pass the crown onto. If not, there were people in the line of succession before Henry of Bolingbroke. So, Henry V (the main guy we follow in The King) was never supposed to be king. Monarchy is illegitimate, his father was a usurper, and he knew that Catherine’s comments were accurate.

Oh, even if Henry IV had a legitimate claim to the throne, Hal still may not have ended up with the crown if everything went to plan. Hal didn’t want it, Henry preferred his younger son Thomas more, and so the crown was going to pass to Thomas. Hal didn’t like that idea, so he made sure he remained next in line as was his right.


If you need a little more, Netflix even has a video of the entire thing to break it down with graphics. You’re welcome!

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What did you think of The King? Which monarch would you like a movie based on next? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The King is now available to stream on Netflix.