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Katheryn of Berain, 'The Mother of Wales' (1534/5-1591)

CRONENBURGH, Adriaen van (1520 - 1604)

Katheryn of Berain, 'The Mother of Wales' (1534/5-1591)

Date: 1568

Media: oil on panel

Size: 97.2 x 68.6 cm

Acquired: 1957; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 19

Katheryn of Berain clutches a prayer-book and solemnly caresses the contours of a human skull. The skull often occurs in sixteenth-century portraits; the contrast between flesh and bone reminds us of the frailty of life. She appears to be in mourning, but in fact had recently married the royal agent Richard Clough. She is presented as a fitting wife for a wealthy merchant. Her elaborate costume, pale skin and plucked brows were highly fashionable, and the prayer-book confirms her piety.

Katherine was the daughter of Tudur ap Robert Vychan of Berain, Denbighshire (Clwyd) and a direct descendant of Henry VII. She married four times and through her numerous children and step-children was called Mam Cymru - the mother of Wales. Her first husband John, son and heir of Sir John Salusbury of Llewenni, died in 1556. In 1567 she married Sir Richard Clough, a wealthy merchant from Denbigh and partner of the banker Sir Thomas Gresham, who lived in Antwerp and Hamburg. It is likely this portrait was painted in the Northern Netherlands by the Friesian artist van Cronenburgh. Following Clough's death in 1570 she returned to Wales and before 1573 had married Maurice Wynn of Gwydir, who died in 1580. In 1584 she married for the last time Edward Thelwall of Plas y Ward.

Comments (29)

Sarah De Boer
13 November 2021, 18:48
Has anyone ever noticed the pupil of her left eye? It looks as if she has a coloboma. The detail of the portrait is so precise that I have to think her eye looked like that. She was a fascinating woman.
Shelley Davis (Salisbury)
18 May 2021, 22:10
Discovered Katherine Tudor was my 9th Great-Grandmother, stemming from John Salusbury. I see I have some relatives in here! *waves*
Beth MacBain
17 February 2021, 17:52
I am a direct descendant of Catrin, Mother of Wales, I am a member of the Wynne family from Garthewin and we have her portrait which hangs in Aberystwyth University Library, her son Thomas Salusbury was involved in the Babbington plot and his last words were "I was born a Catholic and I will die a Catholic."
Graham Senior-Milne
10 March 2018, 23:21
Berain is at Google/Bing map ref 53.215386, -3.488243. I have visited it. The owners were very friendly when I explained that Katheryn was an ancestor.
Triska Evans
3 November 2017, 00:05
Has anyone heard of the stain in Gwydir Castle which marks the spot where Catrin is supposed to have murdered her husband Richard Clough?
Sara Huws Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
19 September 2017, 10:37

Haia Twm

I also grew up very aware of Catrin and her story, as some of my family also hail from the same area. It is just such a fascinating portrait. I particularly like the jewels - she looks quite plainly dressed until you start counting the diamonds she's wearing!

The publically available information on Berain, which is on private property, can be found on the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales' Coflein service: Berain.

Cofion cynnes,

Digital Team

Twm Sion Catti
18 September 2017, 19:50
A GREAT article bringing back so many memories.
I was born and brought up in Denbigh / Dinbych and reference was often made to Katheryn of Berain, 'The Mother of Wales'.
No-one seemed to know where 'Berain' was / is. There were a number of places which were called Berain but were far too modern to be the original.
I notice that someone has posted that they've been to the building and found it rather small. However, the writer didn't give a precise location.
Any clues, or exact details, please.


18 August 2017, 20:07
I just discovered and confirmed that Katrin was my 12× great grandmother through her marriage to my 12× great grandfather, Sir John Salusbury. How cool is that. Now what?
Janet Kemp
25 November 2016, 04:07
I am a descendant of The Mother of Wales through her marriage to Sir John Salisbury... I notice the name was spelled Salusbury back then. ??
Yet another descendant
29 September 2016, 10:42
Katheryn Tudor was my 11th g-grandmother. Her g-g-grandmother was Catherine of Valois, the Queen Consort to England's King Henry V, mother of Henry VI, and daughter of France's King Charles VI.
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