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Series / The Spanish Princess

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The Spanish Princess is a Starz historical drama series which centers around Catherine of Aragon's time in England during the latter reign of Henry VII. It premiered on May 5th, 2019. The remaining eight episodes are due to broadcast in 2020.

It is a sequel to The White Princess and by extension The White Queen.

The Spanish Princess provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Margaret Pole is far from enthusiastic about William Compton's interest in her.
  • Action Mom: Isabella of Castile is a renowned swordswoman and regularly fights fully armoured on horseback.
  • Adipose Rex: Louis XII of France is incredibly fat and Henry is eating himself down the same path as Season 2 goes on.
  • Age Lift: Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur, and Prince Henry have all been aged up at least a decade for the show here, probably because teenagers in an arranged marriage isn't going to go over well with their modern audiences.
  • Altar Diplomacy:
    • Isabella marries her daughter Joanna to the Holy Roman Emperor's son, and her daughter Catherine to the heir to England.
    • Princess Margaret is married to the King of Scotland for this reason.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • Thomas More is brave, chivalrous, strong, ingenuitive, gentlemanly, talented, educated, helpful and a loyal and loving husband and father. He is also ambitious, a social climber, supports retributive justice, anti-Protestant and a ruthless enforcer of heresy laws, persecuting Lutherans. He is more sympathetically portrayed here than in the Tudors and Wolf Hall however.
    • Wolf Hall and to a lesser extent the Tudors potrays him as a sadistic torturer. In the Spanish Princess he does not enjoy torturing Protestants. He thinks that is the only way to protect Catholics from Protestants.
    • In real life, Thomas More allowed his daughter Meg More to marry William Roper, who reverted back to Catholicism from Protestantism. He never had William Roper punished. William Roper greatly enjoyed Thomas More's company and spoke favorably of him. Thomas More was also friends with the tolerant Catholic Erasmus.
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    • Many 16th and 17th century era humanists supported retributive justice. Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes did.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Joanna of Castile is portrayed as an atheist who declares her disbelief in God to both her sister Catherine and her husband. However, though Joanna was reportedly impious and expressed religious skepticism, it never went this far. Reportedly, she really was tortured for saying skeptical things, and thus would presumably refrain (even or especially assuming this included atheism).
    • Isabella of Castile never fought in battle. While she was present at the siege of Granada in 1492, it was mostly for morale reasons. It was considered unbecoming of a woman (especially the Queen) to fight. After all, dead queens can’t produce heirs.
    • Likewise, Catherine wasn't even at the Battle of Flodden, let alone riding her charger into the thick of the conflict and killing soldiers; when word came to her of the victory she was nearly 300 miles away in Buckingham. Again, no one was going to risk a heavily pregnant queen on the battlefield. While she did ride north from of London to provide inspiration and moral support to the troops, it's debateable as to whether she was wearing armour or not; several sources record she was bringing 1500 suits of armour to help the English forces, rather than wearing it.
    • While several of his fellow humanists worked as tutors to aristocratic children during their careers, Thomas More never did.
    • Henry is shown to be extremely disappointed when Mary is born, to the point that his wife's failure to produce a healthy son is practically all he ever talks about. Contrast with the real Henry, who was glad at least one of his children survived past infancy and it wasn't until Catherine hit menopause that he grew desperate for an heir. Catherine herself isn't much better, since in real life she loved her daughter very much and likewise hoped that other healthy children, sons in particular, would follow; one of the reasons she was so adamant in refusing an annulment was because it would have stripped Mary of her right to the throne and made her a bastard.
    • Catherine's awful treatment of Bessie Blount would most definitely not be allowed by the real Henry, who removed Bessie from court soon after learning she was pregnant - mostly in order for the birth of his illegitimate child to be as discreet as possible. It wasn't until the child turned out to be a (mostly) healthy boy that Henry's joy overrode his fear of scandal.
    • It is mentioned in passing during the Field Of The Cloth Of Gold episode that Louis XII was the father of Francis I. Which is both nonsensical and funny, since the showrunners avoided an interesting parallel between Louis and Henry. Louis XII was so desperate for a son he married only a few months before his death, when his health had already started to fail (people then joked that he died because of being too enthusiastic with his young bride). He had two wives before Mary Tudor - Jane of Valois, who was infertile, and Anne of Brittany, whom he married for her riches, but who had trouble producing a healthy child. Out of five children she had with Louis (she had already born six to her previous husband, none of which survived) only two girls survived their parents. Because French customs forbade passing of the crown trough a female line, the throne went to Francis, who was a distant cousin of Louis XII and who then married his older daughter Claude to seal the deal and gain the fortune she inherited from her mother.
    • Francis I also questions the legitimacy of Henry's daughter Mary, which in reality he wouldn't have done, especially not in public; the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Aragon was considered valid because of a papal dispensation. To make matters worse, the reason why he questions it was because of his firm belief at the time that the Pope doesn't have the power to make an otherwise illegitimate marriage permissible. Francis, at least in public, was a good Catholic and would never question a decision of the Pope without a very good (political) reason. In the show, his only motivation to do so is to ask for a bigger dowry for Mary when discussing her potential marriage to his son - which is ridiculously petty. note 
    • In real life, Meg and her second husband Angus had a daughter named Margaret Douglas, who is Adapted Out here. Since Margaret Douglas was the mother of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots and father of James I, this leads to an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole for the British royal family's future existence.
    • While some people in the Protestant Reformation did deny the divine right of kings, Martin Luther did not go that far. Many Protestants supported book burnings, torture and capital punishment as well. There were also tolerant Catholics during the early 16th century such as Margaret of Austria, Erasmus and Margaret of Valois-Angoulême. Cardinal Wolsey and Catherine of Aragon also have an exaggerated role in the Catholic reaction. IRL they were not as involved in it as shown in the Spanish Princess. Anne Boleyn's role in the Protestant Reformation is downplayed. John Fisher and Bishop Gardiner are not shown either, ignoring the role they played in the Catholic reaction.
  • Ascended Extra: Prince Harry, who wasn't born when The White Princess started (although he did get some notable scenes with Margaret Beaufort towards the show's end). Catherine herself can be considered this — she's mentioned in The White Princess and briefly depicted in it, and becomes the main character in The Spanish Princess.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Meg, as the Scottish queen, is absolutely miserable taking care of her king's rowdy children that he refuses to round up or discipline, of which many are not even hers.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Catherine for the Spanish royal family, and Princess Mary for the Tudors.
  • Becoming the Mask: Harry wrote love letters to Catherine as Prince Arthur. It started as a joke, but he ended up falling in love with her. Also for Catherine, as she seduces Harry so that she will be Queen of England, only to end up wanting to be with Harry more than be Queen.
  • Black Vikings: The show has Catherine of Aragon with a black lady-in-waiting. Although the real Catherine did have a Moorish female slave named Catalina de Motril, Moors were Arab or Berber. It's also very unlikely they would ever have allowed her a guardsman who wasn't ethnically Spanish such as Oviedo (who's also black).
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Just watch Stafford's head fly!
  • The Bus Came Back: Rosa and Catherine are reunited at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
  • Composite Character: Lina is a composite of two historical Catalinas: Catalina de Cardenas, a highborn lady-in-waiting, and Catalina de Motril, a Moorish slave.
  • Control Freak: Lady Margaret has a surprising number of people on her payroll in secret, including Catherine and Arthur's entire household staff. She jumps to become regent the first chance she gets.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Rosa miscarries just after Lord Stafford bails on her pregnancy.
  • Courtly Love: The knights of Britain attempt to romance both of Catherine's retainers.
  • Culture Clash: The Spanish retinue insist on following their customs, for instance with Catherine taking a siesta in the afternoon, to the annoyance of the English.
  • Death by Childbirth: Like many woman before her, and in a case of Truth in Television, Elizabeth of York goes out in an incredibly disgusting and gruesome childbirth.
  • Death by Despair: Joanna claims to Catherine that their mother died of grief for their brother John, who died seven years ago. Truth in Television according to reports from the time.
  • Demoted to Extra: Elizabeth of York, protagonist of the previous series, only plays a supporting role this time, before dying in the third episode.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Queen Joanna's son Charles is betrothed to Princess Mary of England, and her daughter Eleanor is betrothed to Prince Henry. Meanwhile, Catherine is angling to marry her own former brother-in-law, Prince Henry.
  • Downer Ending: Sure, Catherine has won and she and Harry are about to get married... but he suspects she's lying about not having sex with Arthur and she knows he is lying about sleeping with her sister, Joanna.
  • Dowry Dilemma:
    • Just as a marriage is agreed between Prince Henry and Catherine, her mother Isabella dies. Her father's kingdom is too poor to pay a sufficient dowry, and her sister Joanna refuses to pay.
    • Subverted: Princess Margaret doesn't want to marry James IV of Scotland, and manages to convince her grandmother that England is too poor to pay her dowry to Scotland if they haven't received Catherine's dowry from Spain. Other political circumstances eventually push the match ahead, however.
  • Dramatic Irony: In one scene, Harry declares that he's "always eating" and his mother replies that he is one of the lucky people for whom "food and good wine do not alter the girth". Give it a few years and... well... by the events of the Field of Cloth of Gold, Henry is sporting a considerably more rotund midsection.
  • End of an Age: The ending of the middle ages.
  • English Rose: Maggie Pole is portrayed this way.
  • Externally Validated Prophecy: Elizabeth of York's dying prophecy that there will be no more Tudor sons if Catherine marries Prince Henry. Validated by Real Life. Oddly, Elizabeth's prophecy doesn't account for a son that was born after Henry and Catherine married: Henry VIII's son with Jane Seymour, Edward VI, who died at 15. The curse she and her mother cast, however, does account for Edward dying.
  • Extreme Doormat: Arthur is mostly controlled by his fear of his family's opinions of him.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Lord Stafford.
  • Fallen Princess:
    • Catherine's status drops after she is widowed, and again after her mother dies.
    • Margaret Pole falls into poverty after her husband dies.
  • Fat Bastard: Henry's becoming one as Season 2 heads down it's foregone path!
  • Feuding Families: The Yorks and the Tudors. Considerably lessened since The White Queen and The White Princess due to the longstanding marriage between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, but John de la Pole emerges as a Yorkist claimant to England.
  • Flashback Cut: A short clip from The White Princess of Richard of Shrewsbury yelling, "England receive my blood!" just before he's executed is shown when Queen Elizabeth reminisces about the past.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Henry VIII will marry Catherine of Aragon ... but it won't end well.
  • Foreshadowing: Margaret quotes Leviticus to Harry to warn him about marrying his brother's wife. Harry immediately counters with a verse from Deuteronomy that supports marrying your brother's widow.
    • Princess Mary Tudor runs to burn Protestant books, foreshadowing her role as "Bloody Mary."
  • Freudian Trio: Rosa as Id, Catherine as Ego, and Lina as Superego.
  • The Fundamentalist: Thomas More is revealed to be one, certain that torturing heretics is the way to protect the Catholic Church.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!:
    • Joanna of Castile. Subverted as it is revealed that Joanna's temperament stems from her mother abusing her, her father and husband trying to usurp her throne, as well as her husband's many affairs.
    • Joanna herself considers Isabella to be an example of this. Catherine concedes that Isabella could indeed be cruel, torturing Joanna for her lack of piety.
    • Elizabeth of York acts as this for Catherine.
    • Margaret Beaufort is this for everyone.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: After getting pregnant from her lover, Rosa asks Lina for help. Lina gets her a potion to cause abortion, but Rosa can't bring herself to use it, instead getting assurances by her lover that he'll care for her and the baby.
  • Gratuitous English:
    • Catherine speaks in English even when talking to her mother in Spain, and among her Spanish ladies-in-waiting. Justified in that Catherine is training to be the future Queen of England and integrate into the English court.
    • Philip and Joanna of Castile speak almost perfect English, with no attempt by the English to afford them the use of a lingua franca such as French or Latin as Margaret Beaufort did when meeting Margaret. Joanna immediately talks to Catherine in English even when they are in private and could easily speak in Spanish.
    • Lina almost always speaks to Rosa and Oviedo in English, even when they are talking about matters that they might not want an English eavesdropper to find out.
  • Greater Need Than Mine: Margaret Pole gives rent back to her impoverished tenants, even as she falls deep into debt with the Crown following her husband's death.
  • Happily Married: The White Princess may have featured both their mothers trying to tear them apart, not to mention Burgundy and half of England, but Elizabeth of York and Henry VII are, finally, at last, happily married, so happily married that Elizabeth begs her husband not to leave her in childbirth - normally, men were not allowed to be present.
  • He Knows Too Much: Margaret Beaufort attempts to execute Oviedo and Dudley for this reason.
  • Heir Club for Men: Played straight for the English, who want Catherine and Arthur to have a son. Somewhat Averted for the Spanish, who have two ruling queens, Isabella and Joanna.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Henry VII's portrayal is not too inaccurate. The great misleading element is the suggestion that he genuinely had little to do with his infamous taxes and that it was Margaret Beaufort who enforced such policies. While it is genuinely debatable how much Empson and Dudley were simply implementing unpopular policies or unchecked corrupt ministers, their decisions certainly had Henry's approval. Henry's stinginess earned him the nickname "Tight-Fisted Tudor" and why he was little missed when he died.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • One last time around for Margaret Beaufort, unsurprising considering her conniving portrayals in the two previous miniseries. Here, the biggest offender first is her incredibly hostile treatment of Catherine of Aragon is dead wrong. As noted below, her traumatic experience to give birth to Henry VII was enough to convince her son to hold back on the marriage of Arthur and Catherine until Catherine was 16 rather than the absurd 12. Margaret wanted all of the Tudor men to treat women respectfully which surprisingly Henry VIII would do (childbirth wise). Also, while Margaret probably did not murder the Princes of the Tower, she definitely did not have Empson and Dudley executed. That was absolutely Henry VIII's decision and was his first prominent execution.
    • While it would be interesting if Elizabeth of York had a gift of prophecy, that would definitely be mentioned by the history texts. Beyond portraying Elizabeth as responsible for the death of Edward of Warwick and Perkin Warbeck, which was Henry VII's decision, and as stated in series made to appease Ferdinand and Isabella for the marriage of Catherine to Arthur. But Elizabeth openly liked Catherine, was utterly sympathetic to her and had Catherine be a Lady-in-Waiting after Arthur's death. Unfortunately her favor did not last as she died soon after.
    • It is certainly a Riddle for the Ages of whether Catherine of Aragon and Arthur consummated their marriage. But Catherine insisted that it had never been consummated as early as during the reign of Henry VII when he bluntly asked if she was pregnant after Arthur's death. In this series she did consummate her marriage with Arthur and lies to the court and Harry.
  • Hollywood Costuming: One could write many articles about the inaccuracies in the costuming. Fortunately, the fine people over at FrockFlicks did: here and [1]; and here's Part 1 of an eight-part recap.
  • Illegal Religion: Oviedo is a crypto-Muslim, because all Muslims and Jews were forced to convert or leave Spain. He, like those who remained, is officially Catholic. Thus, if this were discovered, the Spanish Inquisition would try him as a heretic, carrying the death sentence if Oviedo didn't repent.
  • Insult Backfire: Harry's joking letters to Catherine, as he all but admits that he fell in love with her. Catherine says that he has given her power over him.
  • Lady-in-Waiting: Lina and Rosa, for Catherine.
  • Lighter and Softer: When compared to Showtime's "the Tudors" and Wolf Hall.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Or, rather Like Mother Like Daughter. In both The White Princess and the one occasion she's seen on a horse in this series, Elizabeth of York does not ride side saddle, as would be custom for a woman. When she leaves for Scotland Margaret is not riding side saddle, just like her mother.
  • Momma's Boy: Both Arthur and Harry are, most definitely, closer to their mother. Arthur allows her to fuss over him, which he doesn't allow others to do, and Harry is almost completely broken and barely able to function when his mother dies.
  • Mother Makes You King: Margaret Beaufort qualifies as this, as in The White Queen and The White Princess, acting as Henry VII's regent during his grieving for Elizabeth of York.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Just try not to drool when you see Henry VIII shirtless...
  • My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Prince Harry and his grandmother argue the morality of Harry marrying Catherine, now Arthur's widow, by quoting Bible passages that support their point. The one which Margaret quotes, ironically, would later be cited by Henry himself to justify an annulment from Catherine (then divorce when that wasn't granted by the Pope).
  • Nice Girl: There are several. Maggie Pole, Alice More, Anne Boleyn, Bessie Blount, Lina to name a few.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The response of the English state helps Protestantism to spread. King Henry VIII will also become a figure of the Protestant Reformation (despite holding Catholic beliefs) alongside Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child:
    • Margaret Beaufort recalls to her granddaughter how she was married at the age of twelve, and had only had one period before falling pregnant.
    • Henry VII nearly marries Catherine, overstepping his son.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. There is more of a variety of names than its predecessors due to the focus on foreign royals with different naming conventions, but many characters still have the same names.
    • Henry VII and Prince Henry, naturally, though the latter is often referred to as Harry.
    • There is Princess Margaret Tudor, her grandmother Margaret Beaufort, and her mother's cousin, Margaret Pole - fortunately they're "Lady Margaret", "Meg" and "Maggie".
    • Lina is short for Catalina, and Catherine's name is also an Anglicized version of Catalina.
  • Only Sane Man: Or, rather, Only Sane Child! Princess Mary, in Episode 7, is the only person basically thinking with her brain... and she realises that Harry is in love with Catherine, so outs his location to her.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Henry VII and Elizabeth of York outlive their eldest son, Arthur. Meanwhile, Isabella and Ferdinand outlive their only son, John.
  • Parental Favoritism: Joanna claims that her brother John was their mother's favourite. Meanwhile, she claims to have been The Un-Favourite due to her atheism.
  • Put on a Bus: Rosa in episode 7, who returns to Spain after suffering a miscarriage.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Philip of Castile's string of affairs, in plain sight of his wife.
    • Harry has slept with Catherine's sister and is implied to have slept with the whores his grandmother provided for him.
  • Religious Bruiser: Isabella of Castile fights off a band of Muslim rebels before Catherine is sent to England.
  • Renaissance Man: There are several. King Henry VIII, Thomas More, Meg More and Anne Boleyn among others.
  • Riches to Rags: Margaret Pole is the cousin of the late queen, the niece of two kings, the daughter and sister of royal claimants. But after her husband dies, she quickly falls into poverty. The crown seizes her estate's property after she fails to pay off her debts, and she can't even afford eggs.
  • Servile Snarker: When she's told that James IV speaks several languages, Princess Margaret declares that she "wishes him the plague in all of them!"
  • Sibling Rivalry: Arthur and Harry. In addition to Arthur being the Blue Oni to Harry's Red Oni, Arthur is annoyed that Harry has written love letters to Catherine in Arthur's name. Harry is envious of Arthur being the heir to the throne, and also wants Catherine.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Catherine's role is very similar to Elizabeth Woodville in Queen and Elizabeth of York in Princess, the main character marrying the king/heir to the throne at the beginning of the series with many political enemies at court.
    • The Catherine of Aragon/Elizabeth of York and Catherine of Aragon/Margaret Beaufort rivalries mirror the Elizabeth Woodville/Cecily Neville rivalry in Queen and the Elizabeth of York/Margaret Beaufort rivalry in Princess.
  • Token Minority Couple: Lina and Oviedo, the only two black characters on the show, get married. Justified, as their historical counterparts married.
  • Wham Shot: Margaret Pole is walking contentedly through Thomas More's house, when the camera reveals she's seen the bloodstained rack used to torture Lutheran printers.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Margaret Pole gives one to Thomas More and Lina to Catherine of Aragon, about their response to the spread of Protestantism.
    • Margaret Pole and Lina are portrayed as being more tolerant Catholics then Thomas More and Catherine of Aragon. The disagree on how to defend Catholicism from the Protestants. Margaret Pole and Lina believe that Protestants should be properly instructed, educated and listened to, while Thomas More and Catherine of Aragon take a Church Police path.
    • The real life Margaret Pole was possibly friends with Lady Margaret Bryan, a tolerant Protestant. That would explain her displeasure with Thomas More's methods. Lina is secretly married to a Muslim man who is a loyal supporter of Catherine of Aragon. She does not want to see him tortured and executed. Her parents were also possibly victims of the Spanish Inquisition, which would explain why she is afraid of Catherine of Aragon turning out like her parents.
    • The Catholic Counter-Reformation was sometimes enforced brutally. Mary Tudor and Catherine De Medici are examples of real life Catholic monarchs who used brutal methods to suppress the Protestant Reformation.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After Henry VII dies, Margaret Beaufort blames Dudley for the oppressive taxation and land confiscation that she herself pushed for, accusing him of treason and executing him before he can tell anyone.


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