Wow look at this! Three posts in one day! And this one is on time, thank god! Props to you all that do work and travel, I’m not sure I could do it without being bald by the end of it!
How are you liking it so far?
The Spanish Princess
Episode 3: “ An Audacious Plan”
By: Christine Morgan
**This blog contains spoilers for episode 3 of The Spanish Princess. Read with caution!**
Well friends, the earliest experiences of our Spanish princess are now behind us. The question the show tries to answer this week is “what happens after Arthur’s death?” Having made the statement that Katherine and Arthur did consummate their marriage, the show will now have to address Katherine’s decision to tell a lie. This can be a bit of a bitter pill because this particular queen is often portrayed as pious, honorable, etc. and this story line will challenge this perception. To be clear, it is not the first (nor will it be the last) time that historians and entertainment platforms choose between Katherine as a liar and manipulator (the Starkey approach) or Katherine as a victim of a tyrannical husband (the Weir approach). Perhaps there is truth to both? After all, Katherine was only human and Princess 101 probably included problem solving strategies. Any way, let’s get into the details of the latest episode, what I loved, what doesn’t quite work, and what needs a friendly fact check!
With the death of her husband, Katherine became a widow at just 16. Her new title was “Dowager Princess of Wales,” although after a period of waiting for signs of pregnancy, she was treated much like a maid again, a treatment that was largely perpetuated by her claim of virginity. But let’s not forget, England still needs money! With the Spanish alliance back in limbo, a Scottish alliance between Princess Margaret Tudor and King James IV was even more necessary than ever. One problem that still stood in the way was finding funds for Margaret’s dowry. While the first half of Katherine’s dowry had been paid by this time, the second half had not yet arrived and, without a marriage, its arrival was now unlikely. Ah, the joys of kingship!
This episode gives us another look into really special traditions of Spanish court, depicted in both the wailing/funeral scene and Katherine’s riding of a mule. What a powerful moment to see Elizabeth of York allow the Spanish ladies to wail and mourn for her son. This was a physical manifestation of grief she probably wished she could also perform. Instead, the pregnant queen shows us her “mother” side for a moment and allows her self to feel the loss of her son by way of supporting Katherine and her ladies. I have to say, Alexandra Moen is hitting all the high points with her interpretation of Elizabeth of York.
Additionally, Katherine’s choice to ride to the funeral on a mule rings true to Spanish traditions. Women who rode horses were seen as warriors, more masculine –Isabella of Castile is a good example of a woman who consciously swapped mules for horses. Growing up, Katherine would have been taught to ride on a mule, an animal that supported not just femininity but also physical purity. The show’s use of this animal for Katherine’s arrival at the funeral is well thought out and had a much larger implication for the “public image” of our Dowager Princess.
One drama-filled relationship I still can’t figure out is between Elizabeth of York and Maggie Pole. They have both extended an olive branch in various episodes, yet they continue to accuse each other of spying or even bringing a curse on the family. Even more confusing is Elizabeth’s request for Maggie Pole to join her in confinement. While that may have been tradition, their relationship in this show makes that request counterintuitive. In fact, that childbirth scene played out exactly the way I thought it would, with Maggie coming to confinement and STILL talking about her executed brother, while Elizabeth is simultaneously giving birth and inching closer to her own death. (I couldn’t help but hear the voice of Lady Mary Crawley telling Edith to quit being insufferable…anyone with me?) The birth of the final little Tudor princess, named Katherine, was on February 2, 1503. She lived until February 10, 1503. The queen died the following day, February 11, 1503. The choice to name the baby Katherine is another nod to the idea that Katherine of Aragon and her in-laws had a warm relationship. At this point, I have one thing to say to Maggie Pole:
We see some of Henry VIII’s impulsive characteristics in this episode and he seems fairly easy to woo. He tries to flatter Katherine with bad poetry, a nod to the prince’s love of poetry and theatrics; he also likes the hunting crossbow and wants a stallion, saying he’d “ride it straight to France.” All of the dialogue is pretty solid foreshadowing for this character, I think. The sword-fighting scene is really fun too! It shows us not only Katherine’s knowledge of militaries and wars, but also sets Harry up for his big love story. His response to Katherine’s strength is that of intrigue—her personality is a game to him—this is completely different from his brother, who shrank away from his bride. Things are heating up on TSP!
Interestingly, the conversation between Margaret Beaufort and Katherine reveals many important details about the princess that the show may not be able to discuss fully, but would have been a major part of Katherine’s life. Although Margaret is ultimately trying to discover if she has a grandchild on the way, Katherine reveals that she has a history of irregular bleeding and she has a weekly practice of fasting. When we consider documents about Katherine’s health and inability to have healthy children, it becomes highly likely that our princess suffered from anorexia. Often, her coping mechanism for trauma and stress was to pray and fast. Eventually, she starved her body making her periods infrequent and irregular. Eventually, the Pope himself issued orders to the royal family to make sure that Katherine stopped fasting and ate her meals. This is a condition she struggled with for most of her life.
Friends, think of the worst first date you ever had. Got it? Now forget it, because Lina takes the cake on this one! Imagine, if you will, that you’re Lina and your man takes you on your very first date! You get dressed up, you wear your jeweled headpiece, and he takes you to a dirty tavern. On top of that, he can’t stop talking about politics and religion and then his drunken friends show up, speak to you like you’re a child, and then pee on the fire. 9 times out of 10, that’s not the man for you. This was shaping up to be a great B story romance and now I’m just having first date flashbacks. Anyone else feeling my pain on this one?
Meanwhile, Katherine is strategically placing herself all around the castle grounds to make sure that Prince Harry sees her and has a chance to speak to her. In a funny way, this is a really humanizing interpretation of their early romance. What teenage girl hasn’t tried to be in the right place at the right time so she can chat with her crush? Of course, most teenage girls weren’t playing with stakes this high, but I kind of loved this. Remember, Katherine is only human– she is allowed to lie and pray.
The only person who’s not interested in going along with Katherine’s big consummation lie is the perpetually righteous Maggie Pole. Their scene together was incredibly powerful and gave actress Laura Carmichael a chance to really shine. Understanding that Katherine is determined to lie, Maggie’s perpetual victim status makes a big flip in this scene. Being caught in a lie such as this would compromise Maggie’s eternal soul and may also cost her her head. This is the first moment that Katherine is told that her lie may have far reaching consequences, but she seems set on maintaining her story.
Although the story is told from a primarily female perspective, the show is giving us “gem” moments where Prince Harry is seen processing his new life and all the trauma that is happening around him. From Arthur’s wedding in November 1501 to his mother’s death in February 1503, this child had his whole world turned upside down. The show gives Ruairi O’Connor some space to act out moments of fear, love, and total devastation. The series has the prince aged to probably 17, but in reality, the little prince was only about 12 by 1503. That’s some heavy stuff, folks. I’m looking forward to the acting moments O’Connor may give us in the upcoming episode.
Final point: Now there are TWO Tudor men who need wives. Watch out, Katherine!