I have to admit something, I’m terribly behind in this show (just due to travelling, work and jet lag)! I’ve read the books, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a lot, but MAN, I’m seeing the comments and people have feelings!
Anywho! Christine is back to set us all straight with THE FACTS.
The Spanish Princess
Episode 4: “The Battle for Harry”
By: Christine Morgan
**This blog contains spoilers for episode 4 of The Spanish Princess. Read with caution!**
Well one thing is for certain about this week’s episode, “the honeymoon is over.” This week was a tension-filled, political tug-of-war on all fronts and I loved every second of it. If I’ve learned one thing about myself while watching this show, it’s that I can really take it or leave it with the teenage love drama, but get the politics going and I can’t look away. In just this one episode the show runners, have put an end to almost every main relational storyline that the show started with and now the Tudor family is in a tailspin. Thank goodness. Let’s get into it, friends.
A Grieving King
It seems that several months have passed since the death of Queen Elizabeth and Henry VII has been isolated and grieving for a majority of that time. His absence is enough to make the people of England start rumors that the King is dead, and the lack of Henry’s ability to exercise power has led to yet another threat from a York claimant, Edmund de la Pole. (Can Maggie catch a break?!) Last week we heard Prince Harry declare his interest in conquering France, and this week will only strengthen his feelings as France protects the new challenger to the throne and may also negotiate marriage between King Louis and the newly widowed Katherine of Aragon.
When we saw Henry VII sitting alone and staring off into space at the start of the episode, he was sharing the room with a caged lion. Without any real explanation for this visual I can only assume the king is in the Royal Menagerie located within the Tower of London. By this point in history the western entrance of the Tower was used to house animals that were sent as eccentric gifts, including lions. Without any other context from the show, this is the best guess I have. Symbolically though, lions are the trademark animal of the Plantagenet family so perhaps this is foreshadowing for Edmund de la Pole’s return?
A New Regent
In an effort to relieve the strain of state politics from her grieving family, Margaret Beaufort declares herself as Regent. Essentially, she has the power of a king, until the actual King is fit to rule again. For those of you who are unfamiliar, England had several queen consorts who served as regents throughout history including Matilda of Flanders and Eleanor of Aquitaine, so this is not unprecedented. Margaret Beaufort is a bit of an interesting twist though because she is the mother of the King, not his wife. Under the circumstances however, this makes plenty of sense. The show is getting a reputation for jumping around on the timeline though, so here’s a quick fact check about Beaufort’s regency. While she was a regent, she did not hold that position until 1509 between the resignation of Henry VII and the coronation of Henry VIII.
One thing that we can confirm as historically accurate is the appointment of Sir Edmund Dudley along with Sir Richard Empson who were lawyers employed by the King to impose fines and fees on the English people so that the royal treasury would grow again. The population was so overwhelmed by high taxes and punitive fines that they “cried to God daily for an end of the pilfering…”
Now we get to explore the title of this episode a bit, “The Battle for Harry.” There is an emotional and psychological war for control waged by Katherine and Margaret Beaufort who can both benefit from having Harry on their side. For Katherine, this looks like a losing battle (for now) when she is removed from court and sent to Durham House. While the house was beautiful, it was along the Strand near the River Thames and was not the private royal housing Katherine was accustomed to. Margaret Beaufort delivers a great line about how Katherine was “robbed of her entitlements” and was using Harry to get those luxuries back. This is a thought that Harry actually is willing to explore and we see him more or less interrogating Katherine about her intentions.
Side Note: How nice is it to see Prince Harry out hunting?
In another great bit of foreshadowing, Margaret Beaufort and Prince Harry have an Epic Scripture Battle (Early Modern Rap Battles?) and both quote scripture that will be later used in Katherine’s divorce trials. Margaret quotes Leviticus 18:16 to show Harry that marrying his brother’s wife is a sin, but Harry counters with a verse from Deuteronomy 25:5 about how a brother should step in a care for his brother’s widow. I’d assume this is also along the lines of a kinsman redeemer as we are familiar with from the book of Ruth. Ironically, it is Katherine (and Sir Thomas More) who uses the Deuteronomy verse to later defend her marriage, while Harry will use Leviticus. Another bit of trivia, according to the laws around relationships during this period, it wasn’t just weird that Harry wanted to marry Katherine, a papal dispensation was needed because it was viewed as incest.
A Scottish Wedding
Margaret Tudor left Richmond Palace on June 27, 1503 to make the journey to Edinburgh, Scotland where she would be proclaimed Queen of Scotland. The official wedding was August 8, 1503. In the show, Henry VII just gives her a kiss and sends her off, but in reality, the king traveled part of the way with his daughter to give her a royal send off. She was accompanied by a whole host of lords, ladies, etc. and one of her primary ladies was Catherine Gordon (the widow of Perkin Warbeck). The bride wore a gown that was trimmed in crimson representing the roses of Lancaster and James IV wore white damask with crimson sleeves to match. In fact, the Scots were dressed in fine clothing and covered in jewels, a far cry from the perception of loud, drunken brutes. All in all, the wedding was a celebration similar to the scale of Arthur and Katherine’s wedding. Margaret entered Edinburgh with nearly 200 people following her and was met with beautiful pageants and more than enough onlookers!
The Fate of the Infanta
Back at Durham House, we start to see Katherine’s magnificent wardrobe being recycled. Without dowry money from Spain and without a husband, her household funds were very constricted. It is documented that she complained that she very rarely had money for new clothing during this time in political limbo. The gold plates depicted in the episode were technically part of her dowry and we know she eventually had to sell several of them!
Now for the real drama- Elizabeth of York whispered something to Henry VII just before she passed away and in this episode we finally get to learn what she said! Apparently, Elizabeth didn’t want Harry to marry Katherine because she wanted her husband, Henry VII to marry her instead! How reasonable of her to think of this political match in her final moments. This initial pursuit of marriage did in fact occur, but I think we have to wait and see how they approach the topic in next week’s episode before I give any fact checks or spoilers. For now, Katherine’s got a bit of a situation on her hands…