Well I’m happy to finally announce I’ve started to catch up to The Spanish Princess, I’m officially only two episodes behind! I have to say, after my initial anger subsided, I am starting to enjoy it for what it is a little more. Perhaps by next week I’ll be all caught up! Until then, I have Christine to keep me up to date!
The Spanish Princess
Episode 5: “Heart Versus Duty”
By: Christine Morgan
**This blog contains spoilers for episode 5 of The Spanish Princess. Read with caution!**
Oh my goodness, history friends! What a jam-packed episode we got this week; I almost don’t know where to start. I can say that I personally think the show is really at its best at this point- the stories are progressing, the relationships are starting to develop, and the foreshadowing for what we know is to come (it’s history after all) is really smart. Because of how many great scenes there were this week, I have to narrow down our selection otherwise this blog would be book length. Without further ado, I give you the top 5 moments and fact checks of episode 5.
- The marriages of Lina and Rosa
One of the big unanswered questions of the series is started to get some legs in this latest episode. The question of who the ladies-in waiting will marry has hovered from day one, causing both Lina and Rosa to make difficult decisions about who to fall in love with (or not). While both ladies have had some interesting affairs, it’s finally time for them to get to know their assigned suitors!! So, whom did Margaret Beaufort choose as a worthy contender for these ladies?
For Lina, her future husband is identified as none other than Prince Harry’s best friend, Charles Brandon. I have to say, this is a surprising choice because while Brandon was present and popular at court, he hadn’t served the crown in any official capacity quite yet. But he was well liked and he would have been age appropriate for Lina. Brandon was about the same age as Katherine and her ladies and therefore 5 or 6 years older than Prince Harry.
Fortunately, the budding romance of Lina and Oviedo finally gets royal approval in this episode. In a generous moment, Katherine not only tells Lina to marry the man she loves, but the princess also offers to pay a dowry of 3 gold plates to help Lina and Oviedo start their marriage with some financial stability. Historically, Katherine did in fact help some of her ladies in this way. Her generosity is amplified by the knowledge that the princess really didn’t have any disposable income at this time and the dowries were a great cost for her. This was a really great moment for Lina and moves her storyline toward a happily ever after resolution.
For Rosa, we are introduced to two possible suitors: the Duke of Rochester and the 11th Baron, Willoughby de Eresby. While the 11th Baron is based on a very real man, I have not been able to locate any records of a Duke of Rochester around 1503. The 1st Earl of Rochester appears in the 1600s, but that’s not a Duke. I would love if any readers have further insight here, but for now I have to rule this Duke as a fictional character.
The 11th Baron Willoughby is a totally different story, though. Not only was this man alive and at court at this time, but historically the Baron married one of Katherine’s favorite ladies, Maria de Salinas. I mentioned in week one that Rosa was clearly a fictional character but she may be a combination of several very real ladies. Originally my though was the Vargas sisters, but now we’re getting hints of Maria de Salinas. With a baby on the way, will Rosa end up in a country home provided by the Duke of Buckingham or will she fall for Willoughby and live happily ever after? My money is on a wedding…a girl can dream.
- The last days of Sir Richard Pole
The tricky thing about Tudor (or earlier) history is that many records have been lost or, in a case such as this, records may not have been required. The death of Sir Richard Pole occurred sometime in 1504 or 1505 with December 1505 being a more specific date that has been suggested, but not proven. The mentions of Sir Pole do end abruptly in primary sources, which indicate a sudden or unexpected death. For the show, this is a good opportunity to take creative license and I think that his death-by-crushing is a good choice. While I am sad to see a “good” character go, the fact that he was spending time with his kids and got a moment where Maggie reassured him that she loves him was a poetic end to the episode.
- Henry vs. Harry
Ok, the “my horse is bigger than your horse” vibe of this episode was a bit gross considering the argument was between a father and son. The upside of it was seeing Prince Harry’s more petulant nature coming out, while simultaneously letting viewers know that Henry VII was increasingly unpopular, but the people of England loved and respected their prince. There’s just so much wonderful allusion to the crippling taxes of Henry VII, as well as Harry’s inclination toward war and conflict without the education to back it up. On top of his interest in conflict, we see Harry express his disdain for a king who has to rely on his lords for power– can we say absolutism?
Another great point made by Harry (and later Katherine) is that should the princess marry Henry VII, her children would never rule England and her power to hold the Anglo-Imperial alliance would be gone when the king died. If you ask me, that’s a far more compelling argument than love, but we do also see Harry and Katherine choosing love over duty. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. *Sips tea*
- Pregnancy and medicine
Rosa’s pregnancy story will certainly cause a lot of turmoil for the characters around her, but for lovers of history it raises more questions about birth control methods of the early modern world. While the expected route of terminating a pregnancy would be for Rosa to brew a tea with pennyroyal, rue, or yarrow, the show has opted for a more physical option and that method was a bit more limited. The teas were fairly effective but had a high level of toxicity for the young women who drank them, resulting in liver and kidney damage, even death. One phrase seen in primary sources is “consumption of herbs for delayed menses.” When considering external methods for encouraging “menses” it seems like the most common item was either lily root or cotton root.
The Inquisition frequently targeted women as witches and identified that one major crime was removing unborn babies from the womb. The now infamous Malleus Maleficarum certainly identified ways to determine if a witch used or imposed these dangerous methods on women in their communities. For Lina, Rosa, and Katherine, they would have been very familiar with the dangers and the punishments for terminating pregnancy. As Rosa shows us, the risks outweigh her fear.
- Katherine and Henry
Our main couple has finally chosen to fight for each other and with each other and this episode showed us just how far they are willing to go for each other. Harry even said he would fight his father to the death to be with Katherine- swoon. (Just kidding- do NOT do this) The biggest motto that our couple adopts is that love is greater than duty. For Katherine, that’s just convenient because she gets to fulfill her destiny AND she gets to have love. For Harry, this motto is far more threatening, for obvious reasons. Again, this series is leading us so perfectly into The Tudors and I’m here for it.
The biggest concern for the initial marriage proposal between Henry VII and Katherine of Aragon is that Queen Isabella may not approve. The series ties up this concern with a nice, pretty bow, but the reality is that Queen Isabella was totally disgusted by the request and made it clear that she did not support that marriage.
However, what’s very interesting is that the show introduced us to Katherine’s older sister, Juana of Castile. If you’re hoping for an Anglo-Imperial alliance before Harry and Katherine get their big wedding, this is the woman to be on the lookout for. She is described as being depressed after a recent childbirth and she looks wild and unstable in her intro vignette. She wasn’t nicknamed “Juana the Mad” for no reason, folks- let’s see where the show takes us next!