The Spanish Princess – Christine Morgan [Episode 6]

Its finally here! Haha, the blog post going over the last episode of The Spanish Princess. I’m going to keep this part short, and ask, did you enjoy it? Why?

The Spanish Princess
Episode 6: “A Polite Kidnapping”
By: Christine Morgan

As the premiere season of everyone’s new favorite show rounds the corner into the final series of episodes, the fast-paced drama of last week slows down a bit to give us a chance to catch our breath. This week’s show became all about negotiation and politics along with an introduction to some new characters. The Spanish Princess takes us one step further in the story of Katherine of Aragon’s struggle for happiness and destiny by showing the complexities of being a female in a position of power in the early modern world. I’m so thankful to this show and its writers for bringing awareness to some of history’s most fascinating women and this week it was all about Juana. We love Katherine, but the new Castellan Queen is a bit of a loose cannon and figuring her out is all part of the fun.

A New Queen

The realization of the death of Isabella of Castile is a heartbreaking moment for Katherine. The show very simply shows us that Katherine has been writing her mother for months without response and we soon understand it is because her mother has passed. However, this death is a bittersweet one, since we know that Isabella was actually far more violent and intolerant than Katherine comprehends. This inability to accept who her mother was, is just really indicative of Katherine’s young age and need for maternal support at this moment in her life. Isabella of Castile passed away on November 26, 1504. One of my main questions here was whether Katherine would have worn black for mourning in the English manner or yellow in the supposed Spanish tradition? The show has opted for black and I am inclined to believe Katherine would have observed the customs of English court at this point. Additionally, her sister Juana opted to wear black for mourning on several occasions so it seems that a yellow mourning dress was not a real custom of Spain.

The next in line to sit on the throne of Castile is Katherine’s older sister Juana, sometimes referred to as Juana “the Mad.” Conveniently, Juana and her husband, Philip “the Handsome,” had a familial connection to Maximilian I, which was a relationship that England would very much like to exploit in an effort to eliminate the threat of Edmund de la Pole, a possible challenger for the English throne. While the show suggests that Philip was a “consort” and not a true ruling power for Castile, the chronicle of Edward Hall states that Philip was given equal power in Castile alongside his wife, Juana and he was referred to as a King.

What Drives a Queen Mad?

I have to admit; being nicknamed “the mad” is not that appealing and I’d be willing to say that Juana felt similarly. However, there is a real question of whether or not this Queen earned her nickname or if it was placed upon her in some sort of power play. If I’m being honest, I think it’s a bit of both. From a young age, Juana of Castile was treated very poorly, even tortured by her own mother. Young minds that are subjected to trauma very rarely recover. Her mother treated her with a method called “La Cuerda” and the use of this physical abuse was in response to Juana’s indifference and even skepticism of Catholicism.

Beyond that physical and emotional trauma, Juana’s grandmother certainly displayed signs of mental illness and we have already established that even Katherine of Aragon developed eating disorders as a coping mechanism, something Juana also did. All of these early childhood and developmental cards were stacked against Juana who then suffered from post partum depression, wild fits of jealousy brought on by her husband’s infidelity, and finally, her husband’s early death. After his death she had his body carried around in a casket wherever she went, sometimes opening it to hug and kiss his corpse. That is not the mark of a stable woman.

We can argue all day about Philip’s attempts to undermine his wife, it certainly happened. It is even suggested that he gave her the nickname in question hoping to be given more authority in lieu of his wife’s incapacitation. He also frequently abandoned her during major disagreements, refusing to see her or even keeping her in her rooms to manipulate her into giving in to his wishes. This is why I think the nickname was both earned and given unjustly. Juana was a deeply distressed young woman and she is deserving of some empathy and some recognition.

A Game of Political Chess

As we’ve come to expect, the show places many visual hints and symbols throughout the episodes, which allude to the drama that is unfolding. This week, chess is the name of the game. Katherine is finally going to have to use her skills of negotiation to get what she wants- her dowry. Overall Katherine’s suggestion that Juana work with Maximilian I to trade Edmund de la Pole to England is a good one. But, knowing that Katherine never does receive that dowry (history spoiler alert), we had to know the deal would shift. Now that one Tudor princess is a Queen in Scotland, the increased screen time for Princess Mary showed us that this little Tudor heir is going to get her own marriage storyline.

According to the documents of Edward Hall, famed Tudor chronicler, the negotiations for peace occurred at Windsor (not Westminster) and took place in 1505. Interestingly, Hall makes no mention of Juana (or “Jane”) being part of the negotiations for Edmund de la Pole and consistently refers to Philip as “King of Castile.” One sticking point the show does address is that Philip could not in good conscience hand over Pole knowing that Henry VII would probably execute him. Edward Hall writes that Henry VII did promise to pardon Pole should he return to England and that was the end of their negotiations. From there, the court moved from Windsor to Richmond and had a celebration after which Philip thanked England for “high cheer and princely entertainment.” It seems as if this meeting actually went very well, all things considered! Even though we want to believe that Juana exercised immense agency in this negotiation, it does seem that historically,  Philip was holding the reigns at this point.

The endless battle of Margaret Beaufort vs. Katherine of Aragon continues in this episode, culminating in a marriage deal for the 10-year-old Princess Mary and the son of Juana of Castile. Though the show hasn’t yet named the Castellan prince, it is likely Charles, who eventually becomes the Holy Roman Emperor. This alliance renders Katherine almost useless politically.

If her marriage to Prince Harry is ever going to happen, it is Harry who will have to challenge his father and grandmother for this marriage. For now, Katherine will have to stay put in Durham House without any money, and without any real plans for her future.

While the timeline of the show does bounce back and forth a bit, the marriage treaty of Princess Mary and Prince Charles indicates that this episode has ended in 1508 or thereabouts. Next week we should get some progress for Harry and Katherine as well as an indication of how Edmund de la Pole’s story will resolve. Questions or comments?? Find me on Twitter @msChristinemo or engage with me on Facebook @UntitledHistoryProject!

I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

One thought on “The Spanish Princess – Christine Morgan [Episode 6]

  1. I was curious to see your thoughts on the sister rivalry they depicted in this episode. By all accounts, Katherine seemed to adore her sister and nephew, especially obvious in later negotiations and letters to Charles.

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