Catching Up With The Spanish Princess: Season 2

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I’ve resisted watching season two of The Spanish Princess (2020), because season one was so exhausting (I wrote recaps AND research articles about the history, the Spanish costumes, and the English costumes) and, honestly, pissed me off so much. But then I interviewed Raïssa Hans and found out she was the costume supervisor for season two of this show, and I so liked her that I was hoping I could find a way to enjoy her work on this! AND, I found out that season 2 has a new costume designer (Pam Downe), so despite the maternity armor debacle, I was hopeful for less crazytown. And, I think we got it?!

First, a few thoughts on the story (SPOILERS potentially): I was surprised to find myself relatively happily engaged. Oh, Catherine of Aragon fighting at Flodden is ridiculous, and there’s many other bits and bobs to piss you off (she apparently miscarried as a result, she literally ignores the future Mary I for the first five-ish years of her life, Catherine randomly invites Charles V to the Field of Cloth of Gold and then literally introduces him to Henry as “Charles V” — and I may never get over watching Margaret Pole and Thomas More waggling eyebrows at each other).

But I did love that they started with how happy Henry and Catherine were — with baby Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who dies young (okay, NOT BECAUSE CATHERINE IGNORED HIM WHILE PRAYING, WTF). And, in particular, I found Henry’s emotional journey away from Catherine convincing. I feel like this IS probably how it went: all was glorious, then babies die/are miscarried, Henry starts to feel like god is punishing them, blames Catherine because it couldn’t possibly be him, and increasingly turns away from her to find his true inner manchild.

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Yes, this was indeed painful to watch, although I am Team Lord Howard and his random F-bombs! Credit: Nick Briggs/Starz

But on to the costumes, shall we? This season was designed by Pam Downe, who has also designed a number of productions including Lady Audley’s Secret (2000), Modigliani (2004), Lark Rise to Candleford seasons 2-4, The Night Watch (2011), and The English Game (2020). According to a Variety interview with Downe, “Bold prints, colors and embroidery are all behind designer’s Pam Downe’s looks for Queen Catherine. Her silhouette is sleeker now that she has ascended to power” (‘The Spanish Princess’ Costume Designer Breaks Down Dressing Queen Catherine in Season 2). Speaking to Latest magazine, Downe said,

“In season 2 we decided to show Catherine and Henry as more mature than in season 1, the costume shapes are more defined, and this is particularly apparent with Catherine and her ladies in waiting where there are less elements to their outfits which helps to create a sleeker, more confident look” (In conversation with costume designer Pam Downe).

First, let’s look at 1510s women’s fashions. As I wrote in one of last season’s reviews, this image of Mary Tudor (Henry VIII’s younger sister) is a good representation of women’s fashion: “her fitted yet naturally-curved bodice, wide skirt, and wide sleeves, plus draped and not-too-structured hood on the head touches on all the main stylistic points of 1500s English dress.”

Detail from Mary Tudor and Queen Louis XII of France, c. 1514, British Library.

Detail from Mary Tudor and Queen Louis XII of France, c. 1514, British Library.

We eventually start getting to that look, but first we meander through some others. To start, Catherine and most of the ladies are in a mash-up of late 15th-century Florentine with touches of later 16th-century Elizabethan:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Overall, this gown just looks to me like a mash-up of the following:

Giovanna Tornabuoni and attendants, detail of The Visitation in the Tornabuoni chapel in Santa Maria Novella church in Florence by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1488, via Wikimedia Commons

Late 15th-century Florentine fashion | Giovanna Tornabuoni and attendants, detail of The Visitation in the Tornabuoni chapel in Santa Maria Novella church in Florence by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1488, via Wikimedia Commons

A Young Lady Aged 21, Possibly Helena Snakenborg, Later Marchioness of Northampton, 1569, British School, 16th century 1500-1599, Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1961 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00400

With the split bodice top you see here from mid-16th century England | A Young Lady Aged 21, Possibly Helena Snakenborg, Later Marchioness of Northampton, 1569, British School, 16th century 1500-1599, Tate Gallery

Downe said of that dress above:

“The fabric was made from Indian sari fabric. In that era, your dresses were hand-embroidered, but that was impossible for time and money. I looked at Indian fabrics because a sari has masses of meter to it when you’re getting them made, but what was great about that particular fabric was that it had gold to it and it was already embroidered. We then sewed in pearl trim to the rest of it. We had twelve fittings on it, and it took a week from start to finish, but that’s one of my favorite dresses” (‘The Spanish Princess’ Costume Designer Breaks Down Dressing Queen Catherine in Season 2).

And yes, get ready for a LOT of Indian fabrics and trims.

Catherine wears a similar style as a maternity gown. There’s a LOT of maternity wear this season on Catherine, Lina, and other characters; the production opted for the “raised waistline” rather than the “loose gown” look, which makes sense because I’m sure they’re trying to keep things attractive to the modern viewer:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Compare this with…

Detail of The Family of Thomas More, copy by Lockey of a lost original by Holbein, 1592 (original 1520s-30s).

…real early 16th-century maternity wear. Not bad? Detail of The Family of Thomas More, copy by Lockey of a lost original by Holbein, 1592 (original 1520s-30s).

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Another view.

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

This dress similarly felt Florentine to me.

According to Downe:

“This was made from Indian fabric again, and I flipped it because the correct side was really shiny. I bought the braid from a haberdashery shop in London. I bought silks from a local merchant for the sleeves. The copper fabric in the skirt was a bit of experimentation and I wasn’t sure if it would work, but there was a lot of yellow, but it provided a lift to the outfit. What’s interesting was that I recycled it later in the series. The shape changes and I removed the sleeves, but recycling was something I did a lot throughout. She’s more entrenched in the English court and her shapes are slightly different this season. They have a simple silhouette and a lot of trim on them” (The Spanish Princess’ Costume Designer Breaks Down Dressing Queen Catherine in Season 2).

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

I admit to loving this shade of green.

Again, according to Downe:

“The dress fabric is velvet [although it looks like silk], but it’s a furnishing velvet because it has more sheen to it and it doesn’t have the density that regular velvet has. It gives this illusion of density and I used that fabric a lot later on in the season, but with elaborate prints. She wears that green dress earlier when the army is going to war. Henry is also in green and they’re very much together, still dressing very much alike. Later on, after her father has betrayed them, she’s wearing that dress and he’s in something very different [and] you start to see their unity split because her father had betrayed them so he’s wearing something different. This dress has no print and it’s very simple because of the emotion of the scene when she’s wearing it in the chapel and she’s with the baby.  I thought a red or gold dress would be too glaring for that, and green silk had a much softer feel to it. It’s a tragic scene. I have to say, it was difficult to marry this idea that we see in the episode because there’s a lot of brightness and joy throughout, and then we get to this penultimate scene with the baby and everything that’s happening. I thought green had a much cooler temperature to it for color and that felt ideal for everything that was going on” (The Spanish Princess’ Costume Designer Breaks Down Dressing Queen Catherine in Season 2).

Catherine’s dress here was very pretty, even if the fabric motifs screamed India:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Princess Mary Tudor on the right. We’ll come back to her.

A similar look:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Yet more India:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

And yes, the hair is 100% out of The Borgias.

According to Downe:

“There are only so many silhouettes you can create for this period whereas the way you can decorate these shapes is endless! The fabric I most used was velvet, in all its many forms be it cotton, silk, viscose or a combination of each. Velvet was worn heavily in the 16th century and was particularly prominent in the English court, it is also a good surface to print on. My textile printer Sarah came up with this ingenious way to puff out the inks to give the prints a 3D look that gave the impression that the fabrics had been embroidered (for a fraction of the price that any embroidery would have cost!). Another way I increased the embellishments of the prints was to sew in individual beads and pearls, this was only done to the centre section of the dresses, those areas the camera were more likely to see as it is a very time consuming” (In conversation with costume designer Pam Downe).

When things start going wrong for Catherine, her wardrobe starts changing — more somber colors, for one, but also more of a 16th-century Elizabethan look. Compare this look:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

The sleeves in particular…

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

And the loose overgown…

A Fête at Bermondsey or A Marriage Feast at Bermondsey, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, c. 1569, private collection.

Both look straight out of A Fête at Bermondsey or A Marriage Feast at Bermondsey, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, c. 1569, private collection.

At first I was scoffing at the fabric because it looked like shisha mirror embroidery, but this detail shows they are actually gold spangles:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

This look reminded me of 1530s-40s Florentine fashion:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

And, I stared at/hated with the fire of many suns that tiny micropenis of a stomacher point. Sorry!

Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi by Bronzino, 1540s, Uffizi Gallery

1530s Florentine style | Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi by Bronzino, 1540s, Uffizi Gallery

Finally, at the Field of Cloth of Gold (1520, for reference), we get some Actual Tudor Dress:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

In particular, the long, turned-back sleeves.

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Credit: Jason Bell/Starz

Jane Seymour, Whitehall Dynasty Mural of Henry VIII by Remigius van Leemput circa 17th century after Hans Holbein circa 1536-37

Actual Tudor dress! Jane Seymour, Whitehall Dynasty Mural of Henry VIII by Remigius van Leemput circa 17th century after Hans Holbein circa 1536-37, via Wikimedia Commons

Two Views of a Lady wearing an English Hood (1526–8 or about 1532–5), by Hans Holbein the Younger, Vellum on playing card 159 x 110 mm.

Two Views of a Lady wearing an English Hood (1526–8 or about 1532–5), by Hans Holbein the Younger, Vellum on playing card 159 x 110 mm.

On to other characters! “Maggie” Pole tended to get more Actual Tudor Dress, although I’ll never be a fan of the sewn-in stomacher look (see this review of Maria Theresa for an explanation of why; yes, that is 18th-century dress instead of 16th, but the concept still applies).

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

All the “French hoods” were far too sticky-uppy, but Maggie’s in particular would often go wonky, like this one did (sorry you can’t really see it, but if you watched the episode you were probably as mesmerized as I was).

In addition to HIGHLY overacting, Margaret Tudor gets sort of Cranach-y (early 16th-century German) looks:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

St. Mary Magdalen (Die heilige Maria Magdalena / Maria Madalena) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1525, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum (Fondation Corboud), Cologne, Germany.

This dress too:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2
2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Which, I had a moment of “OH MY GOD DID THEY GIVE HER TARTAN SLEEVE PUFFS”

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Well played.

She then advances into the mid-16th century look:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

On to Princess Mary/Mary Queen of France! Mostly I want to point out how this dress has the weird bodice/forepart in matching fabric thing seen on a lot of secondary characters, which I think is supposed to reference the matching STOMACHER and forepart look from the period, but just looks wrong to my eye:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Mary gets a special hood base that’s all her own, which looks to me like a sticky-uppy French hood worn backwards.

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

This dress pings my “I think there’s a historical portrait with a similar look” antenna, but I can’t place it. Can you?

Lina spends a lot of time in maternity wear too, and only occasionally rocks the head necklace:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Princess Mary (future Queen Mary I) underwhelmed me at her big presentation moment during the Field of Cloth of Gold:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

meh

The men looked more recognizably Tudor; according to Downe, “With Henry, I made a conscious effort to create a wider, squarer silhouette than before, so he takes up more space which helps give him the appearance that he is better able to command the room” (In conversation with costume designer Pam Downe).

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2
2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Credit: Nick Briggs/Starz

And a final few unfair extras nitpicks:

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

My eye IMMEDIATELY goes to Slutty McShouldersons.

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

Eleanor of Toledo is wandering around the Field of Cloth of Gold?

2020 The Spanish Princess season 2

I literally shouted at the screen “WHAT IS QUEEN CLAUDE WEARING”

 

Have you been watching The Spanish Princess season 2? Share your thoughts in the comments!

41 Responses

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Yes, that’s exactly it. And badly fitted, at that. Young Mary would have been beautifully dressed for such an occasion.

      Two questions: Is that really pregnancy armor? Please say it’s not.

      Maggie and Tom aren’t really flirting with one another, are they? That seems–wrong, although interesting.

      Make that three questions: Is it just me or are modern young Henry VIIIs cast to look all sulky and un-fun, like vapid male models? The real Henry was supposedly charming at that point in his life, and a very cultured man as well.

      Apart from that, the overall costuming looks much improved.

      Reply
      • Addie

        This was the absolute only time Henry was at all charming. And props to this story for at least getting how Henry and Catherine of Aragon’s marriage probably spiraled into narcissism IRL. (not just Anne Boleyn as The Other Woman).
        Everything else… eh. At least the fabrics are less “20% off at Michael’s”.

        Reply
    • Coco

      She might look better, but they did Meg dirty. First, the hopeful meeting she had with her new husband is dashed into mud-splattered Scottish reality, then they make her post widowhood love interest into the biggest dork since before Hadrian built the wall. Plus, it seems like once someone read the line ‘f-ing she wolf,’ they decided the main acting direction would be “bare your teeth and growls your lines as much as possible.”

      Reply
      • Andy

        I really had problems understanding that scene, was the mood they were going for “she tries to be ‘badass’ but utterly fails at it”?

        Reply
  1. HerImperialMaj

    Catherine exclusively wearing French hoods (sans veil, naturally) is just the sartorial equivalent of the show’s attempts to make her interesting by ripping off everything we know about Anne Boleyn.

    It’s pretty depressing how the showrunners clearly do not like the historical CoA and think the only way to make a show about her watchable is by turning her into Spanish Anne Boleyn and putting her in ludicrous battle scenes and having her be awful to every other female character, including little Mary. CoA, in death as in life, deserved better.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      I see it more as them thinking a modern audience won’t get how badass it was for her to be regent and in charge of the troops in name, and so need to actually put her into battle — the same way they didn’t think we’d understand her mother was a badass for doing all the behind-the-scenes logistical work for her armies, and instead put her into battle.

      Reply
      • Addie

        Idk I feel like shows like The Crown, The Borgias and the new She-Ra (no seriously it’s awesome- alliances, tactics and resources are a big deal) are able to make you feel how badass strategy and political maneuvering can be regardless of someone being present in combat. But we’re aiming for low fruit with fans of Philippa F***ing Gregory so unless they really wanted to raise the game with historical nuance and possibly alienate an audience (how can she be badass unless she literally uses a sword?) this is what we got.
        Hence the maternity armor.

        Reply
  2. Shashwat

    At least this time the costumes didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out.It does stick out that they were so committed to a Florentine look for Katherine,including the gorgeous Borgias hairstyles,while it would have been more accurate for her to start dressing visibly ‘Tudor’.Thankfully they kept the Tudor look for the formal event.Looking at the group shots one can easily point out Katherine as the best dressed in the flashiest but modest attire as the Queen might have.
    My heart goes out for the actresses if they weren’t wearing a sturdy shift protecting their skin from the overdress(which is often the case),as this particular style of Indian fabric has a horrifically scratchy wrong side with loose threads.The dresses would have looked more accurate if they used stomachers in the same fabric as the rest of the gown and pinned over the gown like plackets instead of under(which gives off a rather 18C look, not even Elizabethan).

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Well the dresses have to be lined, right? And I’ve heard a rumor that the women’s dresses will get more recognizably “Tudor” as the season finishes. I think they’re trying to contrast “happy pretty Florentine” with “dour sad Tudor.”

      Reply
      • Trystan L. Bass

        “dour sad Tudor” = me punching things.

        It can be made pretty, hell, look at Anne of the Thousand Days! SO PRETTY & yes, some of that’s Geneviève Bujold but also Margaret Furse as costume designer knew WTFrock she was doing.

        Reply
      • Shashwat

        I feel they could have used colourful silks in first half and dark velvets in second half to convey the same idea instead of dropping the anvil by changing the entire silhouette.The powder blue and gold gown actually looks more cutesy than her bold orange outfits.I hope they don’t put her in a literal nun’s attire in the end to hammer the point,but I have full faith in the show to take me down with surprise.
        Last season made the transition gowns look like split front mumus,I agree the Florentine look is partly palatable in comparison to what we have seen.

        Reply
    • Katie

      And it appears that someone read a book (or at least googled “16th century women’s clothing”), as opposed to season 1, where it appeared that the research consisted of listening to a drunk person describe the images in Racinet and Norris. So an improvement? I think?

      Reply
  3. towerbird

    I really appreciate the attempts to give Henry that big, square silhouette, even if the actor doesn’t fit it. That’s a huge part of who he was, and how he presented himself. Much better than leather pants anyway!

    Reply
    • HerImperialMaj

      The actor has a quiet, willowy “Boy Next Door” vibe at odds with Henry VIII’s “Larger Than Life” physicality and persona. If they can’t manage the personality, at least they’re trying with the look!

      Reply
    • Kendra

      Yes! I’m hoping they recast the role with a different, bulkier actor for next season, because this guy in no way will be able to pull off middle-aged Henry.

      Reply
  4. spanielpatter14

    Queen Claude’s dress looks like it was made from curtains (and they weren’t born in time to channel Scarlett O’Hara). The crown Henry wears at the Field-of-Cloth-of-Gold looks much too big for him. (the young man who plays him seems to be on the lean side; he’s a handsome fellow, but does not project anything close to the real Henry VIII’s charisma or dominance, more like he’s either yapping at Catherine or sulking).

    Reply
  5. Saraquill

    In my mind’s ear, you injured your throat from all the yelling. You deserve all the Pink Drinks you like.

    Reply
  6. Coco

    Thank you for writing about Season 2 of The Adventures of Mary Sue of Aragon. Do you know just how special Queen Catherine is? Well if you don’t, never fear, at least three characters will extol her virtues per episode.

    This pretty but dumb, dumb show is my favorite unintentional comedy. The first few episodes gave me one of the best ways to turn off my brain from worrying about the election.

    Its treatment of history is so… pathetic, I guess? But in the true sense of pathos, like I actually feel sorry for it? Whatever it is, I can’t be mad at it.

    I like to think that Laura Carmichael, tired of playing the physical embodiment of a sad trombone noise, demanded something interesting happen for her character this season. LP and behold, the Last and Blandest Plantagenet (did anyone already come up with Bland-agenet last season), has two live interests, including Thomas Freaking More. I fully expect later seasons to reveal that ‘Utopia’ is secretly inspired by Lady Pole, and that his last words before the axe fell were, “Maggie! Maggie!”

    Reply
    • Roxana

      I wonder if Lady Salisbury and Sir Thomas ever actually spoke to each other? They moved in fairly different circles of the court. More was a councillor and government officer. Maggie was a member of the Princess Mary’s household. They probably knew each other by sight but no more.

      Reply
  7. Delia

    Well, at least we can say they are pretty. It is more the first season. Personally, I don’t know why they insist on dressing KoA in oranges and pinks when greens and blues are more flattering for the actress, but there are so many things that I don’t understand about this series. Turning Katherine into a baby stealer who hates her beloved daughter, who is nasty to Lina and Bessy for no reason? It’s like they’re trying to make us hate her. Lina and Oviedo are the only that worth the watch.

    Also, isn’t France supposed to be the top of fashion during the time? Why is poor Queen Claude wearing a generic medieval dress bought on the internet for twenty bucks?

    Reply
  8. KMS

    I was wondering if you all would circle back to Spanish Princess because I’ve definitely noticed the costuming improvement this season, particularly in this last episode where we started to get the correct sleeve shape. Definitely the Most Improved Player award goes to Margaret Tudor–her costumes last season were sooo dumpy and imo were the result of costumers that didn’t know what to do with a shape that wasn’t straight stick-shaped like CoA or Elizabeth of York. This season they’re actually giving Georgie Henley well-tailored, shaped gowns and the difference is staggering.

    Reply
  9. Jose

    I wasn’t expecting many Hoods I think they’re more Anne Boleyn Times and I actually think they made a lot more effort this season but again after seeing Catherine wearing a windmill nothing can shock me in this show that much

    Reply
    • HerImperialMaj

      There would definitely have been hoods, but they would have been gable hoods, which are quite angular and cover the hair entirely. Anne Boleyn famously popularised French hoods in England, which have that smooth, round look and scandalously leave the front section of hair exposed.

      But this is Starz, and they want KoA to have beach waves in every scene, so whatever.

      Reply
      • Roxana

        I’m rather partial to the kennel hood, you can see an example on Cecily More Heron, the pregnant sister to the left. The lady in the gable hood on the right is the famous Margaret More Roper.

        Reply
  10. Roxana

    What is that on Harry’s head? And I though Henry VII had a bad crown! It doesn’t fit and are those turquoise.

    Reply
  11. Roxana

    Seriously, what is so bleeding hard about authentic Tudor costume? We have innumerable pictures and statues, we know what people wore and when they wore it. Why won’t designers follow the bloody research?

    Reply

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