The Spanish Princess Continues to Confuse

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Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII. Philippa Fucking Gregory. So there I am, innocently firing up Starz.com to watch the current season of Outlander, when this happens:

We’ve posted already about the tiny glimpse of The Spanish Princess‘ (2019) costumes — Catherine’s wedding dress — and we were kind. Maybe too kind. Well, now we’ve got a few more glimpses of the costumes in this video, along with one still, and we appear to be back in WTFrock land!

This is an adaptation of yet another Philippa Fucking Gregory book — author of The Other Boleyn Girl, and, as Starz is pleased to inform you, their productions of The White Queen and The White Princess. As we all know, Philippa Fucking Gregory, despite being somehow perceived as an expert in her subjects, LOVES to play fast and loose with the real characters and motivations in history. Sure, she hits the major plot points, but most of her characters seem to be written VERY differently from what we know of them historically. See this book (The Constant Princess), in which Catherine of Aragon and her first husband, Arthur, Prince of Wales, are deeply in love and deeply shagadelic before he suddenly dies (sorry, no spoilers in history). When pretty much ALL historians agree that they barely knew each other and never shagged (Catherine, deeply religious, swore to her dying day that they never had sex).

Now, Catherine of Aragon is a fascinating character, and YES, her early years are riveting and usually skipped in favor of portraying her as the dried-up-old-husk about-to-be-put-aside aging wife of Henry VIII. So I’m not complaining that someone is telling the story of her early years! Just, as we frequently complain, THE REAL HISTORY IS INTERESTING ENOUGH ON ITS OWN. Ya don’t NEED to make shit up. Catherine was a princess of Spain! Sent to marry the English heir! Who dies early and suddenly! Then she’s left to fend for herself for years while her father (Ferdinand of Aragon) and father-in-law (Henry VII) are idiots! Then Henry VIII comes to the throne and marries her! They’re in love! She’s badass and fills in for him as England goes to war with Scotland, while Henry is in France! YA DON’T NEED TO MAKE THIS SHIT UP, PEOPLE.

Ahem.

On to the sneak peek of the costumes. According to Drama Quarterly, Phoebe de Gaye, who designed the costumes for The White Princess, returns as costume designer for The Spanish Princess. Oh dear.

First, the first official still of actress Charlotte Hope as Catherine. Yay, auburn hair! One of our biggest complaints is the fact that Catherine is usually portrayed as dark haired and sallow, to fit the stereotypical “Spanish!” image, instead of what she actually looked like. However:

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Clearly hairpin rationing continues. More importantly… Okay, the fabric is good for the era, and I like the cut of the sleeves. But the skirt is pleated weirdly, and I’m totally confused by the Indian embroidery panel used as a bodice.

Now, on to the teaser trailer:

The Spanish Princess (2019)

WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS OH MY GOD. Laced-on sleeves, with puffs at the elbow – okay. But why is the “gown” only tunic-length, and WHY does it open up like that in back???

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Also, clunky back lacing.

The Spanish Princess (2019)

NOT BETTER FROM THE FRONT. Apparently there was a sale on upholstery trim at Joann’s, and what’s with the drunken/saucy angle on the crown? There’s that red/pink dress that’s actually a decent copy from a contemporary portrait.

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Um, did Catherine have a badass superhero period back in Spain that has so far gone undocumented? The dress is fine and the hair is up, thank you. The scimitar, not so much.

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Ah yes, we must have her be a badass swordswoman. This was a woman of steel, but her strength came from moral character, not weaponry. I do like the netted/beaded cap, although PUT YER FRICKIN’ HAIR UP MISSY. For practical reasons (you’re sword-fighting!) if not for historical accuracy.

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Can’t see enough of the dress to comment. Is that Arthur? What happened to the fabulous bowl cut??

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Hair’s up, yay! No idea what’s up with the padded crown. Is that the royal princess version of a pudding cap?

The Spanish Princess (2019)

Riding astride in the 16th century, yea or nay?

 

The Spanish Princess – WHY?

64 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Another Philippa Gregory travesty to miss.
    You know there’s a lot more faithful historical novel on COA by Alison Weir and it’s on point regarding Catherine’s religiosity and virginity. Why didn’t they make this one?

    Reply
  2. Picasso

    Philippa fucking Gregory who I distinctly heard saying in one of my favorite History podcast (brace yourself): “It’s nice to research the history, but, as a writer, learn to put it aside not to interfere with THE STORY.” Heavily implying her drivel was MUCH more interesting than what actually happened. I remember that distinctly because I was ironing and almost ironed my own hand in shock.

    Reply
  3. Sam Marchiony

    I would fully wear that blue dress or put it on my main character in my fantasy NaNoWriMo project, but the key word there is FANTASY. I started out trying to make it historically derivative, but then I was like “never mind,” because I wanted to add people of color and not just copy-paste Europe.
    I bet not-bowl-cut dude is either a) Henry, suggesting he and Catherine had some frisson that she would not indulge in because she was constant and true to Arthur, or b) some rando fictional Spanish lordling who’s going to be all “Catherine, run away with me,” and she’ll be all “nooooo, mah duteh!”

    Reply
    • Susan D

      I’m with you on the Henry frisson theory, @Sam. And I’m with everyone on PFG. The snark abides!

      Reply
    • Richard

      I’m sorry, but don’t refer to anyone that isn’t white as “people of color”. That’s actually quite offensive since it’s basiclaly the word “colored”.

      Reply
        • Sam Marchiony

          ^^^
          Like Sara said, I’m American, that’s the term I’ve been taught is the most acceptable, as well as being faster than listing off various ethnicities and skin tones. I find it especially applicable for fantasy, which so often is based on ideas of white, European cultures that it’s kind of the default.

          Reply
          • Avi

            In the US, “Colored” was an unwanted epithet of the mid-20th century, and many find it quite offensive. “Person of color” is the term my friends and acquaintances prefer. So you should ask before using “colored”, and abide by what people want to be called, no matter what you have previously learned.

            Reply
  4. Author Jennifer Quail

    When it comes to riding aside versus astride, it’s not actually all that straightforward. Here’s a good blog that includes historical sources: https://susannaforrest.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/a-not-so-short-history-of-women-riding-astride/

    It largely depended on who you were and what you were doing (though I like the quote that points out if you’re thrown, do you want to be wearing breeches so no one can see your business or skirts so everyone can?) And it actually became much more common after the 1830s because the design we’re familiar with (the double-pommel) wasn’t invented until then. The leaping horn gives you more security, and means it’s safe (a lot of people who ride aside argue safer and steadier) to do things like jump while aside. It’s not really as easy as it looks and it requires if anything being a bit more conscious of your seat since it’s easy to kind of slouch onto your left hip instead of sit evenly-ideally while in a ‘modern’ (ie post-early-19th-century) side saddle your ‘seat bones’ are in basically the same position as they are when astride. Saddle fit is really important and one thing that makes it harder to learn nowdays is not only finding a sidesaddle but finding a fitter who makes sure it’s right for your horse’s back!

    I would think that astride, if she’s riding for pleasure rather than on progress (where it’s more about being seen) would be fine and not especially remarkable here.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Pretty much everything I was going to say. Catherine had a reputation as an enthusiastic hunter and doing so in the chair like side saddles of the day seems both dangerous and unlikely

      Reply
    • Karen O.

      True about side saddle. However, she seems to be riding forward seat which wasn’t created by Caprilli until the late 1800s. Before that people rode with long stirrups and sat back in the saddle.

      Reply
  5. Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

    I once heard Philippa Gregory at a writer’s conference and all she did was bitch about Hilary Mantel and why was she more respected because they wrote in the same period, and did the same amount of research yada, yada, yada.

    Reply
    • Peacoclaur

      Ooh…jealous much, PFG?

      (Although to be fair, Mantel has issues with her approach to HF as well)

      Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Oh, did she indeed? One may not always agree with Mantel’s interpretations, but that’s pretty delusional of Gregory.

      (“The Constant Princess” was the last PFG I could bear to read, apart from abandoning the one about Anne Neville after 40 pages because it was so boring. I especially dislike her habit of mistaking titles and status for character development: “But I was a Princess of Spain…” “As an Infanta of Spain, I could never…” “A Spanish Princess does not…” Really! The great Isabella’s daughter had to keep reminding herself of the fact?)

      And if Mantel doesn’t get that damned third Cromwell novel out next year, I’ll do something desperate.

      Reply
      • Kendra

        Yup, The Constant Princess was my last attempt. What kills me is how she constantly has her characters use some contraction, can’t remember exactly, but something like “y’know.” KEEELED ME.

        Reply
      • myladyswardrobe

        Oh goodness. I think I would such an arrogant character who kept saying that. I can’t believe the real Catherine of Aragon would say it unless she really HAD to. She knew precisely who she was and would never have been so utterly boorish, arrogant and rude as to keep saying it. Why can’t someone create a series/film which shows these people truthfully (and costumes, environment etc). Its such bad storytelling.

        Reply
    • Charity

      Hilary Mantel hates her back, so it gives me some comfort to know two Tudor novelists I don’t like (PG for obvious reasons, HM for being so damn stuck on herself / pretentious) are engaged in a rather public cat-fight.

      Reply
      • Peacoclaur

        HM has a lot of issues around her vendetta against the Catholic Church, which PFG also shares along with what I’ve always considered to be english nationalist euroskeptic agenda running through both works. Both frequently get praised as “feminist” but given how poorly women are portrayed in both their works, sorry don’t see it.

        Reply
        • Charity

          I honestly don’t like either one of them. HM brags about how historically accurate her works are, when her portrayal of Sir Thomas More was little more than a hit piece. (In fairness, I suspect there’s a huge anti-Catholic sentiment in English writers in general, because they almost universally in Tudor novels and films depict all the Catholics horribly, in favor of glamorizing Anne Boleyn — although HM didn’t make “that mistake” and made her awful too. Anne Boleyn was no saint, but she was not near as bitchy as the one in HM’s books.) And yes, how anyone can call PG a feminist writer when her heroines are all stabbing each other in the back and there’s not a single strong female friendship in any of her novels is beyond me!!

          Reply
        • Emily

          Yeah, but PFG can write characters that are Catholic and sympathetic; see “The Last Tudor.” (Yes, I’ve read the books. What can I say….) Whereas HM CANNOT and is just all insane with rage and it makes her characters just crappy.

          Reply
    • Linda Davies

      I just snorted my tea. Gregory had the temerity to compare herself to Mantel and wonder why Mantel is more respected??? snerfle

      Reply
  6. Nzie

    I wonder if this author has google alerts on her own name. There must be a lot of historians and historical costumers with beefs with her work.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Oh, and what’s with the weird pre-1700 split in terms of costume accuracy? Whack-a-doo stuff is all over the place in earlier times, but put it Victorian or Georgian times and most the time it is closer to accurate than anything else, if it’s “history.”

      Reply
  7. Susan Eiffert

    Love your rant! Yes! The actual historical truth is effin fascinating on its own, so don’t effin tinker with it! I get so ticked off when authors play fast and loose. And the costumes…Upholstery trim is the first thing I noticed on that horrible dress. Do keep up the snark…

    Reply
  8. Peacoclaur

    Would like to make two points:

    1) Having out of what can only be described as self loathing and an uncontrollable masochistic urge, I have in the past made an effort to read Philipa Fucking Gregory’s (hencewith refered to as PFG) books. From a historical POV they are bad. Really bad. BUT, from a pure fiction perspective the PFG formula ‘works’ for what it is meant to be i.e. romantic escapist fluff. The pacing is consultant and characters work within. The context of the genre. If PFG stuck to purely fictional characters like Georgette Heyer for example than I would not find her so offensive. But it is the fact she claims to be making some historiographical point about real people and real events is where i draw the line.

    2) As for the PFG vs Hillary Mantel thang – aside from the fact that in most regards Mantel is the superior author and PFG is commercial to the point of embarrassment – the fact that the PFG books are so unashamedly female focused and based around relationships is part of what makes them count for less by critical standards. Mantel, by contrast, has mostly male protaginsits, and her main interest is power (political and social) along with ideas. Without wanting to give PFG anymore ammunition or making her look better than she should, she may have a point about critical priorities and perceptions of subject matter and approach.

    Reply
    • Kristine

      I think these are two excellent points. Romantic fiction in general is always dismissed by literary folks. In PFG’s case, I think the dismissal may be warranted but certainly not always. I like how you framed this here.

      I really struggle with historical fiction that centres on real people. Creating characters and putting them into historical timelines is fine but if I am going to read about actual people who once lived and breathed on this planet I prefer non-fiction. And even that has its limitations and interpretations.

      Reply
    • Charity

      Can I just comment here and say that this critique only works for SOME of her books? I will agree that it’s definitely the case for The Other Boleyn Girl. Putting aside my contempt for the whole incest / ‘Anne being a horrible person and all the lies about her are true’ plot angle, I thought that was a great book. Fast paced. Engaging. It moved me emotionally. It made me almost forget my indignation.

      But I did not find this formula carried over into her later books, especially the ones about Lady Pole and Margaret Beaufort, where her limited POV meant we spent chapters and chapters away from all the action, shut up in castles with nothing to do except count coins. When PG is good, she’s very good; but when she’s stuck inside a boring narrative, she’s mediocre.

      Reply
      • Peacoclaur

        Agree – she doesn’t have the skill as an author to carry off interior scenes, which it needs be remarked, are pretty hard to pull off. For what’s its worth PFG is really just Jean Plaidy with worse dialogue and her attempts to be “psychological” don’t work.

        Reply
      • Trystan L. Bass

        “When PG is good, she’s very good; but when she’s stuck inside a boring narrative, she’s mediocre.” — exactly. She has the makings of an excellent historical romance / fiction writer, but she needs a MUCH stronger editor to reign her in & help her focus.

        Tho there are still entire books of hers I’ve tried to read & just thrown straight in the trash. (Wildacre? DO NOT ATTEMPT)

        Reply
        • Peacoclaur

          So, you noticed PFG’s incest fixation too? God, it’s creepy. She’s also got the same Yaoi obsession Diana Galbadon has as well and its frankly exploitative and disturbing – objectification is never cool.

          Reply
        • Charity

          Ha, ha. I’ve heard of that one. Mostly on Goodreads where there was a lot of WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK???? responses. Enough for me to stay away. Far far away.

          Reply
  9. Angela/Anna

    Philippa Fucking Gregory is a millionaire or some shit, and when I write a shitty book, I get sad trombones. What am I missing? Sex? Zippers? A blowjob given to a STARZ producer?

    Reply
  10. Charity

    I hate PFG and her novels with the rage of a thousand burning suns, but Starz actually made me Give a Damn with The White Queen. And although I was irritated by the depiction of the almighty badass Margaret Beaufort as a freaking headcase, she also gave a standout, unforgettable neurotic performance. I just don’t understand how The White Queen was actually decent, when the sequel was god-awful (after loathing it the first time, I decided to give it another watch once my anger cooled and find out if I was wrong — and nope, it’s still badly acted, badly-written, badly-costumed crap) and this looks just as bad?

    My feelings were torn on this, because honestly, I’d die for a proper KoA on screen. Young. Beautiful. Desirable. Tiny (since she WAS short). Redheaded. I banged my head on various walls hearing it had to be THAT WOMAN’S novel that brought her to the screen. But then I thought — hey, maybe it will not insult and piss me off as much as the book did, because Starz has a habit of Changing Things. Maybe it will be better than TWP. Maybe… and then I saw the trailer and deflated, right after screaming, “WHY?”

    As for the infamous bowl cut missing, five bucks says she’s sparring with Prince Henry. And that is part of them falling in lurve after Arthur dies. Though if she spends 4 hours moping like she did for, what, 500 pages of the novel, I may just grind my teeth.

    Did you also notice who they cast as Queen Isabella? GUESS WHAT. SHE IS DARK-HAIRED. So you got a redheaded KoA but gave her a traditional dark Spaniard mother?!? (Still, it in no way can be worse than her 4 minute scene in TWP. I was honestly offended and I’m not even Spanish. What a load of stereotypical rubbish.)

    Rant over. Thanks for the opportunity to publicly bitch. Much appreciated. Also, all the rage in this comment section gives me life. ;)

    Reply
    • Peacoclaur

      White queen was a BBC series that STARZ got the rights for in the US. TWQ tanked in the UK but did well enough in the USA to warrant a sequel series STARZ did themselves. That mostly explains the difference in production values

      Reply
    • Liz Myrick

      I have a personal grudge against them for making me look dumb in front of my dad. He and I are both Wars of the Roses/Tudors buffs. I also enjoyed the White Queen in spite of its inaccuracies (and uncle sex). So I decided to put on The White Princess and it was really damned embarrassing.

      Reply
      • Charity

        It was truly god-awful. Did you make it as far as Henry 7 losing his chill and dragging his mother, Margaret Beaufort, through the halls BY HER ANKLES? That’s when I wanted to really punch someone. :P

        Reply
  11. Peacoclaur

    I think the lady with the scimitar isn’t meant to be Catherine, it’s more likely to be her mother Isabel as it looks like a different actress and the hair is up, possibly during the conquest of Grenada around when Catherine was born.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Ohhhhhh! Okay then, props for casting two actresses that looks a lot like each other. Although, I still doubt Isabella of Castile wielded any scimitars.

      Reply
      • Peacoclaur

        Agree. Very unlikely. Isabel would have wielded a good Christian broadsword or somthing to that effect.

        Reply
  12. Stella van Ginkel

    It always bums me out when productions that insist on leaving the actresses’ hair loose and uncovered just pin the front sections back and call it a day – at least go for a mad Botticelli fever dream, add in some accessories, something! So, I guess the beaded cap is a plus in that regard? I’m betting the curly haired guy is Henry, btw, so I’m curious to see what that’s all about..

    Reply

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