The Spanish Princess: Katherine of Aragon’s Wedding Gown

32

Guys, there’s a new Starz miniseries in the works based on yet another Philippa fucking Gregory book. We’ve had The White Queen and The White Princess. This time, it’s The Spanish Princess, based on the book The Constant Princess and telling the highly fictionalized story of Catherine of Aragon’s first marriage to Henry VIII’s older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales. Y’all know I loves me some Catherine of Aragon. So this time, Starz, it’s personal.

There’s not much info out yet about the production, except for casting and initial TV studio BS. Charlotte Hope (Myranda on Game of Thrones, Charlotte Mellendorf on The Musketeers) will play Catherine, Angus Imrie is Arthur, Laura Carmichael (Edith on Downton Abbey) plays Margaret “Maggie” (UGH RETCH) Pole (note there is also a “Meg” — Margaret — Tudor for full nausea inducement), and Harriet Walter (Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility) as Margaret Beaufort. No costume designer has been announced, sadly.

However, thanks to the magic of the internets, we do have a visual on the show! The production filmed Catherine and Arthur’s wedding (and what looks like Arthur’s funeral cortege) at Wells Cathedral in Somerset, England, and some kind soul caught the actors leaving the cathedral on video. None of the images are clear, but I screencapped a bunch, and let’s discuss!

Now, my first thought when I saw Catherine was “WHAT THE FROCK.” My second thought was “Oh my god they got that she had auburn hair!” And then I went back to “WHAT IS SHE WEARING OMG INSERT FORK IN EYE.” Because this looks nothing like early Tudor dress:

The Spanish Princess

Catherine and an attendant.

The Spanish Princess

An attendant, Prince Arthur, and Catherine

All I could see was:

Instead of what I thought I SHOULD see — namely, very early 16th-century English Tudor dress:

Livre d'heures, en latin et en français, à l'usage de Cambray Bernard

Livre d’heures, en latin et en français, à l’usage de Cambray Bernard, 15th c., Gallica.

1527c Hans_Holbein_d._J._-_Study_for_the_Family_Portrait_of_Sir_Thomas_More_-_WGA11595

Hans Holbein’s study for the portrait of Sir Thomas More’s family (background blurred to make the dress pop visually), c. 1527.

Luckily, I pinged some early 16th-century experts — Kate Newton aka Beatriz Aluares, who knows her Spanish costuming and weighed in on 1492; Stefanie Pursell; and Kimiko Small, who knows a ton about English costume of this era — and they talked me down off the ledge. Apparently the costume designers WEREN’T totally smoking crack, and they helped me find period sources for much of these ensembles.

First, let’s talk The Wedding Dress. According to Ruth Mathilda Anderson’s Hispanic Costume 1480-1530, Catherine WAS dressed in Spanish style clothing for her wedding, and specifically wore white, as did Arthur:

“For the marriage ceremony… both bride and bridegroom wore white satin. Certain details of Catherine’s dress marked ‘the straunge dyvrsitie of rayement of the countreth of HIspayne.’ Her coif or rather veil on that day, of white silk bordered with an inch-and-a-half band of gold, pearls, and precious stones, covered much of her face and also of her body down to the waistline: ‘her gowne very large, bothe the slevys and also the body, with many plights, moch litche unto menys clothyng: And after the same forme the remnnt of the ladies of Hispayne were arayed.’ Their skirts carried hoops in the Spanish style” (Ruth Mathilda Anderson, Hispanic Costume 1480-1530, 1979, pg. 143).

Beyond that:

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

Okay, so hoops (farthingales or verdugados) did come into fashion in Spain first, as shown by these two Spanish women. The silhouette was a bit more cone-like, and the hoops were exposed (the casings were sewn to the fashion fabric skirt), but this passes. Middle: Pedro García de Benabarre, Retable of St. John the Baptist, 1470-1480, Museum of Catalan Art. Right: “La nascita del Battista” di Pere Garcia de Benavarri, realizzata per la chiesa di san Giovanni a Lleida, before 1483.

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

What I’m not seeing are any split overskirts. Either it’s those hooped skirts as seen above, or something like this where an overskirt or gown is pulled up a bit in front. Pedro Berruguete, La verificación de la cruz de Cristo, c. 1470, Museo de la Parroquia de Santa Eulalia, Paredes de Nava.

The sleeves killed me at first, because WTF WITH THE LITTLE MERMAID PUFFED SLEEVES KILL KILL. Most Spanish sleeves looked like this:

Spanish sleeves early 16th century

Either sort of poufy but fitted towards the wrist, long with turn backs like you see in early 16th-c. English fashion, or what seems to be most typical, the two on the right: a fitted sleeve that is slashed on the underside and/or sectioned, with a wide-sleeved chemise hanging out at the wrist.

1529 codices de trajes

And then I found this image. Codices de trajes, 1529.

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

And peered more closely, and saw that they’ve got a (bad) attempt at the wide chemise there at the wrist. Granted, they’ve sewn it shut and added a wrist ruff, which, no. But still. You win this time Starz. I DON’T LIKE IT. But I won’t set it on fire.

Now, I am THRILLED that they’re showing Catherine with auburn hair. And it’s UP!! But then I started worrying that whatever weird fabric-y thing is hanging down in back was actually hair left loose.

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

But squinting more at these, I think that’s fabric, not hair? Right? RIGHT?

Spanish hair early 16th century

In general, hairstyles of this era were center parted and long and low over the ears, like on the left, but you also see wrapped long braids like on the right. Left: attributed to Antonio Inglés, Isabella I of Spain, Queen of Castille, ca. 1489, UK Royal Collection. Right: Pedro García de Benabarre, Retable of St. John the Baptist, 1470-1480, Museum of Catalan Art.

And while that beaded headband thingie can kind of pass as the kind of cap seen above with the wrapped braid, I really think she should be in a proper hood:

Spanish hoods early 16th century

Left: “Hèloise Instructs her Pupil”, fol. 137. Master of the Prayer Books of Around 1500. Charles d’Orlèans, “Poëms”; Pseudo-Hèloiuse “Art d’Amour”; Brughes, ca 1483 and ca 1490. Right: Unknown artist, Joan, wife of Philip ‘the Fair‘, as widow, painting, 16th century, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

On to everyone else:

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

I LOVE THAT THEY GAVE PRINCE ARTHUR HISTORICALLY ACCURATE BOWL-CUT HAIR!!!! Arthur, Prince of Wales, c. 1500, private collection.

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

But Kimiko notes: “Of course, all the men are wearing boots. Even the Prince has on short boots, not shoes.” She also adds, “Looking again at Arthur, I seriously question wtf the highly decorated V shaped thing over his chest actually is. It should be a fur lined gown turnback, like the lapel of a coat. Instead they blinged it out in something more than damask, as the texture stands out more than the blinged out forepart young Katherine is wearing. And what is with his standing collar? It’s not a part of his round necked gathered shirt. Like some tiny underpropper lost in time from the Elizabethan ruff era.”

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

Attendant number one is pretty close to this Spanish woman from Pedro García de Benabarre, Retable of St. John the Baptist, 1470-1480, Museum of Catalan Art. Lose the split overskirt. Of the Princess Leia buns, Kate says, “Yeah no.”

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

Gentlewoman #2 is obviously one of the African/Moorish attendants that were part of Catherine’s retinue. I got irritated by her crazy long sleeves, but then my experts pointed out paintings like this one of Isabella of Castile. Okay, okay. Fernando Gallego, Madonna of the Catholic Monarchs, 1490-95.

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

Kate says, “Head necklace probably is trying to indicate that Moors were exotic. Realistically, ‘exotic’ wasn’t exactly what Reconquista-era Spanish thought about Moors.”

The Spanish Princess

Here’s that funeral cortege.

The Spanish Princess costumes Starz

Close-up on Catherine.

The Spanish Princess

Extras. Kate says, “Some of the older women are wearing sleeveless habitos over their gowns. That was one of Isabella’s favorite garments, so makes sense older women might still be wearing it.”

The Spanish Princess

More extras!

The Spanish Princess

Even more extras!

 

How do you feel about The Spanish Princess’ costumes so far?

Tags

About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

32 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Although it looks to be a C+ effort, I still think the wedding gown looks more Elizabethan Ren faire than Spanish from the court of the Catholic Monarchs.
    At least Katherine of Aragon has reddish hair.
    I’m not holding out for any historical accuracy as it’s based on Bleeping Philippa Gregory.

    Reply
  2. Renee

    Looks pretty good to me. I’m glad that this part of the Tudor history is getting coverage, since everything seems to focus on Henry VIII or Elizabeth I.

    Reply
  3. Bel

    I’m actully quite impressed that they gave Arthur that haircut. Maybe there’s hope for this?? Unless Henry is going to turn up looking like Justin Beiber by comparison…

    Reply
  4. Charity

    grinds teeth

    Katharine of Aragon is my favorite historical figure of all time, and I LOATHE Philippa’s novels with the fire of a thousand burning suns, but I’ll hate-watch this and cry. (Even more so, because, dammit, they cast the fabulous Harriet Walter as Margaret Beaufort this time. Margaret is another of my favorites, and I loathe what Philippa does with her, so the fact that they’re wasting an utterly fantastic actress on what’s sure to be a shitty part makes me sick.)

    That being said, they’re already being inaccurate — Katharine was not allowed to attend the funeral, much less ride behind the casket. It was pouring rain, and the damn cart got stuck in the mud on its way out of Wales anyway. Also, what’s with the pathetic extras in that scene? They should have mounted lords, like Lord Rhys, all around them. Arthur’s Welsh lords / friends attended his casket.

    /historical nitpicking

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      H.W. is a good choice, and there does seem to be thought given to the visuals, including wardrobe, and including those godawful bowl haircuts that make the handsomest guy look dorky.

      What I dislike about Gregory is that she used to be a pretty good writer, in a purple sort of way, before Other Boleyn Female and then the whole outpouring of civil-war-plus-Tudors stuff. Sloppy writing and questionable theories, which some of her readers seem to take for factual history.

      Reply
      • Charity

        I agree. I think “The Other Boleyn Girl” (however livid it made me) was excellent writing — engaging, moving, and evocative. But I think she’s just been churning them out the last few years, not taking much pains with them, and frankly, not finding enough of a story to go with them. I remember reading her novel about Margaret Beaufort going, “This is Margaret Freaking Beaufort here. And I’m BORED. There MUST be something she could have used to make the plot work better.”

        And her book about Catherine Parr? Made me cringe. A lot. And not just because H8 seemed to be into S&M style of punishing his wife. Just eww.

        Reply
    • India Edghill

      Did you read Gregory’s CONSTANT PRINCESS? Where she has Catherine LIE UNDER OATH AND ON THE BIBLE? I can believe a lot about people, but not that Catherine would lie. About anything.

      Reply
      • Charity

        Yes, I read it. I ranted about it for months. I’m normally against book burnings, but I didn’t say a word when a friend took her copy and lit it on fire in her backyard. LOL

        Reply
  5. angie kirby

    So far,it looks like it could be good.And the really long sleeves are quite common in several potraits of Isabella.

    Reply
  6. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Dang it….I now have to have a hate watch party with Spanish food and Sangria for my friends.
    As a Spanish person in general and playing a Spanish Tudor era persona in the SCA, this one will be difficult.

    Reply
  7. Rori

    I don’t think I have ever seen a bowl-cut hair in a medieval period series or film before.

    At least the clothing here look 100x better than in the dreadful prequel known as The White Princess.

    Reply
    • MoHub

      The bowl-cut was properly featured in the first Blackadder series (The Black Adder), and it looked far better and more authentic than the hair on Prince Arthur.

      Reply
  8. Allison

    Probably not related but have you guys seen the promotional pictures for BBC’s Les Mis adaptation for next year?

    Reply
  9. SaucyMarla

    Truly LOVE the hoop-holding, and lampshade effect……. I know they are “behind the scene” stills, but still….SMH.

    Reply
  10. notanothercostumingblog

    I can’t remember if it’s from that account of her wedding day or just an English person talking about her when she arrived but there’s definitely something in Hispanic Costume about how Catherine showed up in England with her very long hair in a sheer tranzado and how odd they thought that was.

    Reply
  11. Catharine Emma Hershey

    I wonder if that collar on Arthur is a washcloth or small towel for keeping sweat and/or makeup off the costume??

    I agree the wedding dress feels …off. It reminds me too much of those “Making History” Simplicity sewing patterns that, while being a fantastic gateway drug to historical costuming, are woefully inaccurate.

    Reply
  12. Sharon In Scotland

    I’ve always loved that Holbein (?) portrait of Katherine, she looks so real.

    Reply
  13. KATHLEEN E GILLIES

    Recently listened to The Lady of the Rivers audio book on my commute and wondered at the characterizations of John Beaufort, King Henry and Margaret of Anjou. She seemed to hang some major plot points on very iffy (ok, fictional) events. I think of her books as romance novels peopled by historical figures based very loosely on their lives.

    Reply
  14. alexandrina

    i feel like there’s this trend of dressing all the extras approprietly and then just fckin DESTROYING the leading characters wardrobes with “creative license”

    Reply

Feel the love

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.