It’s Festivus, aka, The Spanish Princess (2019), Starz’ new adaptation of a Philippa Fucking Gregory book about Catherine of Aragon, has premiered! Strap in for all sorts of historical wtf-ery and some deeply wackjob costuming by Phoebe de Gaye in the first of many recaps. Frock Flicks is a family: if I have to suffer, you have to suffer with me.
Spain, 1501. Queen Isabella of Castile is a badass in her netted caul and wrapped braid. A voice over (Catherine with an English accent) gives us the basics, which I thought was a refreshing change from all the productions that try to weave backstory into dialogue and therefore make the characters sound stupid (“I’m the king’s brother and he has no children, what do you MEAN I’m next in line to the throne??!!”).
King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth (of York) are very, very worried about when the Spanish Infanta Catalina aka Catherine will arrive to marry their son and heir, Arthur. Until then, Henry informs us, “we are lost.” Um, “lost” seems very final. Elizabeth wears a blue gown for the first of a million times.
Catherine prays, because that’s what good Spanish princesses do, and then portentously observes A Crown Randomly Hanging Out in the Chapel. I sincerely doubt the Spanish monarchs keep one or both of their crowns on display. This isn’t the crown jewels at the Tower of London, people. Thankfully, she has a Spanish accent now.
Catherine is played by Charlotte Hope, and unfortunately for all of us, I’ve just finished rewatching/bingeing all of Game of Thrones, so all I can see is The Cutty-Uppy Guy’s (aka Ramsay Bolton) girlfriend, the kennelmaster’s daughter Myranda. She’s hanging with her new lady-in-waiting, the fictionalized Lina de Cardonnes, who is standing in for the Moorish servants Catherine really did bring with her to England. Which, as we’ve discussed previously, meant they were of North African origin, not sub-saharan African (see the comments on this post). We could go off on a whole tangent about this character, but basically I’ll say that yay for representing people of color in European history, I’m not a POC so I don’t want to nitpick this too much, I wish they had styled her hair in a more period-appropriate way but I’m glad it’s up.
We also meet Catherine’s other key lady-in-waiting, “Rosa.”
Catherine is En Route to England — or, at least to the coast, with her mama! Catherine has been sick, which has delayed her travel.
They run into some “Moriscos” (Muslims who converted to Christianity), and there’s a battle in which Queen Isabella suits up in male armor and goes full sword swinging/covered in blood. Uh, there’s a difference between a queen leading her troops into battle, as Queen Isabella did, and actually slicing people up, as is preposterous.
Catherine volunteers to help fight, grabbing the dagger at her waist — um, Catherine accompanied her parents to many different battlefields throughout her childhood, I think the issue of her wanting to actually get in the fray (answer: no) would have been addressed before now. Isabella tells Catherine that she has to fight by becoming queen of England and, along with her sister who is marrying a Hapsburg, create a Catholic block around Spain. Catherine spends the battle praying, and her prayers is something like “wife of Prince Arthur, Queen of England,” chanted over and over again. I don’t think that’s a standard Catholic prayer, but correct me if I’m wrong.
The English royals are happy-ish because Catherine is on a ship headed for England! Elizabeth of York is pregnant.
The ship hits a storm and the ladies do a lot of puking. Lina asks Catherine if she is “okay.”
Lina meets Spanish/Moorish soldier Oviedo, because god forbid a cross-ethnic romance happen.
Lady Edith “Maggie” (retch, Margaret) Pole (Laura Carmichael) is conflicted about Catherine of Aragon coming! She can’t stand the idea of it! But she loves, in an aunt-y way, Prince Arthur!
The fabulous Harriet Walter plays Margaret Beaufort, the king’s mother. She’s busy prepping for Catherine’s formal arrival.
But Catherine’s ship is blown off course, and they land somewhere random.
Edward Stafford, bro-Duke of Buckingham, escorts Catherine & co. to wherever they’re headed. Rosa makes slutty eyes at him, despite knowing he’s married. The ladies get bedraggled in the rain.
Henry and Elizabeth are stoked that Catherine has landed! We get a quick glimpse of daughters Margaret (future queen of Scotland) and Mary (future queen of France/duchess of Suffolk).
Lady Edith “Maggie” Pole and Margaret Beaufort receive Catherine at Mags’s home. Requisite dialogue ensues about how Catherine bathes every day, and Margaret Beaufort is dismissive (“once a week is plenty!”), because it’s always important to remind us how superior we are to historical people.
Catherine is stoked to meet Arthur, as the two have been corresponding. She thinks she’s in love.
Lina is peeved to hear the Spanish soldiers are being billeted in the stables, and steps in to stop this. Oviedo is grateful.
King Henry shows up, beating down the door to meet Catherine; Catherine and her ladies are scandalized.
Catherine meets Arthur, and then gets snotty about being forced to walk around in the rain. She mentions the letters he’s written her, and Arthur is totally miffed because he never wrote these letters. WHICH IS PREPOSTEROUS. All royal courting couples would have written official correspondence, there’s no way he would have gotten out of it.
Catherine is upset to learn Arthur didn’t write her the letters. She thought she was In Love, which is, again, preposterous. Although a royal couple would have been encouraged to fall in love, love was NOT the purpose of their marriage and NOT what she has been trained for her entire life, which is representing Spain, ruling England, and providing her husband with heirs.
Lady Edith’s Maggie (retch) Pole’s kids have been taken away until the wedding, but she gets to give them a quick hi.
Snark ensues between Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort.
Lady Edith Mags continues to hate Catherine Because Of Something That Was Done For Her.
Catherine is introduced to Prince Henry, who should be 10 years old, along with his bro-friend “Charlie” (Charles) Brandon. Henry, along with having a disease that makes him older by at least 7-10 years than he should be, is initially charming, then scary, then sexually harassing. Catherine is intrigued.
Arthur KNOWS that it’s HIS BROTHER HENRY WHO HAS BEEN WRITING TO CATHERINE. IN NO WAY COULD THIS EVER HAVE POSSIBLY HAPPENED NUH UH OMG STARZ IS EVEN MORE CRAZY THAN PHILIPPA FUCKING GREGORY’S SOURCE MATERIAL. Uh, Arthur is peeved about this.
Margaret Beaufort fucked with Catherine’s herbs for her bath; Lina has to go find new ones. She’s accosted by an English soldier, but Oviedo fights him off. I do like that the POC character gets to be refined and elegant. Rosa has a slutty makeout session with Stafford.
Catherine, wearing whore levels of makeup, is introduced to her future mother-in-law Elizabeth — who is randomly super bitchy to her and tells her that Mags Pole doesn’t like her because her mentally disabled brother (who had a claim to the throne) was executed at Queen Isabella’s order.
Catherine has a sulky bath. She somehow KNOWS that Henry was the one who wrote to her, in the continuation of the world’s most ludicrous plot point.
She has a flashback to meeting Christopher Columbus in a garden, as one does, when he told her some inspirational shit about staying on course or something.
Catherine heads to the wedding, where Prince Henry is to give her away, as actually happened in reality. He continues to be sexually harassy. She chants her “wife of Prince Arthur, queen of England” mantra as she heads down the aisle.
And finally, the most historically accurate moment blips by in 0.2 seconds:
The Spanish Princess, episode one! What did you think?