Fact Checking The Spanish Princess: Episode One

I was surprised not to hate the first episode, but I know stuff I won’t like is coming. So, I’ll focus on “in general” and “historical inaccuracies.” I’ll leave off “inaccuracies from the book” since I barely remember it. (The only thing I remember is Catherine being surprisingly tolerant and open-minded toward Moorish customs, which… no.)

The Plot: Catherine arrives in England after storms at sea and a Moorish uprising in Spain delay her for months. She makes inroads with her Blackamoor lady in waiting, Lina. The impoverished and anxious English anxiously await her arrival. The king offends her on their first meeting. Catherine meets the strapping young Henry Tudor, and is devastated to learn he’s been writing her love letters, instead of his brother Arthur. The episode ends with their wedding.

Historical Inaccuracies: Some of these are more like minor points, a few others are puzzling choices they made as writers.

Lina was a real person named Catalina. Orviedo was also a real person, a bowman in Catherine’s guard. I like their inclusion since it brings a speck of accuracy and color to the usually all-white Tudor court. Although technically, most of the Spanish Moors were Arabs, not Africans. They seem to have also given Lina Dona Elvira’s role. Dona Elvira was Catherine’s somewhat overbearing duena (for the lack of a better word, a “keeper” in charge of her household), but she had been with Catherine from childhood. She is missing her three most famous ladies-in-waiting: Francesca, Inez, and Maria Salinas.

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Margaret Beaufort: Having this Margaret show up and dislike Catherine right away amuses me. What also amuses me is Elizabeth of York has to remind Margaret they need Spain. The historical Margaret Beaufort was not a fool who would let personal feelings get in the way of alliances. She knew England needed Spanish support to authenticate their throne in the eyes of the world. Spain needed England’s money in their war against France (unlike the series, Henry VIII was not “strapped” – he spent a hundred thousand pounds on Prince Arthur’s wedding) and England needed Spanish support in case the queen’s treasonous cousin the Duke of Buckingham decided to invade. Margaret was instrumental in pushing for the Spanish marriage in the first place.

Elizabeth of York is walking a fine line between sensible and likable and overbearing shrew, which is “normal” for these writers. They have never met a historical friendship they can support. In real life, Elizabeth and Catherine were extremely good friends. Catherine needed a mother figure and Elizabeth fulfilled that role. They spent lots of time together and Elizabeth comforted Catherine after events transpired. So here, having her be hostile and suspicious, and Catherine have an “attitude” is a weird choice. (Also having her threaten Catherine while kissing her on the lips is one of those ??? things.)

Henry VII is also too apologetic. He had good reason to be paranoid, given so many traitors in his court, but he never showed it in public. Instead, he became secretive and reclusive (more so after his wife’s death). He was a shrewd politician and businessman, which seems to be absent so far in this nervous portrayal.

Catherine’s depiction, I am on the fence about. It’s in line with the older Catherine who refused the divorce (strong-willed, stubborn, and high-achieving) but everything I’ve read about her suggests she was more diplomatic than this. Her complaining about the cold and the rain made me laugh, though – that’s accurate. Maybe not the complaining, but Catherine often took cold, and she found it difficult to “get warm” in England.

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“Harry.” The biggest inaccuracy by far is the fact that everyone is too old, especially the future Henry VIII. When Catherine arrived in England, this little tyke was 10 years old – not 17/18 and certainly not old enough to be fantasizing about his brother’s wife or writing her passionate love letters. But the real Henry, when older, did love his poetic, deeply romantic love letters. He was an unapologetic sap… err, romantic.

Isabella. Spot on. Except why is she dark-haired? Isabella was a famous blonde. It was Ferdinand who had the dark hair (and all the charm). I’m also wondering why they put killing Edward Plantagenet on Isabella, when it was actually Ferdinand (or at the very least, a joint demand) that said he wouldn’t send his daughter to an unstable throne.

I’ll also give them kudos for having Lina remind the random lady in waiting (likely added so they can squeeze in some sexual content) that she ought not to give away her virtue to just any man at the English court. Although… growing up in heavily Catholic Spain, they would not need reminded of this. And that was the main bad thing about this episode, the massive amounts of “info dumping” throughout.

Overall, I like their casting. Harriet Walter, as usual being a goddess of the small screen, is making me like her choices as Margaret Beaufort. She has an air of incredulous disbelief at Catherine’s habits that cracks me up. I do not like the beard on King Henry, though. Beards were unfashionable at the time and he never had one. It makes him look too old. Elizabeth looks a little old for 35, but I’ll let it pass. And dear god, what an unfortunate bowl haircut on Prince Arthur. THAT is accurate, but does it have to be? 😛 I also like their choices as far as Margaret Pole are concerned.

Next week, when they hit the “Arthur is a brat and Catherine lied about sleeping with him” plot, I suspect will get my dander up more…

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