Fact-Checking The Spanish Princess: Episode Four

This is the first episode I’ve felt did justice to Margaret Beaufort. I have a soft spot for the Tudor queen’s mother. She was learned and ambitious, powerful and assertive, loved her grandchildren, and Henry VII trusted her political decisions. She took in needy off the street, and provided an income, education, and placement for them, since she believed in living according to the scriptures (those who have much, should provide for those in need). I also appreciated the show’s take on Henry’s grief, but more on that below…

The show continues to make a big deal about being present at funerals, but royalty did not attend funerals. It is true, Henry vanished into his rooms for a month after his wife died – a combination of grief and the return of his consumption. His mother attended to him as his nurse, but did not act as Regent of England until after his death. None of this happened in tandem with his eldest daughter preparing to leave for Scotland; that was later, and he accompanied her (along with her grandmother) part of the way. They escorted her to one of Margaret’s northern castles, where they bid her a formal farewell.

I understand the need to bring in Edmund de la Pole (the Duke of Suffolk) as a traitor, but having everyone so shocked he was abroad and mustering an army against Henry is incongruous with history – Henry sent his royal enforcer, Sir Thomas Lovell, to arrest Suffolk in 1501, but Suffolk received forewarning and fled overseas. Henry was aware he had sought safety within the empire, and was bargaining with the emperor for his extradition. Suffolk never returned to England to collude with Margaret Pole – it would have been much too dangerous to return without an army.

Margaret Beaufort never kicked Katharine of Aragon out of the palace. Firstly, Katharine was never ‘in’ the palace – after Arthur’s death, Margaret invited her to stay at Croydon, her own home. Once the Spanish and English started bickering over Katharine’s financial situation, to give her dignity and perhaps pinch her coffers a little, Henry offered her Durham House. It was not a small shack on a side street, but a grand house. The series also makes a big deal of Queen Isabella wanting Katharine to come home; in actuality, Isabella was keen to keep the English alliance, and instructed the Spanish envoy to do all in his power to make peace, and broker a new deal with Henry.

Margaret never banished Margaret Pole from the royal residences; Richard Pole was her nephew, and she was friendly to the family. She was concerned with the morality of marrying a brother’s widow, but Margaret and everyone else at court were staunch Catholics. They believed the Pope had absolute moral authority. He could grant a dispensation that would erase any “sin” from the union, so that would have put her mind at rest, whether or not Katharine was a virgin. The issue of her virginity was relatively unimportant until almost 30 years later when Henry VIII tried to annul the marriage. Margaret also mentions Katharine and Arthur spent every night together at Ludlow; this isn’t true, he slept in her room only a handful of times.

It’s a bit odd to have the only Tudor heir riding around, seemingly unchaperoned and unprotected, on London streets. His father was possessive of him and frightened harm may befall him, so Henry kept his namesake close and well-guarded. Even if the ten year old had wanted to visit Katharine at Durham House, he would not have done so alone. 😉

On a minor note, Lord Dudley coming up with ways to fill the coffers by increasing fines is very accurate, and his character cracked me up, so nice job done there. And I liked to see the tenderness between Margaret Beaufort and her grandchildren, even if the series does paint her overall in a vindictive, shrewish light. Harriet Walter is a gem.

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