The third installment of Starz’s trio of royal entertainment (courtesy of Phillipa Gregory) follows Catalina de Aragon, aka La Infanta, aka Catherine of Aragon as she makes her way to dank, damp, non-merry ol’ England. Betrothed to Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales since she was a young girl, Catherine believes in destiny and her destiny is to become England’s queen, no matter the personal costs.
At the tender of age 16, Catherine makes the harrowing journey to marry Arthur. Accompanied by her two ladies-in-waiting and the Spanish ambassador, her greeting by the Tudor king, Henry VII is anything but auspicious. Bursting in on the tired and haggard Infanta, Henry makes a poor impression on Catherine and her ladies. She’s further aggrieved when she meets her fiancé and he proves to be nothing like the passionate and loving letters he wrote. It’s somewhat of a disaster.
Treaties and dowries are at play so the show known as the marriage must go on. As Catherine awaits her grand march toward her destiny, she’s escorted by her future brother-in-law, Henry, Duke of York. As with most television, The Spanish Princess takes liberties with the ages of its subjects. Catherine and Henry appear to be of similar ages when in reality, Catherine was about 7 years older than Henry. This will become important much further down the line…but probably not in this limited series sphere.
Vows are made, the pronouncement is claimed and Catherine and Arthur are married. Under the roof and watchful eye of Arthur’s cousin Margaret Pole (plus her family), the young newlyweds begin their life together. It’s tough: Catherine is strong-willed, strong-minded and self-assured. Arthur is none of those things and neither is he a poet. Once Catherine finds out it was not Arthur who wrote the letters she carefully preserved, the young relationship is tested immensely (especially since it was his charismatic younger brother Henry who audaciously wrote her).
Curiosity and youthful spirits win out and the two fully consummate their marriage and love begins to bloom. Just as the two young rulers-in-training are getting their bearings, sickness sweeps across the countryside. The strange English phenomenon of “the sweat” terrorizes rich and poor, landed and vassal, noble and commoner. When it hits the Prince of Wales’s household, he is struck and after suffering for days, he succumbs.
And just like that, Catherine is now the Dowager Princess of Wales. A widow with a dowry in limbo, no friends at court, a hostile grandmother-in-law in Margaret Beaufort and no money. As she ponders her next move, an idea takes shape. An idea that requires the love of a lovesick younger brother, Henry, neé Duke of York, now Prince of Wales. La Infanta tiene esperanza.
You can binge season 1 of The Spanish Princess on the Starz app or on demand.