The Arranged Marriage
Be warned, the recap below continues big spoilers about the plot, do bear this in mind if you haven’t watched this episode!
The Spanish Princess begins its 8 part series in the sticky heat of the Alhambra Palace in Spain 1501, with Queen Isabelle desperate to find catholic allies to maintain her sovereignty. Across the sea, England faces poverty as Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth search for rich allies to stop an invasion from France and Scotland. An alliance is then made; the union of both the heir of the Tudor throne, Prince Arthur, and the Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon. It all rests on her shoulders as she gets ready to travel to England but of course this comes with a price – she’ll likely never see her beloved country again.
As she reads Arthur’s letters, Catherine feels that she is already in love with him while at Westminster palace in England, Queen Elizabeth asks Henry if he’s had any news. He heard that the arrival of Catherine has been delayed by a battle. Henry is worried about the country and will only be at ease once the union take place. Meanwhile, Prince Arthur gets ready to meet his future wife.
On the boat, a storm rages which has moved the ship off course. It’s here where we meet Lina, one of Catherine’s ladies, and one of the princess’ guard, Oviedo.
At Dogmersfield house, England, Arthur meets his aunt Maggie who doesn’t seem too pleased with the union. The king’s mother will be accompanying the princess from Southampton to Westminster and will be teaching her England’s way. Catherine decides to land somewhere else and gets escorted to Arthur by Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Interestingly,.he also seems to take a liking on one of the ladies in waiting, Rosa.
Catherine arrives at Dogmersfield house and is introduce to the King’s Mother. She affirms her status by calling herself princess of Spain and princess of Wales as her marriage was settled by proxy. Despite this, and hearing the news that the princess has arrived, the King rushes to Catherine’s bedroom as he wants to make sure she is really there, which angers her as it is not the proper way to meet. Catherine and Arthur do then finally meet but she finds out that all the letters she received were not from him.
The kings mother tells Elizabeth that she doesn’t like Catherine as she is arrogant and over-privileged but Elizabeth says that the country needs her. She then speaks to Maggie and tells her they need to get reacquainted. She asks if she has been poisoning Arthur against her and tells her they need to put everything behind them.
Catherine then arrives at Westminster and meets Prince Harry (Henry VIII), Duke of York who will be leading her down the aisle the next day. Boasting, he tells her it was he who wrote the love letters. This predictably doesn’t go down too well with Arthur who speaks to his aunt about how angry he is at his brother for writing to Catherine. He feels betrayed and that Catherine has been ruined.
We find out from Elizabeth that Catherine’s mother would only pledge her hand if there were none to challenge Arthur for the throne. This resulted in two young men being put to death – one an imposter and another Edward, earl of Warwick and Maggie’s brother. Catherine doesn’t believe her mum would order that and insists that he was beheaded. Continuing on, she’s also told the future of England, Spain and the Hamburg Empire relies on her and that she must give Arthur sons.
After Rosa comes back from her secret meeting with Edward, Lina tells her to be careful as husbands will be chosen for them before the episode ends with Harry walking a nervous Catherine down the aisle.
As an opening episode, The Spanish Princess does a decent job setting the tone and mood for the series to come. Despite clocking in at a little under an hour, the pacing is excellent throughout and there’s never a moment that feels like it’s being dragged out. Even this early, teases of political intrigue shine through while Charlotte Hope portrays a confident, young Catherine perfectly. Although some of the facts have been changed to fit with the dramatization of the story, there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable watch nonetheless.