Starz's 'The Spanish Princess' delves into the tumultuous love story of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon
From those who were executed to those who changed European history, King Henry VIII's wives are all heroines, but here's why Catherine of Aragon's story needs to be heard
Royal love stories have always been a subject of intrigue but not many have matched that of King Henry VIII, who had six wives and a controversial first marriage. Starz's upcoming limited series 'The Spanish Princess,' is based on a novel by Philippa Gregory revolving around the love story of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. When the trailer dropped, it was more than evident among 'The White Princess,' fans that the new upcoming series would be nothing less of an extraordinary binge since many have questions about King Henry's rather appalling personal life. From those who were executed to those who changed the course of European history, King Henry VIII's wives are all protagonist-worthy, but here's why Catherine of Aragon's story needs to be heard.
The Spanish princess was the youngest surviving child of the Spanish Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile and was known to be a great beauty. Her look isn't described as "typical Spanish looks," instead, she had lucid blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. In the Starz's adaptation Charlotte Hope, who played Ramsay Bolton's girlfriend in 'Game of Thrones,' is playing the leading lady.
In the 16th century, Catherine was an eligible and much sought-after princess among royal suitors for the sake of great alliances. Powerful England came into the picture and 15-year-old Catherine of Aragon married the 14-year-old Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of King Henry VII at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1501.
However, soon after, both Catherine and Arthur fell ill because of what was thought to be a "sweating sickness." While Catherine recovered, Arthur succumbed to the illness, and before long, Catherine became a widow.
Because Catherine was an important princess, and times were rough for England as France was growing in power, King Henry VII refused to give her up and negotiated a new marriage with his second son and heir to the throne, Prince Henry. But Henry was only 10-years-old at that time and Catherine was 16. So in 1503, a marriage treaty was signed guaranteeing that a proper marriage ceremony would take place on Henry’s 15th birthday, and the Pope had shown his willingness to grant the dispensation since it was believed it was wrong for Henry to marry his brother's widow.
However, in another twist of fate, Catherine's mother, Isabella, fell ill and died in November 1504. This was a major blow to unmarried Catherine as simply being called "the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon," made her a less desirable princess as "the daughter of the Catholic kings of Spain." Catherine’s father, Ferdinand, was not the heir to Castile so King Henry VII rebuked the treaty and discouraged his son from marrying the Spanish princess. In 1505, the day before Prince Henry's 15th birthday, the prince himself rejected Catherine.
Tables flipped and she was not even allowed to return to Spain and in England, her allowance was cut off. The princess lived in poverty and had a difficult life. Like all strong women, however, she reemerged from her struggles and her father appointed her as a Spanish ambassador. But her love story was not over yet. Soon after King Henry VII, died in 1509 and King Henry VIII took over his father's throne, he married Catherine of Aragon. On June 11, 1509, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, issued the marriage license and the treaty that had been signed in 1502 finally came to fruition.
The 24-year-old Catherine and 18-year-old Henry VIII had a happy marriage, initially. In fact, it is believed that Henry VIII, was heavily in love with the Spanish princess.
What went wrong then? Why did King Henry VIII have six wives?
As their story reads, a rift occurred when Catherine discovered that Henry was having an affair when she was pregnant for the first time. Polyamory, though not unknown and discreet at that time, however, affected Catherine and things were never the same. Another reason was that Henry VIII wanted a son to secure the throne for the Tudor line since he knew his claim wasn't that strong. He had only one daughter with Catherine, Queen Mary I, best known for her aggressive attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII.
On his quest for a son, King Henry VII started wooing other young women once Catherine turned 40 and it was clear she could not procreate anymore. When King Henry VIII sought a divorce, she refused to give it to him, which further soured the relationship. As annulment did not materialize from the Pope's end even in the next seven years, King Henry VIII, broke off with Rome and declared himself the supreme head of the church of England and declared his marriage to Catherine null and void. By then, he had fallen in love with Catherine's maid of honor, Anne Boleyn, and married her instantly.
While this is the true love story etched in history, we are eager to see how it plays out in the TV adaptation. 'The Spanish Princess' will premiere on May 5 and here's all you need to know about the miniseries. All that matters as of now, is that she is one of the fiercest queens in history and we can hear Charlotte Hope as Catherine of Aragon say "I am Princess of Spain. The daughter of the two greatest monarchs this world has ever known. If you challenge me, I shall defeat you."