Starz’s new miniseries, The Spanish Princess, is a follow-up to The White Queen and The White Princess, historical dramas that explore the inner lives of women in power who are often overlooked (and were underestimated). This time, the focus is on Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope), best known as being the first, long-suffering wife of Henry VIII (Ruairi O’Connor), a woman he eventually divorced to marry Anne Boleyn, causing a religious schism that set the stage for the Protestant Reformation. The latter part is best experienced by watching the series like The Tudors and Wolf Hall, but The Spanish Princess starts its story much earlier, to when Catherine first arrives in England, and she and Henry fall in love.
In an interview EW, co-showrunners Emma Frost and Matthew Graham explain how this story, based (like the previous series) on the novels of Philippa Gregory, explores a new perspective when it comes to these monarchs. “No one has written about her when she was a young woman, and she is always characterized as the unwanted old bag, but she was an incredible character,” notes Frost. “She’s actually a very modern character…It was exciting to tell the story of this woman who was so determined to forge her own destiny.”
The series will give full due to Catherine’s story, as a woman who believed she was chosen by God to lead England, but had to leave her homeland in Spain to do so under incredible pressure and a dangerous political atmosphere. In addition to filming in England, the production was also given unprecedented access to Spain’s Alhambra and Alcazar palaces.
The showrunners also saw this as an opportunity to tell the story of people of color in this era, something that is too often overlooked in period pieces. Diverging from Gregory’s material, the series will also include the stories of real-life figures like a crossbow maker named Oviedo (Aaron Cobham), as well as an African Iberian woman who served as Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, Catalina de Cardones (Stephanie Levi-John). As the piece explains, after a historian inaccurately advised the production during The White Princess that there would not be people of color in England at this time, “the most cursory Google search will tell you that isn’t true,” Frost points out. “There are records of people of color right through from the Roman times in England. In the last couple of years, there have been a couple of extraordinary books written that have gone back to parish records and the real source material to chart through the lives of people of color.” So moving forward,
Working with historian Onyeka Nubia, Frost and Graham excavated stories erased from history to uncover people like Lina and Oviedo, who came to England alongside Catherine of Aragon and faced similar challenges to the Queen in assimilating to English culture and the cold, dreary climate. “[It was an] opportunity to tell stories about people of color in Tudor England that weren’t based around race. For the Tudors, it was more [about] cultural wariness,” says Graham. “The worst thing is if you suddenly have Lina and Oviedo and their issues [are only] about being black. Instead, it’s about being in love and being in a foreign country.”
Collider was also able to visit one of the filming locations for The Spanish Princess last fall, and will have coverage of that plus interviews with the cast and creators coming soon! In the meantime, catch up on those previous series, and get ready for The Spanish Princess, coming to Starz this spring. The series also stars Elliot Cowan, Laura Carmichael (pictured below), Georgie Henley, Angus Imrie, and Richard Pepper.