Charlotte Hope is a redheaded, sexy and devious Catherine of Aragon in the Starz series The Spanish Princess. This may come as a shock to people who loved dark-haired Maria Doyle Kennedy as the pious Queen Catherine in The Tudors. However, Charlotte Hope is much closer to the real Catherine of Aragon than many other portrayals. In fact, many parts of The Spanish Princess that viewers will assume have been added for effect, are really historical facts. Here are a few of the more interesting tidbits:
Catherine of Aragon did have light skin, blue eyes and red hair. Since she was Spanish, basically every movie or T.V. rendition has her with dark hair and often dark skin. In reality, she looked Scottish.
In 1501, Catherine of Aragon brought African servants with her to the English court and they turned out to be very popular. In particular, the English liked John Blanke who was known as an excellent trumpeter. For most English people in 1501, these were the first Africans they had even seen. Most viewers probably assumed that the black servants in The Spanish Princess have been added just to make the show more appealing to modern audiences.
In The Spanish Princess, Stephanie Levi-John is captivating as the real-life Lina de Cardonnes, the Lady in Waiting to Catherine and the first black woman to be a Lady in the English court. Aaron Cobham is Oviedo, a Moor who is the love interest of Lina and who was also a real person. Their fascinating love story shows how they try to serve Catherine loyally while still making a life for themselves. The writers of The Spanish Princess should be commended for focusing on people of color who have been consistently left out of most English histories of that time period.
Catherine of Aragon was only 16 when she arrived in England but was already incredibly well educated. She was fluent and Latin and Greek and knew complex mathematics and logic. Members of the English Court who assumed they could outwit this “girl” soon found out they were no match for her sharp mind.
Young Catherine of Aragon was one of the most beautiful women of her time and blatantly used her sex appeal to control the man who eventually became King Henry VIII. When they married, Henry was just 18 and Catherine was 23. We all know that more than 20 years later, Henry would dump Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn. However, in the beginning, the woman who Henry lusted for was Catherine of Aragon.
Our only complaint about The Spanish Princess, is that Henry VIII (played by Ruairi O’Connor) is portrayed too much like the womanizer Henry became in his later years. The young Henry was, in fact, very serious in his studies of Theology and Music. Since he was the second son, he was never destined to become King until his brother Arthur died unexpectedly. Henry had lived a very sheltered life and it was assumed he would enter the church or become a composer. It was Catherine who seduced Henry, not the other way around.
Of course, The Spanish Princess is meant to be an exciting series, not a documentary, and in that it succeeds very well.
- We rate The Spanish Princess Four Stars ****
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