Series 1 of Philippa Gregory’s The Spanish Princess introduces Elliot Cowan and Harriet Walter to the mix with great success
“I won’t be passed around Europe like a colection plate”
Following on from The White Princess, The Spanish Princess is based on the Philippa Gregory novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse, and the first instalment of eight episodes tackles the arrival of Catherine of Aragon to England to meet the man she has been betrothed to since they were both children, Arthur, heir apparent to Henry VII.
The biggest problem, aside from the weather and the racism (members of her court had Moorish and descent), is that the epistolary courtship that had so wooed her teenage heart, was actually written by his younger brother Henry…plot twist. But when Arthur died young, it meant that the plan for peace between England and Spain could still be found in another marriage.
It is undoubtedly a fascinating era of history, even through the romantically tinted and dramatically altered lens we get here, With Jacob Collins Levy and Michelle Fairley regenerating into Elliot Cowan and Harriet Walter respectively, to play Henry VII and Margaret Beaufort, court machinations become highly watchable. And Charlotte Hope and Ruairi O’Connor have the right level of teenage gaucheness to navigate the careless insouciance of their passionate liaisons as Catherine and Henry.
With Laura Carmichael’s Maggie Pole and her wavering political loyalties on the sidelines and a subplot of burgeoning love between Aaron Cobham’s guard Oviedo and Stephanie Levi-John’s lady-in-waiting Lina, all the elements of The Spanish Princess work so well, making it one of the best of the Philippa Gregory TV adaptations.