‘The Spanish Princess’ Episode 1 Recap: “The New World”

The Spanish Princess episode 1
Stephanie Levi-John , Charlotte Hope, and Nadia Parkes in ‘The Spanish Princess’ (Photo Credit: Starz)
Starz’s limited series The Spanish Princess, the network’s third series based on the critically acclaimed novels by Philippa Gregory, premiered on May 5, 2019. Titled “The New World,” episode one begins in Alhambra Palace, Spain in 1501. Queen Isabella and her army have overthrown Muslim rule and it’s necessary to secure Catholic allies to maintain control over the land. At the same time, England needs an infusion of cash to fend off France and Scotland invasions.

The solution for both countries presents itself in a match between the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, and Spanish Princess Catherine of Aragon. Catherine’s grown up to believe she will be the Queen of England, a promise made to her as a child.

To fulfill her destiny, Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) makes the difficult journey from Spain to England, knowing she may never see Spain again.

Leading up to the much-anticipated meeting of Prince Arthur and Princess Catherine, the future King and Queen of England have been exchanging love letters. Catherine’s impressed with Arthur’s writing, and her heart is warmed by his passion. Catherine’s lady-in-waiting Lina de Cardonnes (Stephanie Levi-John) assures her it’s fine to fall in love with a man she’s never met based solely on his letters.

Catherine admits her own letters are equally as passionate as Prince Arthur’s.

Queen Isabella (Alicia Borrachero) and members of the Spanish army accompany Princess Catherine on the first part of her perilous journey. The group is attacked by Moors who’ve vowed to die fighting for their beliefs. And while Catherine expresses her desire to participate in the battle, her warrior mother reminds her she needs to remain safe and protect Spain by fulfilling her duties and becoming England’s Queen.

Princess Catherine watches her mother ride into battle and sinks to her knees, plunging a knife into the earth and reciting, “Daughter of Spain, Queen of England, wife to Prince Arthur,” in ever-increasing volume and surety.

Queen Isabella and her men emerge from the battle victorious. (The Queen led the charge and is coated in blood at its end.)

At Westminster Palace, King Henry VII (Elliot Cowan) and Queen Elizabeth (Alexandra Moen) fret over Princess Catherine’s delayed arrival. They believe God is keeping Princess Catherine away. King Henry’s beside himself with worry over England’s finances. Until Prince Arthur and Princess Catherine are wed, the country is in dire straits and vulnerable to attack.

Prince Arthur asks after Princess Catherine’s status and is told she has sailed. Elizabeth informs her oldest son he’s to meet Catherine as she makes her way to Westminster. Neither King Henry nor Queen Elizabeth will accompany him, but he will have Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole (“Aunt Maggie”) in attendance.

As Prince Arthur prepares for his trip, Queen Elizabeth asks what he and Aunt Maggie discuss. Elizabeth believes Margaret would be aware of any plots against their family.

The seas are rough as Catherine of Aragon continues her trip to meet her betrothed. Catherine suffers from seasickness; however, Lina remains able to care for her mistress. When she looks for something to help the princess’ stomach, she finds Oviedo (Aaron Cobham) praying to Allah. Shocked, she reminds him they’re in service to Princess Catherine and Spain. He objects, believing he can be loyal to Princess Catherine and worship his god.

Prince Arthur makes it to Dogmersfield House where Margaret and Richard Pole are currently residing. Aunt Maggie obviously genuinely cares about the young prince, and the affection is returned. Arthur attempts to put her mind at ease, claiming his mother holds her in high esteem.

Margaret admits to her husband she misses their children and doesn’t like Dogmersfield House. She’s also unhappy Princess Catherine is arriving soon, going as far as to wish her dead. Richard reminds her Queen Elizabeth wants them to put their past behind them.

The King and Queen of England aren’t in attendance as the King’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort (Harriet Walter), prepares to greet Catherine of Aragon prior to her trip to Dogmersfield House. My Lady the King’s Mother (as she was referred to at the time) is unaware Catherine has ordered their ship to dock elsewhere, not wishing to see her other lady-in-waiting, Rosa (Nadia Parkes), continue suffering from seasickness.

The ship lands and they encounter two men who welcome them to England. Catherine asks the location of the church and is told it’s nearby. One of her men sets up an escort with the town major and as rain pours down, they continue their journey accompanied by Edward Stafford (Olly Rix), Duke of Buckingham.

Stafford scolds the Spanish party, telling them they should have stuck with the plan and landed in Southampton. Lady Margaret has had to alter her plans and will meet them at Dogmersfield. He softens his comments by complimenting Catherine, saying she and Rosa’s beauty brighten the day.

King Henry’s relieved Catherine of Aragon is now on English soil. Queen Elizabeth thinks this might indicate God is now smiling upon them.

Last minute finishing touches are taking place inside Dogmersfield House as Princess Catherine arrives on horseback. Lady Margaret greets Catherine with, “Welcome to England, child,” and their initial conversation sets the stage for later conflicts. When Lady Margaret requests they speak in Latin because isn’t proficient in Spanish, Catherine assures her she’s not a child and can speak English perfectly well.

When Catherine claims she holds the titles of both Princess of Spain and Princess of Wales, Lady Margaret begs to differ. Catherine may not call herself Princess of Wales until after the wedding. However, Catherine corrects her, reminding her the marriage was sealed by proxy while she was at sea.

Richard Pole breaks the tension, introducing himself and his wife. Catherine barely acknowledges his greeting, wanting only to enter the house and get out of her wet clothes. She wants to bathe and then take a siesta. Lady Margaret tries to squash that idea, saying they don’t sleep in the afternoon. She wants Catherine to meet Prince Arthur immediately after she changes her clothes.

Princess Catherine is having none of this. She will not meet Prince Arthur until they stand in God’s presence and exchange vows. The battle of wills continues, with Lady Margaret tossing Catherine’s words back in her face. Because their marriage is already complete, there is nothing holding Catherine back from meeting Prince Arthur. Catherine of Aragon wins this battle, telling Lady Margaret she will not meet anyone until she has had a bath and a siesta.

Rosa and Lina help Catherine from her clothes as a forlorn Catherine asks, “Where is the light?” Lina says Catherine is the light. Alone, Catherine warms herself by the fire and retrieves a gold compass. She also reads a letter from Prince Arthur who says he longs to embrace her.

Lina instructs the servants where to place Catherine of Aragon’s belongings. Lady Margaret’s confused by the supplies and flabbergasted when Lina says Princess Catherine will bathe every day. That’s unheard of, even among the English royalty.

It’s Lina’s turn to be shocked when she discovers the Spanish soldiers are going to be bunked in the stables. She tells Lady Margaret the men will be housed in the big house and not like animals. Lina reminds Lady Margaret the soldiers were brought to England as part of the Princess Catherine’s dowry.

Lina wakes Princess Catherine from her nap when she sees King Henry approaching the house. He enters and pounds on Catherine’s door, demanding she open up so he can meet her. After a few hurried moments of preparing Catherine to greet King Henry, the ruler of England enters and is immediately dressed down by Princess Catherine. She declares this is no way for a king to act and threatens to write her mother about his disrespectful behavior toward both her and Spain.

King Henry explains he simply wants to lay eyes on her after waiting so long for her arrival. He asks that she remove her veil and Princess Catherine refuses, determined to wear it until she is wed. The English customs are different, and Catherine continues to prove she’s fierce and unafraid of speaking her mind. She reminds him it doesn’t matter if she’s ugly because she’s there for the purpose of making a treaty.

Princess Catherine makes King Henry chuckle when she states England needs Spain more than Spain needs England.

With another battle under her belt, Princess Catherine removes her veil. King Henry asks that she come and meet his son and let him also lay his eyes upon her.

Princess Catherine and her ladies, along with Lady Margaret and the Poles, take a walk around the grounds. (Catherine and Arthur walk a few paces ahead, getting to know each other.) Catherine’s clearly unhappy to learn she’s moved to a rainy country, and Arthur attempts to explain the many different types of rain that falls in England. Princess Catherine doesn’t care about the semantics; she isn’t fond of so much water raining down from the heavens.

Prince Arthur attempts to change the subject, assuring Princess Catherine he’ll try and be a good husband who’s always attentive to her needs. Catherine, however, is stuck on her dislike for the rain. She wants to return to the house so that she won’t become sick, noting he’s not at all as caring as his letters made him out to be. She reminds him of what he’s written, including saying he wanted to hold her in his arms.

Prince Arthur’s stunned to hear about these letters, demanding to know if she replied. Princess Catherine realizes something’s wrong but doesn’t understand what it is as Prince Arthur rushes away.

The Spanish Princess Charlotte Hope
Charlotte Hope as Catherine of Aragon in ‘The Spanish Princess’ (Photo Credit: Starz)

Back in her room, Catherine tells Lina that Arthur did not write the letters. She’s embarrassed she shared her heart and passion with the letter-writer. Catherine truly believed she was in love, and now she wonders if it was all a sham, a trick played by some other nobleman.

During his initial meeting with Princess Catherine, King Henry had mentioned something to the effect of what was done to bring Catherine to England, and Lina, Rosa, and Catherine now believe that’s another thread in this tale of deception.

Richard and Margaret Pole finally reunite with their young children, the only people who truly bring a smile to Margaret’s face.

King Henry reports to Queen Elizabeth he’s officially met Catherine of Aragon. Elizabeth asks if Catherine’s as attractive as her portrait, and King Henry stammers when he says she is. He tells Elizabeth that Catherine has her spirit and is beautiful.

After King Henry makes his exit, Lady Margaret confides to Elizabeth that Catherine is arrogant and over-privileged. Queen Elizabeth, obviously not one to hold her tongue with her mother-in-law, believes those are perfect qualities for a queen – just not qualities Lady Margaret approves of.

Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Pole have a strained reunion, and when they meet in private Elizabeth asks Maggie to join her as she prepares to give birth. When Maggie demurs, Elizabeth gets to the point – she demands to know if Maggie’s heard of any traitors rising up against King Henry. “I tend to Arthur…that is all,” says Margaret, extremely uncomfortable with the turn this conversation’s taken.

Edward Stafford accompanies Princess Catherine to her temporary accommodations in the Tower. It’s apparently the custom before a Royal wedding, and Edward assures her the apartments will be comfortable. They run into Prince Harry (Ruairi O’Connor) and he asks if Catherine likes it here. He then reveals he’ll be leading her up the aisle for her wedding.

Catherine thanks him for his warm welcome, a genuine smile gracing her face for one of the only times in England. He wonders why she’s wearing a veil, thinking it might be to keep his brother, Arthur, from kissing her. He tells his soon-to-be sister-in-law Arthur’s afraid of girls so she doesn’t need to worry about the physical aspect of their marriage.

Prince Harry’s easily distracted and asks for Oviedo’s crossbow. He takes a shot and likes how it feels, commanding Oviedo to teach him how to use it. Edward interrupts to inform Catherine the Queen has asked to see her.

As Catherine’s leaving, Prince Harry confesses he wrote the love letters.

Margaret tells Prince Arthur he’ll make a handsome groom, but Arthur’s in a foul mood. He, of course, already figured out his brother is the one who penned the love letters. Arthur explains he tried to write Catherine but couldn’t find the words. Harry found the drafts and apparently wrote in his stead. Margaret reminds him Catherine only replied because she believed she was corresponding with him – unaware of his brother’s trickery.

Rosa and Lina discover the herbs (rosemary) for Catherine’s bath have wilted. They make their way through the dark castle at night in search of replacement herbs and run into Edward Stafford. When he asks where she’s off to, Rosa explains and then heads with Edward into the shadows to make out.

Lina’s on her own when a soldier approaches and grabs her. Oviedo stops the assault and then accompanies her to search for herbs. When she questions him about being a Muslim and drinking, he explains it’s because there’s nothing else safe to drink.

Princess Catherine and Queen Elizabeth have their first face-to-face meeting. When Catherine says King Henry was rude to her, Elizabeth disagrees. She says his behavior was due to the fact they paid a high price for her and he’s desperate. “He is a starving man and you are bread,” says Queen Elizabeth.

This is the second time a price has been mentioned and Catherine asks for an explanation. Queen Elizabeth explains two young men were killed so that they could not challenge Prince Arthur’s claim to the throne. This was done at the request of Catherine’s mother, Queen Isabella. One of the young men was Margaret Pole’s brother, Edward Plantagenet.

Edward was simple and did not understand why he had to die.

Catherine of Aragon refuses to believe this was done at her mother’s request. Queen Elizabeth assures her it’s true and that she’s revealing this secret so that Catherine realizes what’s at stake with her marriage to Prince Arthur. Princess Catherine must give birth to sons to continue their hold on the Crown.

Queen Elizabeth warns, “Do not cross me, Catherine. There is nothing I won’t do to save my boys or to save my love.” She seals her words with a kiss and departs, leaving Catherine alone to consider what she’s learned.

Lina and Rosa talk about Edward, and Lina reminds her it’s an honor to attend Princess Catherine. She also warns her against engaging in a relationship with Edward.

Catherine’s wedding day arrives and she refuses to rise from her bath to prepare. Lina sends everyone away and then recalls a meeting between Catherine and Christopher Columbus. Catherine had asked how Columbus knew he wouldn’t sail off the earth’s edge and Columbus told her to always remember where she came from. He gave her the gold compass she now cherishes.

Catherine reluctantly allows Lina to dry and dress her.

A stunning Catherine of Aragon makes her way down the carpet lined with soldiers outside the church. Prince Harry joins her at the door and removes her shoes. She asks why he wrote to her and he admits he liked her letters. “They excited me,” says her future brother-in-law.

Catherine believes Prince Harry’s admission is a show of weakness. She has power over him after he admits her letters excited him. They walk down the aisle as Catherine quietly recites, “Daughter of Spain, wife to Prince Arthur.” The episode ends as she adds, “…and soon, Queen of England.”