The lives of the Tudors and six wives of Henry VIII have been well-trod in pop culture, but The Spanish Princess is here to throw all your assumptions out the window.
As evidenced in the exclusive trailer above, the series follows a young Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) who comes to England determined to fulfill her destiny to become Queen, no matter the cost. “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,” co-showrunner Emma Frost previously told EW. “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.”
Hope echoes this sentiment, saying this role gave her new insight into someone she thought she knew from history classes growing up in Britain. “I didn’t know anything about Catherine when she was younger and I was really excited because there’s this young woman who is really powerful and strong and passionate, and I’ve never known that side of her,” she tells EW. “It’s really interesting when you get to take a period of history that people think they know and show them a whole different version of it.”
The series, which premieres May 5 on Starz, is based on Philippa Gregory’s novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse, which follow the lives of Catherine and Henry’s aunt Maggie Pole (Laura Carmichael) respectively. Since the explosive success of The Other Boleyn Girl, Gregory has unearthed the inner lives of numerous historical women, which Frost has previously brought to television with Starz’s The White Princess and The White Queen.
“She is excavating untold women’s stories and if you look at the history books, the women are completely eliminated,” said Frost of Gregory’s work. “History is a story of what a lot of successful white men did, and [Philippa] does the legwork and really digs into these forgotten stories. For most of these women, all that exists are tiny fragments. All that we know is when they were born, when they died, how many children they had, and who they married. But what she does from those scant details is spin a narrative.”
Actor Ruairi O’Connor, who portrays young Prince Harry before he becomes Henry VIII, stresses how crucial the female point-of-view is to understanding Harry’s story. “When history skews so heavily towards the male point of view, it doesn’t fully represent the male point of view either,” he explains. “It’s a very selective telling of history and to tell Henry VIII’s story without going through his grandmother Margaret Beaufort and his mother, who was incredibly important to him, and his first early romance with Catherine of Aragon — there’s a lot left out there that gives a lot of context to who he becomes later.”
The Spanish Princess is all about shining a light on lesser-known stories. The series also centers on the lives of people of color in Tudor England, particularly members of the Spanish court who traveled with Catherine. In addition to telling the tale of Catherine’s early days in England, the death of her first husband Prince Arthur (Angus Imrie), and her intoxicating romance with Henry, we see the true story of crossbow maker Oviedo (Aaron Cobham) and Catalina de Cardones (Stephanie Levi-John), an African Iberian woman who served as Catherine’s lady-in-waiting for 24 years.
We all know the story of Henry VIII as a tyrannical despot who callously made his way through six wives — but The Spanish Princess is Catherine’s story. And it’s the true story of their romance, one which lasted over twenty years before Anne Boleyn entered the picture. “It was a real love story between the two of them, and I had no idea about that,” says Hope. “He was genuinely really obsessed with her and did everything he could to get her.”
The Spanish Princess is anything but history as usual.
Watch the trailer above for more. The Spanish Princess premieres May 5 on Starz at 8 p.m.