For The Spanish Princess, we’ve reached the end of the season, but for Catherine of Aragon her journey is just beginning…
The headstrong, Spanish princess has spent an entire season navigating the whims of her heart and her utmost commitment to fulfilling what she perceives as her destiny — becoming Queen of England. Through the death of her first husband, some well-maintained lies about the state of her virginity, errant marriage proposals from Henry VII (Elliot Cowan), and Lady Margaret Beaufort’s (Harriet Walter) determination to bring her down, Catherine has staid her course. Philippa Gregory didn’t name the book that inspired this series The Constant Princess for nothing.
Sunday night’s finale saw Catherine finally seal her victory — with Henry VII’s sudden death (we haven’t seen a cough that deadly since Satine in Moulin Rouge!), Harry (Ruairi O’Connor) is named King and thereby, free to choose Catherine as his wife. He does, and then immediately deposes his grandmother, whose increasing madness makes it clear the bloom has long since gone off her Tudor rose, particularly when she orders the swift execution of Edmund Dudley (Morgan Jones). Harry and Catherine help rescue Lina (Stephanie Levi-John) and Oviedo (Aaron Cobham) from another of Lady Margaret’s plots. Catherine even scores a victory for Maggie (Laura Carmichael), convincing Harry to free her from the Tower and clear any blot of treason from her name.
Everything she’s ever dreamed of is within her grasp by episode’s end — she is about to marry Harry in a private ceremony at Greenwich and will subsequently be crowned Queen of England alongside her husband. But before she can achieve marital bliss, she receives some disturbing news — her father, Ferdinand, claims that Harry has slept with her sister, Joanna. Catherine confronts Harry about it, but he swears it’s not true — but Catherine also promises him she’s still a virgin, so are they both lying about getting frisky with each other’s siblings?
Before we can delve too deeply into this question, Catherine is striding off down the corridor toward her uncertain future. A future that will be explored now that The Spanish Princess has been picked up for a second season. And perhaps then, we’ll get an answer to how one woman’s virginity could be the fodder for some of the most potent drama in history (for reals, can we just let a woman live?)
In the wake of this startling revelation and ambiguous ending, we called up Charlotte Hope, Catherine of Aragon herself, to dive into what Catherine might be thinking in those final moments and how she can justify this monumental lie. So let’s forget about those other five wives in Henry’s future, wrap ourselves in ermine, and delve into The Spanish Princess finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Catherine finally gets what she wants – Harry’s love, his hand in marriage, and fulfilling her destiny to become Queen – is it satisfying or bittersweet for her?
CHARLOTTE HOPE: It’s both to be honest. There’s no denying that she really, really loves him, and she’s wanted this and fought for this for the whole series, but it’s that thing [where] you get the thing you’ve been dreaming about forever, and suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, is this actually what I want? And is this the thing that I thought it was going to be? And is this person that I thought it was?” And maybe it’s not. But my favorite moment in the finale is the last scene. That was such a f–king joy to shoot. Both Ruairi and I got to play with this unease. There’s a really deep connection between them, but they’re becoming adults now and it’s not a teenage crush. A lot of their relationship has been very fueled by desire and energy and connection and now they’re looking at each other as two adults, two monarchs, and going, “I don’t know what I’m signing up for here.”
Harry assures Catherine he didn’t sleep with Joanna, but she tells him the same about Arthur, which the audience knows is a lie. Do you think Catherine believes Harry, knowing she herself is lying?
She’s too far down the line to turn round now. And she really does love him. So, she wants to believe him. Catherine’s as much head as she is heart. Also, she’s set her mind on this, and Catherine, if nothing else, is grit, through and through. This is what she wanted and she went after it, and now she’s here and she’s got it. She’s not going to admit, even to herself, let alone to anyone else, that maybe it’s not the thing that [she thought it was]. We know she’s got her doubts; she has that scene with Lina, but she’s Machiavellian as well. This is what suited her plan.
The final scene is Catherine walking out after this bittersweet exchange with Harry and striding to her destiny down this hallway – what is going through her head in those final moments?
I found that scene really emotional to shoot actually. It was one of our last days, and we shot it in Gloucester and I just remember running through that cloister. I remember being really overwhelmed by the shoot coming to an end and the journey that I’d been on with Catherine. It’s probably a similar thing for Catherine. Everything she’s been dreaming of since she was a little girl has come true. She’s had to fight for it, so her sense of victory is deep inside her, but she’s also terrified and scared and excited. That’s the really beautiful thing for me getting to play Catherine is that she really feels absolutely everything. She’s one of those characters that every emotion beats in her heart, pulses through her veins all the time…Mainly, adrenaline is flooding her body. It’s a mixture of excitement and fear and feeling this complete thrill, but also feeling suffocated. When she breaks out into the cloister, it’s like desperately needing to breathe and needing to be in the air. She doesn’t know what she’s feeling; it’s just all of the emotions running through her body and her not being able to compute any of them really.
Catherine has gone from being completely at odds with Maggie Pole to being her literal savior. For Catherine, how satisfying was that – and what do you think pushed her to that point when it wasn’t necessarily the most politically expedient choice?
This show, more than anything, is a show about sisterhood. It’s a show about women joining forces as much as they can, especially when they’re in crisis, to work together and help each other. Catherine and Maggie find a real common ground in how badly they’re treated by the Tudors and how much they both feel like pawns, and their only power is to karmically try and drag each other out of the mud. I love that relationship between Maggie and Catherine because so often in shows, female characters are pitted against each other or they’re best friends forever and actually this is a relationship that develops and changes. Yeah, they might not have liked each other that much to start out, but they’ve managed to work through that, and now, they’ve formed this bond that was really forged in blood and sweat and tears. That’s a quite amazing relationship.
Lina has now promised Oviedo she will start putting their relationship ahead of Catherine.
I know! Bros over hoes, I don’t approve.
Is there any piece of Catherine that understands that? Now that we know there will be more show, how does that complicate this sisterhood they’ve built?
It’s a real mixture for Catherine. All the way through her relationship with Lina is as much about they’re friends and they’re sisters and they’re there for each other, but they also have their duties and Catherine has her duty as a princess and a queen. She does recognize that Lina has a duty to Oviedo that sometimes is going to trespass on her relationship with Catherine. That’s quite difficult ground for both of them to navigate, but again female friendships can be complicated and that makes them more real, not less.
Which of Catherine’s wedding dresses did you prefer – Arthur’s or this one?
The first one. They’re both really beautiful, but the first one is truly the best thing I’ve ever worn. But maybe that’s fitting — the first one doesn’t result in my subsequent divorce and demise.
Catherine has built her entire life now on the foundation of this lie. How does she justify that to herself? As she goes forward, we know she’s someone who believes in destiny and fate, so how does it complicate things for her?
It’s really difficult for her, but, first and foremost, the thing she believes in most strongly is that her destiny is to be Queen of England. And also, she really knows how much she loves Harry. She deeply, deeply loves him. She’s willing to fudge any of the facts to make that reality work for her. When Arthur dies and she’s been so sure she was going to be Queen of England, she then re-evaluates and she’s like, “Ok well, God wants me to be the Queen and if Arthur’s dead, then he must intend for me to marry Harry and this is what his plan for me is.” I do think the religious devotion of these people was so strong, so much more powerful than what I can imagine today, that that’s a real kind of driving force for her. But again, those driving forces are really powerful at the beginning because they’re driving you and then once you’ve reached the destination, that’s when it starts to unravel a bit. You’ve got to analyze how you got there, and that’s when it starts to become a bit more complicated.
You got to have a brief moment with a really young Anne Boleyn this season. Was that eerie? Gratifying?
It was really depressing. She was like 7. I was like, “Oh man, now I feel old.”
Are you looking forward to perhaps approaching that part of her story next season?
No! Of course not! Absolutely not because they’re going to pick some really fit 18-year-old model, so absolutely not.
Where does Catherine go from here – she’s won, but at a cost, and how does that impact how she approaches life going forward?
In her essence, she’s deeply determined and she’s got a lot of grit, and that’s what will carry her through in the next season.