Why the Spanish Princess is the perfect show to quench your Outlander thirst
Droughtlander got you down?
Every year the Droughtlander, a.k.a. the period of time in between seasons of Outlander, seems to stretch further into the distance. This year with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying production around the world, it seems likely to last even longer. But if you’re looking for something to quench that thirst, might we suggest The Spanish Princess?
Also on Starz, The Spanish Princess was created by Matthew Graham and Emma Frost and inspired by the historical novels of Philippa Gregory. Now in its second season, it follows the story of Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope), Henry VIII’s (Ruairi O'Connor) first wife, from her arrival in England and brief first marriage to Henry’s brother to her gradual downfall at court.
Here are six reasons the Starz historical drama will help the Droughtlander pass more easily.
Who doesn’t love a good historical yarn? The Spanish Princess meets (if not exceeds) Outlander in production value, with its setting in early 16th-century England and Spain providing an expansive backdrop to work against. Filmed on location, the series offers both stunning landscapes, as well as evocative English castles and estates, for eye candy. The costumes are next level with Catherine’s gowns particularly drool-worthy. This is the Tudor court; it demands extravagance. Velvet, gold, brocade. You name it and The Spanish Princess has it. Every episode is a feast for the eyes.
Part of the interplay of historical fiction is its brushes with the truths of the past. Outlander strives for accuracy when it comes to wardrobe, sets, etc., but it’s playing with fictional characters. But when it comes to The Spanish Princess, the protagonists are all real historical people. Matthew Graham and Emma Frost do an incredible, painstaking job when it comes to accuracy. So much so, that we break down the historical observations each week in our episode recaps.
Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons we come to Outlander is for the romance. Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) are a nuanced, loving, sexy couple, but we’re also here for the show’s many love stories — from Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) and Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) to Bree (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin). Not to mention, the show never shies away from the naughty bits. The Spanish Princess is equally dotted with forbidden yearnings and steamy romances. Across both seasons, there have been ample sex-positive, titillating scenes to leave us hot around the ruff.
All of season 1 was about Catherine and Henry’s whirlwind love affair driving her to a life-changing lie. Now, in season 2, the bloom is off the Tudor rose of Catherine and Henry’s relationship, strained by infertility issues and pregnancy loss (basically the opposite response from Claire and Jamie to such trauma). But there’s plenty of other romances to keep us engaged from bonny Meg (Georgie Henley) in Scotland to Maggie Pole’s (Laura Carmichael) repressed longing to Princess Mary’s (Sai Bennett) secret affair.
Okay, fine, we admit it. Part of why we love Outlander is because we can’t get enough of hunky guys in kilts and the rugged Scottish landscape. In season 2 of The Spanish Princess, we get to spend some more time frolicking in the heather. Meg is now Queen of Scotland and while that brings much turmoil to her life, it makes for plenty of great Scottish storytelling. She even sings a Scottish folk song (see above clip) that reminds us of the Outlander theme song!
Outlander is honestly barely mediocre on the diversity front. But The Spanish Princess upends that completely with Lina (Stephanie Levi-John) and Oviedo (Aaron Cobham). Graham and Frost ran with the historical fact that Catherine of Aragon had a Black lady-in-waiting, pairing her off with one of Henry VIII’s soldiers and skilled crossbowman Oviedo. They use the characters to explore how racism in Tudor England was based on widespread mistrust of the other, but more importantly, they put people of color back in the historical record where they belong and have always been. Lina and Oviedo are spectacular, defiant champions of Black joy. In spite of the drama of the Tudor Court, they build a life together, one that is the most loving and well-adjusted of any on the show.
Women who are fierce AF
Sure we can joke about the handsome men who populate the casts of Outlander and The Spanish Princess, but the real reason to tune in is the fierce, powerful women at their center. In Outlander, Claire is inspiring, a nurse turned doctor unafraid to pursue what she wants across literal time and space. She refuses to back down in the face of any challenge.
Catherine is much the same. History has painted her as a dowdy, cast-off wife. But she was a warrior queen. She fought for the crown she believed she was born to and the man she loved, and no matter her obstacles – be it plague, lies about her virginity, or infidelity – she kept fighting. Season 2 has even seen her taking to the battlefield in full armor while pregnant. There’s a reason this show’s tagline is “Fight Like a Woman.” And we need more heroines like Claire and Catherine on our screens.
The Spanish Princess airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.
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