‘The Spanish Princess’ Bosses Talk Telling Catherine of Aragon’s Story Through the Modern Lens

Following in the vein of “The White Queen” and “The White Princess” before it, Starz limited series “The Spanish Princess” is inspired by Philippa Gregory’s novels. The story follows Catherine of Aragon, who arrives in England in the 1600s betrothed to Prince Arthur, then encounters his father, Henry VII. In adapting the story for the modern audience, let alone the modern medium of television, showrunners Emma Frost and Matthew Graham set their sights on being true to the cultural diversity recent research has revealed, while giving Catherine more “agency” than might have been allowed at the time.

Restoring the Royal Court
“History is the tale of the victors,” Frost says, and because of that, “history books are written by those in power, who were white men.” But, Graham adds, even a “cursory Google search” now proves there is a much richer history that has been whitewashed out of such books.

“Parish records in England show that hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the country had come from Ethiopia and North Africa,” he says.

In order to restore that truth to the series, Frost points out they changed Catherine’s main lady-in-waiting from Gregory’s depiction of a “slightly older, matronly Spanish woman.” “We do know is that she stayed with Catherine for 24 years and she married another African who probably came over with her. So we know there was a friendship and we know there was a love story, and so Matthew and I immediately felt that this was a very, very important thing to show politically as well as dramatically. It was part of Catherine’s history.”

Introducing an Integral Relationship
One scene Graham says they lifted in a “fairly recognizable form” from Gregory’s novel “The Constant Princess” is the moment when Henry first asks to see Catherine without her veil.

“We were drawn to this scene because it had the clashes of sex, the clashes of gender, the clashes of culture,” Graham says. “He was expecting a subservient woman, and instead she was strong and defiant. He was expecting her to parade herself before him, and instead her culture told her, ‘No, I’ve got to keep myself hidden away.’”

As Gregory wrote the scene, there were some lines that “are very unpalatable for a 21st century audience,” Frost acknowledges, such as, “Is she scarred by the pox and they did not tell me?” So while Frost and Graham felt it was essential to still capture the emotions of such a meeting, they wanted to do so in a new way.

“There’s no reason for [Henry] to be that aggressive with her,” Frost says, “so we filtered that into a man who is very anxious for her arrival because his family’s whole future hinges upon this girl being here.”

Additionally, in the book Henry is written with a very clear sexual attraction to Catherine, but the story Frost and Graham have been telling is that Elizabeth of York is “the only one Henry has ever loved” and they wanted to “stay with the emotional line we established,” Frost says.

Therefore, what Henry is attracted to in Catherine is “a strength, but also a purity of what it means to be a good monarch,” she continues. “What Henry should see in Catherine is a sense of his own lost innocence and his own lost idealism. When she looks him straight in the eye, he feels shame; he’s just barged in like a bull in a china shop, he’s been rude, and Catherine just looks at him like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ and that levels him.”

More TV

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Related 'Better Call Saul' Short Loses Emmy Nominations in Light of Category Rule Violation Here's Why Your Favorite TV Shows Weren't Nominated for Emmys Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

  • Teyonah Parris

    Teyonah Parris Cast in 'WandaVision' at Disney Plus

    “Mad Men” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” actress Teyonah Parris has been cast in Disney Plus’ “Wanda Vision” series. She will play an adult version of Monica Rambeau, a child character introduced in the film “Captain Marvel.” The announcement was made at Marvel’s Comic-Con presentation. Related 'Better Call Saul' Short Loses Emmy Nominations in [...]

  • Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx - NOS4A2

    'NOS4A2' Renewed for Season 2 at AMC

    AMC has renewed “NOS4A2” for a second season. The news was announced during the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con and ahead of the Season 1 finale. Season 2 will consist of 10 episodes and is slated to air in 2020. Related 'Better Call Saul' Short Loses Emmy Nominations in Light of Category Rule Violation [...]

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Signs Netflix Deal With Expanded Coverage

    SAG-AFTRA and streaming giant Netflix have agreed to a new three-year contract with expanded coverage for union performers. Netflix has previously employed SAG-AFTRA members under the union’s standard master contracts for television and film and had been signing on a production by production basis. Related 'Better Call Saul' Short Loses Emmy Nominations in Light of Category Rule [...]

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show photocall,

    Cara Delevingne Says Her 'Carnival Row' Character Is Pansexual, Explains Defending Taylor Swift Against Justin Bieber

    Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom’s love affair may be at the center of the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series “Carnival Row,” but the British actress doesn’t want viewers to assume her faerie character is heterosexual. “I’m a pansexual faerie,” Delevingne told Variety during an exclusive one-on-one interview at Comic-Con adding that there are other queer [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Star Charlie Barnett Joins

    'Russian Doll' Star Charlie Barnett Joins 'Arrow' Final Season

    “Russian Doll” standout Charlie Barnett is joining the “Arrowverse.” Barnett, who is having a busy year having also appeared in Netflix’s “Tales of the City,” comes on board in the series regular role of John Diggle, Jr., son of David Ramsey’s character. News of his casting was announced at the show’s farewell Comic-Con panel where things [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content