Succession crises, steamy sex, a battle for the soul of a nation—must be another installment of The Spanish Princess. The Starz drama returns for a second season on October 11 to conclude the tale of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, and ELLE.com has your exclusive look at the first trailer. Though history tells us how this royal love story ends, it’s Catherine’s side—complete with righteous indignance, well-intended deceit, and tragic upheaval—that paints a bold portrait of a woman history loves to mock.
“The history books start with the end of any story Catherine could possibly have,” co-showrunner Emma Frost tells ELLE.com. “This unwanted, middle-aged, rather pious wife who needs to be set aside in favor of young, sexy Anne Boleyn. That’s not her story.”
The first season of The Spanish Princess exploded that narrative, casting Catherine (Charlotte Hope) as a young royal more than capable of making her own decisions—including one that would rearrange the shape of the British monarchy. A quick refresher: The real-life Catherine, daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, was born to marry Prince Arthur, the firstborn son of the King and Queen of England. But less than five months after their wedding, he succumbed to illness. Catherine maintained their marriage was never consummated, and wed Arthur’s brother, Henry VIII, seven years. In The Spanish Princess’s retelling, Catherine had, in fact, slept with Arthur before his death, but desperate to preserve Spain’s alliance with England and establish herself on the British throne, she lied—and won Henry’s (Ruairi O’Connor) heart. For what it’s worth, history shows the love between the king and his first wife was very much real. “All the evidence is that Catherine was the love of his life,” says Frost. “He would only have married her if he loved her, because there were much better wives on paper than this secondhand wife of his brother.”
The new season opens with Catherine and Henry thriving in a Camelot of their own making: settled on the throne, with the joy of a newborn son and a burgeoning alliance with Spain thanks to Catherine’s father. But family tragedy and political betrayal threaten their happy ending, and Catherine rushes to repair the damage before it shatters her future. “We start with her having everything she ever wanted, which allows us to examine the relationship between gender and power,” Frost says. “How her success or failure as a woman impacts her ability to exercise or retain that power.”
Catherine’s domestic and political lives merge to produce one of the most striking images of the season: the queen pregnant and leading English troops into battle in her husband’s absence. It’s a moment based in history: Though the real Catherine of Aragon didn’t fight, she rode onto the battlefield fully armored at seven months pregnant, delivering a rousing speech to inspire her army against Scottish forces.
“It’s a million miles away from what people think they know about Catherine of Aragon,” Frost says. “We write her a real Henry V at Agincourt,” co-showrunner Matthew Graham adds of the onscreen speech.
As the trailer shows, Catherine’s inability to give birth to a living heir to the British throne plays an integral role in her demise. It also drives a wedge between herself and her greatest ally, her beloved lady-in-waiting Lina (Stephanie Levi-John). “It’s a very modern resonance in tracking female friendship and how you navigate when your best friend has the thing that you want,” Frost says.
Overall, it’s a season rife with heartbreak, as Catherine struggles to keep her family, marriage, and an entire country at peace. As we know, she ultimately fails. “By the end we may find her as somebody we recognize from the history books,” Frost adds, “but hopefully transform everyone’s perception of who she was, what she achieved in her life, and what she stood for.”
The Spanish Princess Part 2 premieres Sunday, October 11 on Starz.
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