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Spanish Princess Last Episode: Why Contradict History?

I was very disappointed in the last episode of Spanish Princess. The truth about Katherine of Aragon is both dramatic and a testament to the strong woman she was—the woman Spanish Princess painted in earlier episodes.  In past episodes, the truth has been embroidered a bit—people appearing at the wrong times and places, doing things they didn't do, for example—but the big picture was reasonably accurate. In the last episode, though, Starz re-wrote history in fundamental ways, then dressed it up with odd, fake torture devices and murder attempts to make it more dramatic, then destroyed the strong and historically accurate character of Katherine that they earlier created.

 

 In Starz' "Peace" episode, Katherine gave up. In real life, she didn't.  And because she didn't, the history of the English-speaking world changed enormously and irreversibly. It's a shame Starz didn't show that.

 

Here's the reality: Katherine fought vigorously against Henry's attempts to divorce her, across Europe and for a number of years. She left Henry's household only in obedience to Henry's orders. Even then, she refused to answer those who would not address her as Queen. In doing this, she was also defending the legitimacy of her daughter Mary, who was fiercely devoted to her. The Pole family also remained faithful to her, an unswerving loyalty that ultimately cost Margaret Pole her head.

 

 Katherine also testified forcefully under oath, in front of high church officials, that she was a virgin when she married Henry, and his obedient wife throughout their marriage. If Margaret Pole had told Henry that Katherine was not a virgin, as portrayed in the final Spanish Princess episode, Margaret would have been forced to testify at that "Blackfriars"canon law trial. Henry sought records from all over Europe, hoping to show that Katherine's marriage to his brother was consummated. He found circumstantial evidence—Arthur bragging about being "in Spain," after marrying Katherine, for example.  But nothing in Katherine's communications with others that contradicted her.

 

The drama I expected to see was the Blackfriars canon law trial. Starz not only ignored it—they contradicted it. Had Katherine not doggedly pushed for it, that trial would never have happened.  Because it did happen—and Henry lost—he was forced to break with the Catholic Church, a decision of enormous historical consequence.

 

Starz also manufactured Margaret Pole's betrayal of Katherine, and the story that King Henry confiscated Margaret's properties along with Buckingham's. Total fiction. We will never know if Margaret's silence about Katherine's virginity was because Katherine told the truth, or because Margaret was loyal to her beloved mistress, or because she had no idea what happened between Katherine and Arthur. Whatever the case, the way Starz treated Margaret Pole in the last episode tarnishes her reputation, along with Katherine's.

 

And Sir Thomas (later Saint Thomas) More, author of the "Utopia" that promoted religious tolerance, setting up a personal torture device for Protestants in his home? A few were burned while he was Chancellor, with his approval, and he was accused of personally whipping Protestants—which he bitterly denied. Isn't that enough? Why exaggerate the sins of a respected historical figure?

 

Starz also has Henry trying to murder Katherine, and Katherine herself magically finding a crossbow and almost murdering Henry. And one of the Boleyn girls mysteriously stripping herself naked in front of Henry, standing upright in a dark courtyard. (I couldn't tell which it was—Henry bedded Mary Boleyn, and possibly the girls' mother, before his infatuation with Anne.) Does Starz think women's dresses were constructed with Velcro seams in Tudor England, or was this a dream sequence that I misunderstood? Whatever the case, it was unbelievable, cheesy and unnecessary.

 

It's one thing to embellish history, or to take one side in a historical controversy—I do that in all my "real history mysteries," including just-published Cannon Conspiracy, set early in Henry and Katherine's reign.  Philippa Gregory and other popular authors of good historical fiction do the same. It's quite another, though, to create a completely false narrative that contradicts an undisputed and significant historic record.

 

I am aware that both Starz and Philippa Gregory, the author of the Spanish Princess novels, took the position that Katherine lied when she maintained that her marriage to Henry's older brother was never consummated.  Historians have debated the point endlessly, and we will never know the truth. Personally, I cannot see a woman as devout as Katherine lying under oath before high church officials on this point, and doing it passionately, consistently and well. Her lies would have damned her, according to the religious thinking of the day. And why do it, when she could have relied on the papal dispensation that her father and Henry VII obtained for her marriage to Henry? According to her biographer Patrick Williams, that papal dispensation assumed that her first marriage may have been consummated. It therefore made the question of her virginity irrelevant, except in the mind of Henry VIII.

 

Ironically, Henry's sister Margaret got her divorce, a fact not mentioned in Starz' portrayal of her battles with her first husband Angus. (Her cannons actually did fire on him, though she probably wasn't lighting the fuses. He survived.) It seems Angus was already betrothed when he married Margaret, standard grounds for annulment. However, Margaret did not loot her brother's treasury, and was not quite the firebrand shown by Starz. Still, she was a strong and adroit woman, who managed to maneuver between rival Scottish clans to see her son crowned king. She and her second husband become respected advisors to him. That child's grandson would unite the thrones of England and Scotland as James I, after the death of Elizabeth I.

 

I wish Starz had been as fair to Katherine as the were to Margaret.  And I'm sorry the series did not end as strongly as it started.  But speaking of starting: if you want a good picture of Katherine and Henry at the beginning of their promising reign, try Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon and the Cannon Conspiracy, lavishly illustrated with period  art and portraits, FREE to Amazon Unlimited members and otherwise only $2.99. It's available at https://www.amazon.com/Maryann-philip/e/B009WCCZ6O/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1  You will also learn the real history of Henry's first affair, get a glimpse of Tudor Advent, Christmas and New Year's customs, and watch my winsome protagonist avoid Henry's sexual advances and work with Queen Katherine to thwart an early threat to his reign.

 

For summaries of what was historically accurate in all the episodes, check my blogs at https//maryannphilip.com/blog. While you are there, check out my other real history mysteries set during this time period, that average 4+ stars on Amazon, after more than 225 reviews.  

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"Faith" on Spanish Princess: Is It Faithful to the Real History?

We see the roots of future English violence over religion in the "Faith" episode of Spanish Princess, an odd choice of emphasis. It is mystifying that a series so centered on sex does not mention Henry's affair with Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn. That affair was well-known by the time Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, was tried for treason in 1520. (Starz also ignored Henry's early affair with Buckingham's sister, the only affair Katherine ever made a public fuss about. If you want to read about that or about Tudor Christmas customs, my latest "real history mystery" covers both—and also explains why Katherine lost all those babies. Find CANNON CONSPIRACY and other blogs about Spanish Princess at maryannphilip.com, or at https://www.amazon.com/Maryann-Philip/e/B009WCCZ6O?

ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1606153787&sr=8-2  

 

Is this episode historically accurate?  Only in the broadest sense. Biggest falsehoods: I am aware of no evidence that Queen Margaret somehow managed to raid the English treasury, though she did scandalize Henry and Katherine by seeking (and ultimately obtaining!) a divorce from her adulterous husband. Nor did Queen Katherine ever miscarry in a hallway, much less attended only by Buckingham.  Her last known pregnancy, a stillborn daughter, occurred two years before Buckingham's trial.

 

As for that trial: Starz got the essential accusation and end result right (treason, beheading) but most else wrong.

 

Here is background you need to understand the real history: Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was the richest man in England—perhaps even richer than Henry—and a potential rival for Henry's throne, because he was a direct male descendant of the youngest son of King Edward III. In fact, if you look at lineage (which CANNON CONSPIRACY lays out for you) the Tudor claim to the throne was very weak—something Buckingham pointed out, a bit too loudly, when Henry VIII ascended to the throne. So there were murmurings about his treasonous leanings from the beginning. By 1520, he had linked himself with all the other powerful families of England through adroit marriages, which made him even more of a threat.

 

While he was one of Henry's tennis partners and a member of his Council, Buckingham often skipped those meetings. When he showed up, he clashed with Wolsey, whom he loudly despised as lowborn. In fact, he once dumped water on Wolsey. Big mistake.

 

Historical documents show that Henry himself instigated the close watch on Buckingham that provided the (weak) evidence for treason at his ultimate trial. Buckingham was more threatening to Henry by then, simply because Katherine had not produced a male heir and looked unlikely to do so. And Henry likely had covetous designs on Buckingham's wealth.

 

The essence of the treason claim: Buckingham had paid too much attention to the predictions of a monk who said Henry would die without male issue and Buckingham would ascend the throne. There were no insinuations that Buckingham was seen in Katherine's rooms. In fact, Katherine's attitude towards his trial is unknown, according to the three biographies I have consulted.  "She kept her own counsel," says Julia Fox, who wrote Sister Queens (about Katherine and Juana).  Little wonder: Buckingham was a threat to her daughter Mary. However she felt about him personally, his death indirectly benefitted her and her child.

 

I think I have figured out where Starz' information on her attitude comes from, however: Shakespeare. He co-wrote a play on Henry VIII, little known and seldom performed, that has Katherine defending Buckingham. Shakespeare's history is shakey (pun!) but always entertaining. 

 

There is only one Spanish Princess episode left, and so much to cover! Queen Margaret's future history alone is worth a miniseries. She was scandalously entertaining and ultimately successful: her grandson finally united the thrones of England and Scotland.  We're also starting to see the real Thomas More, dedicated scholar and persecutor of Protestants –thank goodness Margaret Pole does as well. Again, his history could be a miniseries of its own. So could Margaret Pole's.

 

I wonder what Starz will do next?

 

Primary source for this blog:  Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII by Robert Hutchinson (St. Martin's Press, 2012 Ed.)  

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"The Field of the Cloth of Gold" Episode of Spanish Princess: What's the Real History?

Starz' "Spanish Princess" is like a chocolate chip cookie. The wonderful chocolate nuggets are the real history, surrounded by a tasty but completely fictional dough.

 

Here are the real historical nuggets, sorted for you. For more such nuggets, see my blogs on the previous episodes, at https://maryannphilip.com/blog .

 

The "Cloth of Gold" episode portrays events that occurred between 1517, the year of the "Apprentice Riots," and the "Field of the Cloth of Gold" itself in 1520.  Starz does not mention two things needed to separate fact from fiction here: first, Katherine's father, Ferdinand of Spain, died the year Mary was born (1516), and the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian, died in 1519. The grandson of these two monarchs then became Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain.

 

Starz brought him to England as "Charles V" in the first "Camelot" episode, when he was only nine years old and just plain "Duke Charles."  That was total fiction, as was his appearance at the "Cloth of Gold" in this episode.  He wasn't there.  But he did meet briefly with King Henry and Queen Katherine—for the first time in all their lives—in Dover when the English monarchs were on their way to "the Cloth of Gold" summit.  Charles himself was en route between Spain and "the Low Countries" where he had been raised by his paternal family.  By inheritance and election by German princes, he now ruled the largest empire since Roman times, incorporating much of Europe. (His mother, Katherine's sister Juana, remained locked in a tower in Spain, allegedly hopelessly insane.)

 

At that time of the Cloth of Gold summit, Katherine's daughter Mary was already betrothed to the Dauphin of France—and had been, since age 2. So the supposed negotiations between Henry and Francis over this betrothal were fictional, as was the insult from Francis that triggered the wrestling match between the two monarchs portrayed in "Cloth of Gold."  The wrestling match did happen, however. And Henry did lose, to his considerable embarrassment. There was also a great deal of jousting and other knight-in-shining-armor stuff, which Starz does not portray. The real "Field of the Cloth of Gold" was famous primarily for the staggering amount of money the two kings spent, showing off and being studiously polite to each other. Starz does not capture this, likely because they simply didn't have the budget for it.

 

Starz also flipped these events with "the Apprentice Riots" which occurred three years earlier.  According to Queen Katherine's biographer Patrick Williams, Wolsey, King Henry and Queen Katherine orchestrated the scene where Katherine begged Henry to be merciful to those who participated in the riots, after the ringleaders had been hanged and cut in quarters.  The idea was to show the Queen as empathic and the King as merciful, and it worked well. Their popularity soared, as Starz hints.  But the royal family was never endangered by these riots, which were indeed directed against foreigners perceived as taking English jobs. Mary—who was only a year old—was not kidnapped and witnessed nothing of these events, even as an infant.

 

Starz is getting back to the truth in one respect: both Queen Katherine and Lady Margaret took great care to see that Princess Mary received an excellent education, something both of them had themeselves, though educated women were rare at the time. It is also true that Princess Mary was later betrothed to Charles V, and eventually married his son.

 

There are only two more episodes, and a great deal left to happen! I'm wondering why the last one is called "Peace." I won't spoil the ending, for those who don't know it. I do hope Starz lets Katherine find peace.

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STARZ UNFAIR TO KATHERINE, WOLSEY AND HENRY IN THE "PLAGUE" EPISODE OF SPANISH PRINCESS

As observed in my earlier blogs on SPANISH PRINCESS, Starz gets the major historical events right, but leaves out or fictionalizes many (very entertaining!) details. Here is a breakdown of the 11/8 "Plague" episode, if you care to separate facts from fiction.

 

 From the "real' history (my specialty, as a writer of "real history mysteries") we know that "Plague" occurs during 1515 (when Louis XII died, reportedly from too much sex, and Mary promptly wed Charles Brandon), 1516 (when Katherine gave birth to Mary), 1517 (when Queen Margaret discovered her husband's affair with Jane Stewart), and 1519 (when Bessie Blount gave birth to King Henry's first surviving son).  Much was simplified and major facts were left out: Charles Brandon's previous two wives and Margaret's daughter by Angus, for example.  (See my blog illustrated with Mary and Charles' wedding portrait at  https://www.maryannphilip.com/blog for details.)  But the basic history is correct, including Thomas Wolsey's meteoric rise to become the second most powerful man in England.

 

However, Starz was unfair to Queen Katherine, Cardinal Wolsey and to a lesser extent, King Henry VIII, at least in my opinion.  

 

Before discussing that unfairness, let's be clear on the fiction in "Plague": first, Bessie Blount – a legendary beauty, inexplicably portrayed as very plain by Starz– was hustled away from the court as soon as her pregnancy began to show. Katherine was nowhere near when Bessie gave birth, much less brandishing a knife to do an episiotomy so she could carry a newborn son to Henry.  And William Compton—who was NOT Lady Margaret Pole's suitor, because he was already married—did not die of "the plague" then, much less get dragged off and buried by Thomas More and Lena's fictional husband.  He died more than ten years later, during a "plague" of the mysterious "sweating sickness" that killed many in Tudor England. Starz has evidently borrowed from events in 1528 to promote the fictional romance between Lady Margaret Pole and Thomas More, addressed in my blog  illustrated with Henry's armor at https://www.maryannphilip.com/blog .   

 

I see why Starz invented the Lady Margaret-Thomas More romance, perhaps.  More on that below.  

 

Here's why Starz has been unfair to Thomas Wolsey, Queen Katherine, and Henry VIII himself, in my opinion:  Wolsey was a very able administrator and statesman, whom Starz portrays as corrupt, slow-witted and nasty to the Queen. The fact is, King Henry was smart to rely on him—and Henry himself smarter and far less arbitrary than Starz paints him. Wolsey became rapidly wealthy not due to French bribes, but to numerous church benefices–literally, sources of income—that piled on as Henry pushed him to bishop, archbishop and finally cardinal.  While this is a form of corruption, it was a worldwide corruption of the existing church, ultimately one of the causes of the Protestant Reformation and Henry's version of it, which transferred Catholic Church wealth to the Crown.

 

The relationship between Queen Katherine and Wolsey during this period is mysterious in the histories, but there is evidence that they cooperated (planning for the Battle of Flodden, for example—see my blog illustrated with a picture of Henry's armor at https://www.maryannphilip.com/blog ).  Promoted by Henry because of his many talents, Wolsey was certainly not stupid enough to be rude to the Queen. He was undoubtedly hated by many of Henry's other councilors, if only because of his "low birth."  But if Katherine felt as they did, she kept it to herself.

 

Necessarily, though, as Wolsey's power rose, Katherine's diminished. Wolsey wasn't the only reason, however.  Starz has not mentioned most of Katherine's known pregnancies: seven, including one false pregnancy, between 1510 and 1518. With the exception of the false pregnancy, this counts only those she carried to term or nearly to term. Constantly pregnant, she gained weight and aged prematurely, something Starz does not show us. When "Plague" occurs, her glamor is mostly gone. She may also have been carrying a fatal illness, thanks to Henry—read the first pages of CANNON CONSPIRACY to see what it was, here:  https://www.amazon.com/Henry-VIII-Katherine-Aragon-Machiavelli-ebook/dp/B08KSKXW2S/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Maryann+Philip&qid=1604341142&sr=8-2 . (Eventually I'll address the circumstantial evidence supporting this theory in this blog. For now, you'll have to read the Afterword in CANNON CONSPIRACY to find the evidence.)

 

Katherine was aware of and angry about Henry's adulteries from the first, contrary to Starz' portrayal. While infidelity was typical behavior for monarchs of that era—Katherine's father, among others—her marriage was undoubtedly fraying because of it. Henry also bedded more women than Starz acknowledges during Katherine's pregnancies, perhaps because she was unavailable to him sexually until she was "churched" after she gave birth—a Tudor custom explored in my book, CANNON CONSPIRACY and discussed in my blog  illustrated with Henry's armor, at https://www.maryannphilip.com/blog .  (By the way, CANNON CONSPIRACY lays out the Tudor customs around royal and upperclass births, all of which were attended by skilled midwives.  Starz' consistent portrayal of ladies-in-waiting attending births in hallways has no basis in fact.)

 

Starz was also unfair to Queen Katherine in portraying her as cold towards her only child. By all accounts, Queen Katherine was a loving mother to her daughter Mary.  We also know that Mary was extremely fond of her, an attitude that seems unlikely if she was shunned as a small child. It is also well documented that together, Queen Katherine and Margaret Pole—both very educated women for that era—oversaw Mary's excellent education and preparation for her future as Queen. (Margaret Pole was appointed as Mary's governess in 1520, when Mary was four.)

 Like them, Thomas More was an early proponent of women's education, insisting on it for his own daughters even though it was very controversial at the time.  I suspect that Starz has created the fiction of a romantic relationship between Lady Margaret and Thomas More (identified as such in my blog illustrated with the Princess Mary-Charles Brandon wedding portrait) in order to emphasize their agreement on women's education in later episodes.  We'll see.

 

While Starz does not emphasize Katherine or Margaret's religiosity, history reveals them as very pious women, just as Thomas (later Saint Thomas) More was an intensely pious man. It is probably no coincidence that the future Queen Mary grew up fervently Catholic—just like them.  Starz, in the "Plague" episode, shows us the roots of future tragic conflict without touching this religious aspect. That is understandable, because piety is not entertaining. But I wonder if they can continue to pull it off.

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"The Other Woman" in Starz' Spanish Princess: What is Real History, and What Is NOT

Episode 4 of Starz' Spanish Princess, "The Other Woman," again gets the essential history right but plays with the human details. There is little real history in this episode, and therefore a lot of romantic fiction.

 

What Starz got right: first, Queen Margaret did secretly marry Angus, reluctantly relinquish her sons, and escape to Henry's protection in England because she feared for her life. All the details in the episode are wrong, but the result is correct. Her oldest son becomes the grandfather of Mary Queen of Scots and great grandfather of James I, Queen Elizabeth I's anointed heir and the monarch who united England and Scotland and thus brought peace between them thereafter. Mostly.

 

The remainder of Margaret's story is racy and bizarre enough that I hope Starz will simply document the truth in future episodes. 

 

Second, "The Other Woman" documents the ascendancy of Thomas Wolsey, wisely relied on by Henry VIII because Wolsey was a brilliant and enormously capable man—not the foolish misogynist pictured by Starz. Henry's Council, all from ancient families, despised Wolsey for his low birth and power. While Queen Katherine may have felt the same, the real histories document only cooperation between them (before the Battle of Flodden, for example, discussed in my blog on the "Flodden" episode) at this time. 

 

We can date "The Other Woman" episode to 1516, when Margaret fled Scotland, Katherine gave birth to Mary and Bessie Blount became Henry's next mistress, probably during that pregnancy. But Starz stuck some of the earlier and later history into "The Other Woman"—and inevitably got most of the details wrong in the process.

 

Where to begin in identifying the fiction in this episode?  Probably five years earlier, in 1510, when Henry's affair with Anne Hastings actually occurred, during Katherine's first pregnancy and "confinement." (Starz skipped that entirely—Katherine's first stillborn was a daughter. She also had another stillborn son in 1514.) There was a well-documented explosion between Katherine and Henry at that time, when she found out about Anne. Details, along with what actually happened to queens during "confinement"  are in my book, CANNON CONSPIRACY, available through the link below. Anne was bundled off to a convent by her husband and never reinstated as lady-in-waiting to the Queen.  She had eight children by Lord Hastings—at least three by the time of this episode—so her marriage was hardly sexless. William Compton covered for them during her affair with Henry, and was himself accused of living with her eleven years later, in 1527—a mysterious and unproved accusation, since both remained married to their respective spouses.

 

Those true events are the likely basis for Starz' fiction that Lady Margaret fobbed Compton off on Anne Hastings.  We know Henry did NOT try to marry Lady Margaret off to Compton, ever, because Compton was already married, as documented fact. Neither did Margaret flirt with Sir Thomas More, at least then, because he was never her son's tutor and not yet active at court. That comes later. (See my blog on the "Grief" episode for more on this point.) It is true, however, that Margaret was well-educated and that Thomas More promoted womens' education by raising erudite daughters. So they had something in common. But they could not have carried on a flirtation in 1516 because More was not there.

 

Why did Katherine have all those stillbirths, and all Henry's children except for Elizabeth die young, the boys in their teens and small, constantly ill Mary at 45? Why did Anne Boleyn have three miscarriages before she was beheaded?  And why did Katherine die before Anne Boleyn did, and Bessie Blount also die young? There is a simple though disputed explanation, which you can learn FREE by reading the first pages of A CANNON CONSPIRACY, available at https://www.amazon.com/Henry-VIII-Katherine-Aragon-Machiavelli-ebook/dp/B08KSKXW2S/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Maryann+Philip&qid=1604341142&sr=8-2  (Just tap the picture of the book, for access to the FREE pages.) For a summary of the circumstantial evidence supporting that theory, though, you'll have to buy the e-book—or get it FREE if you have KindleUnlimited—and check the Afterword. CANNON CONSPIRACY is full of wonderful portraits from that era, including the one featured in this blog. Like my other "real history mysteries,"  it averages 4 out of 5 stars in early reviews.  And it's only $2.99. Please write a review if you enjoy it! 


 

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THE REAL HISTORY OF PRINCESS MARY TUDOR and OTHER EVENTS in the STARZ "GRIEF" EPISODE on SPANISH PRINCESS

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SOME REAL HISTORY and SOME FICTION in SPANISH PRINCESS EPISODE 2

As in Episode 1, Starz got the broad historical outline right in Episode 2. Henry did indeed leave Katherine behind as Regent and therefore Commander in Chief of his armies when he went to France to fight what became known as "The Battle of the Spurs." That battle was soon followed by the birth of their second son, who lived a few hours at most.

 

But Katherine was not present for the victory at the Battle of Flodden on the Scottish border, which was very different and much more modern than Starz portrayed. She did have an important role and something famous to say about it, however.

 

Understandably, Starz left out some details that might have made the storyline too complicated. Losing those details, though, made some events difficult to understand. And some of the minor characters are doing things they did not do in real life.

 

In fact, the Battle of Flodden had been anticipated by Henry, who had a standing army in the north,  ready to repel a Scottish invasion and already under the commend of Thomas Howard.  Katherine undoubtedly helped Wolsey with logistic details—supplies and the like—and may have had a part in organizing a second Midlands army under Thomas Lovell. Her involvement thus went far beyond what was expected of queens in that era—but not to the extent of donning armor and participating in the fighting.

 

The battle was not as portrayed, either. First, both sides had cannons—the atom bombs of that era—and the English were not wielding farm implements and pitchforks. They had their famous English longbows and something called a "bill," a kind of halberd that was superior to the medieval pikes wielded by the Scots. Contemporareous accounts give the English archers much of the credit for the victory, but Howard's superior skills as a tactician also played a part.

 

Flodden also involved huge numbers of men, for that time. Modern estimates put the English army at around 26.000 and the Scottish around 30,000. Casualties are estimated at 4.000 Engish dead and 10.000 Scots. Scotland not only lost its king, but most of its nobility.

 

Here's the famous story about Queen Katherine, after the battle of Flodden: when Howard brought her the King of Scotland's bloody cloak, she complained both to him and by letter to Henry that she should have been brought King James's head. She actually had his body brought back to England and kept embalmed and unburied in Sheen Priory, ostensibly because the Pope had excommunicated him for siding with the French. The English thought her quite bloodthirsty.

 

The diplomatic background to all this was also simplified by Starz. Essentially, most of Europe including the Pope was at war with Louis XII of France, who declared Edmund de la Pole the true king of England and gave Edmund's younger brother Richard a command in the French army. So Starz' explanation of the execution of Edmund de la Pole before Henry left for France was incomplete. Edmund was not a simple innocent, locked in the Tower.  He was the man the French wanted to put on the English throne.

 

There are other oddities about Margaret Pole's family in this episode. Reginald Pole did indeed spend part of his childhood in a Carthusian monastery, among monks who were silent much though not all of the time. However, there is no historical evidence that he had trouble speaking or any reluctance to speak. (I realize Philippa Gregory treats Reginald that way, but the three biographies of Katherine and Henry I read, listed below, do not.) To the contrary, he started at Oxford the year before the events in Episode 2,  graduated with a B.A. three years later, took another degree at Padua (the oldest and most famous university in Europe at the time) and became a renowned scholar and diplomat. 

 

There is also no evidence that Thomas More was ever Reginald's tutor, or that More carried on a flirtation with Lady Margaret. More had been married for years and was educating his daughters, practicing law, serving as a Member of Parliament, and acting as one of the undersheriffs of London. Margaret, then, was impoverished. There is no possibility that More would have chosen to tutor her son. 

 

As for Sir Charles Brandon—he undoubtedly flirted with Princess Mary, because he was a rake, and had known her since childhood. What goes unmentioned is that he has already had two wives and several children. However, by 1513 he was a widower.

 

Even though I know the history fairly well, I can't wait to see what happens next!  

 

Recommended biographies of young Katherine and Henry (all a bit dull but serious history): 

 

Hutchinson, Robert. Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII (St. Martin's Press 2011)

Williams, Patrick. Katherine of Aragon (Amberley Publishing 2009)

Fox, Julia. Sister Queens: the Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile (Ballantine Books 2011). 
 

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WHAT STARZ SKIPPED AND GOT WRONG IN KATHERINE'S EARLY YEARS AS QUEEN IN SPANISH PRINCESS

Katherine of Aragon as the Madonna by Michael Sittow. Baby is NOT Henry IX

Katherine of Aragon was reigning queen of England for twenty-two eventful years, which Starz is packing into eight episodes. Viewers who complained that the first episode was rushed were right: it roared by some scandalous and fascinating events detailed in my latest real history mystery, Cannon Conspiracy. For example, Episode 1 did not mention Henry VIII's affair with the Duke of Buckingham's sister during Katherine's first pregnancy, which ended in stillbirth (a daughter) and a rip-roaring royal fight when Queen Katherine found out about Anne Stafford. Go to link below if you want that missing story.

 

To be fair, Starz got what historians would regard as the important historical details right. King Ferdinand of Spain did double-cross Henry, which left English soldiers stranded and starving while Ferdinand conquered Navarre, using Henry's army as a distraction. And wily old Ferdinand wrote letters bragging about how he had outfoxed his young, naïve son-in-law. The diplomatic history behind those events involved Pope Julius II's campaign against France and was much more complicated than portrayed. But the essence was right.

 

However, while Starz portrays Ferdinand and most other central characters well, it changed some human details to make the story more dramatic. As an amateur historian that saddens me, because the real history is dramatic already:  

 

Baby Henry only lived 53 days, and did not die lying on a cold floor next to Katherine while she was praying. Cannon Conspiracy gives a (minority view) reason for his death.  It was definitely natural causes, but Henry—not Katherine—may be accountable. Cannon Conspiracy is only $2.99 and the first chapter addresses this question. Go to https://www.amazon.com/Maryann-Philip/e/B009WCCZ6O?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1601576474&sr=8-1  or follow the link on this site.


King Ferdinand never visited his daughter Katherine in England, much less dragging his "heir, Charles V" with him. Charles—his grandson, oldest son of Juana "La Loca"—was eleven years old and known as "Charles of Burgundy" when this scene occurs. He didn't become Charles V for another 7 or 8 years, lived in the Netherlands (then called "the Low Countries") with his paternal family, and was not yet Ferdinand's heir. (Ferdinand remarried after Queen Isabella died, and still hoped for a son. He and Isabella had five children but only one boy, who died in adulthood.) Princess Mary was, at the time of this scene, betrothed to Charles of Burgundy—Starz got that much right. But she was only 14 or 15 herself, if we fix the date for the scene to 1511. (Baby Henry was born January 1, 1511 and Henry held an enormous celebratory joust shortly afterwards, as shown by Starz. King Ferdinand's double-cross that stranded the English army occurred in 1512.) So both Princess Mary and Charles of Burgundy were portrayed as being much older than they actually were. They never met, at least in youth.           

 

Their betrothal was broken off for diplomatic reasons, shortly after the events in Episode 1, and Princess Mary ended up marrying….but no, Starz will surely cover that. And you will find yourself saying, "Poor Princess Mary" because Henry forced her to marry someone repulsive.
 

To my knowledge, Katherine never gave a speech like the one at the end of Episode 1, though she was certainly capable of it. The English loved her throughout her reign and beyond, and her loyalty to Henry (as opposed to her father) was not questioned.

 

I will continue to blog about the real history behind the events as portrayed by Starz as new episodes play. (Some of you saw Episode 1 early. How did you do that?)  You will be able to find those blogs at https://maryannphilip.com  or through my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/nicolamachiavellimysteries/  

 

Meanwhile, enjoy this great new series!

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ARE YOU READY FOR THE SPANISH PRINCESS TO BECOME THE ENGLISH TUDOR QUEEN?

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Why Did Martin Luther Publish his 95 Theses on Halloween?

Why did Martin Luther choose Halloween to launch his 95 theses?

 

Halloween is a Celtic holiday, so it was likely unknown in Luther's Germany.  But All Saint's Day is the next day, November 1, and relics owned by the Wittenburg Cathedral were displayed on that day, among very few others in the church year.  So scholars think Martin Luther posted his theses then, because he knew many people would see them.  Thanks to the printing press, they went viral, beyond his wildest dreams.

 

In recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I recently launched Martin Luther, Machiavelli and Murder the third Real History Mystery in the Nicola Machiavelli series (which have collectively consistently rated 4 out of 5 stars after 170+ Amazon reviews).  The mystery takes place in Rome, during the two months Luther spent there as a young monk, as historic fact.  If you  want to hear a Luther scholar talk about how these two months influenced Luther's life and works, you can use the link at the end of ths blog post.  If you want to have fun hearing essentially the same thing, read my book.  

 

 As Luther was still a staunch Catholic when in  Rome, the "real history" in the book is the corruption and scandal there that provided the tinder when Martin Luther lit the match, 500 years ago today. You will meet or learn about the most corrupt popes in history, and the beginnings of Luther's disillusionment with the existing Church. 

 

 You can read the first 20%, and follow a first page link to all the great Renaissance art in the book, here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074K96HRN. And of course buy it, for $2.99(ebook)/$7.99 (hard copy).  Here is a plot summary:

 

The corruption and grandeur of Renaissance Rome during young Martin Luther's real-life visit form the backdrop to this tale of murder, war and papal politics. On arrival, Luther is nearly struck by the body of a naked, murdered cardinal thrust from a whorehouse window. Prime suspects behind this and other assassinations include "warrior" Pope Julius II and two future Medici popes, one of whom will become Luther's future nemesis, Pope Leo X. Leonardo da Vinci and the infamous Niccolò Machiavelli play roles in a deepening mystery that ranges across war-torn Italy. Forced to work with the licentious artist Raphael and Machiavelli's winsome daughter Nicola to solve the mystery, Martin Luther battles temptation and sin, while witnessing abuses key to shaping Protestant theology and his future destiny. 

 

And here is a scholarly video that tells many of the same stories:  https://www.facebook.com/Ligonier/videos/p.10156114141743115/10156114141743115/?type=2&theater

 

 

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