icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle



Starz again gets the broad history right in the Spanish Princess "Grief" episode, but fictionalizes many details. Poor Mary! Known as the most beautiful princess in Europe, she was indeed forced to marry a king who was not just fat, but also physically repulsive. According to historian Robert Hutchinson, he was "toothless, syphilitic and gout-ridden, suffered from a scorbutic [spotted] skin condition like scurvy and displayed symptoms of premature senitility" and possibly "elephantitis or leprosy." King Louis' death, several months after their marriage, was blamed on his exhaustion from too much sex with her.  


Princess Mary did insist on the right to choose her next husband as a condition for marrying Louis—and did so, as Starz will doubtless show. Henry and Katherine did not attend the wedding in France, however. And the marriage was not Wolsey's idea. Louis himself asked for Mary's hand when his queen died, leaving only a daughter as heir to his throne.


Henry's decision to accept Louis as his brother-in-law was far more sensible than Starz made it seem. The Holy League had collapsed after France's defeat in Italy. King Louis made unilateral treaties with its members, promising Henry a million gold crowns in ten annual installments for Mary's hand and peace with France—a treaty that would end if he missed paying any annual installment. Wolsey pushed the offer and Henry accepted it because it made political and economic sense. Firebrands on Henry's Council opposed his decision and perhaps Katherine did as well—that is not clear from the histories and biographies I have read. Historians agree, though, that Katherine promoted English rather than Spanish interests by this stage of her life. (Spanish spies complained about this, in letters to Ferdinand quoted in the histories.)


Henry's decision to give Lady Margaret Pole her family lands and title was also more sensible than Starz made it seem. As discussed at more length in my blog illustrated with Henry's armor, he had Margaret's cousin Edmund de la Pole executed when Louis XII recognized Edmund's claim to the English throne and gave the youngest de la Pole brother an army to assert it. Once he made peace with France, Henry bought additional security from the de la Poles by placing their extensive lands in Margaret's hands. Undoubtedly he looked on her as a mere woman, whose oldest son who had proved his loyalty by fighting with Henry in France. Since Margaret is a prominent character, Starz will undoubtedly let you know how that worked out. My latest book, CANNON CONSPIRACY, tells the true story of the middle de la Pole brother, William. The death of the youngest brother, the last Plantagenet claimant to the crown, is summarized in the Afterword.   


Starz also tends to leave out marriages! By the time Mary leaves for France, "Charlie" Brandon had been married twice and promptly betrothed to his ward when his second wife died after childbirth. As to Lady Margaret Pole marrying William Compton—that is contrary to history because he was already married! Her flirtation with Thomas More is also fictitious. As discussed in my previous blog, More was never Reginald's tutor and at this stage of his life was not much involved with the court. There is also every indication that More's twenty-five year marriage to Alice was a love match.


Did Henry blame Katherine for the early deaths of both their infant sons? Undoubtedly—everyone blamed the woman back then, unless the husband was impotent. But there are modern doctors who believe the problem may have been Henry's. You can learn about the most prominent of the medical theories FREE in the first pages of CANNON CONSPIRACY: go to https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KSKXW2S/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0  To learn about the extensive circumstantial evidence that supports this medical theory, though, you will have to buy the book and follow the footnote to the Afterword.  


"The Other Woman" is the title of the next Starz episode. I am surprised Starz omitted the FIRST "other woman," a sister to one of the prominent characters in the series and the real cause of the first big rift in Katherine's marriage. That real history is told in CANNON CONSPIRACY, available at the above link.


For various reasons,  including the sudden prominence of William Compton, it appears likely that Starz will combine the story of Henry's first known infidelity with that of the "Other Woman"—women, really—who inspired the title for the next episode. I'll blog about that when the time comes. In the meantime, if you want to know the real history of the FIRST "other woman," grab my latest book!


Suggested reading for history buffs:


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). 

Be the first to comment