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?
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Historical documents show that Henry himself instigated the close watch on Buckingham that provided the (weak) evidence for treason at his ultimate trial.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.)