Apologies for the late post! Sick kids, sick animals, rough week.
Let’s discuss last weekend’s excellent episode, shall we?
Warning- Contains spoilers from The Spanish Princess, Episode 4: The Battle for Harry
Just when you think you have your characters all figured out, everyone in this episode makes you take another look. Duplicity and ambiguity figure prominently in The Battle for Harry and, like Lady Margaret Beaufort, we find ourselves questioning our alliances and loyalties.
Lady Margaret has spies all over England, but not without just cause– there are people lying to her and plotting against the Tudors. Harry is suspicious of Catherine, but she is manipulating her situation (and his feelings) to preserve her title. Oviedo seems like the perfect man, but even he is vulnerable to mistakes when his pride is wounded. Henry is a loving father, but he can’t see beyond his own grief to perceive how his actions will hurt his son. Everyone is right and yet everyone is also wrong…
And the ambiguity of our characters’ motivations mirrors their physical and emotional states– Henry is still king but not an acting one, Lady Margaret is Regent but not permanently, Catherine has a sort of purgatory status within the Court, and Meg is on the cusp of a new identity. As Lady Pole tells her cousin Edmund, she is neither for nor against him…she, too, exists in an in-between state.
And that theme is very fitting for this series on the whole, because what it has been very successful at thus far is making viewers question what they perceive as historical truth. If you’ve followed along with show runners Emma Frost and Matthew Graham as they live-tweet each episode, you’ll find that they’re constantly educating viewers on misconceptions or previously held dogma regarding the Tudor dynasty. Yes, there were people of color in sixteenth century England. Catherine was indeed fair-skinned with red hair and blue eyes. There was a menagerie at the Tower of London. Henry VII did suggest marrying Catherine himself…much of this is lesser-known information, and so the show forces viewers to re-examine their own held truths. Watchers are forced to wade into their own sort of ambiguity– what is truth and who has been telling the right (or wrong) version of history?
History does tell us that Henry mourned extensively after Elizabeth’s death, and that’s where we find him at the start of this episode– staring at a captive lion that is similarly royal but also broken.
Lady Margaret is empathetic to a point, but she also knows the country needs running and she can sense the proverbial sharks circling the castle. She appoints herself as Regent, and as much as I dislike her it’s a move that made me give a little fist pump to my empty family room. If she’d only been born a few generations later she herself would have made a formidable monarch.
Harry is also deep in mourning and Catherine is there to simultaneously lend a shoulder and stroke his ego. She tells him the story of El Rey (translation: The King), a bull that refused to die by a matador’s sword, thus earning respect and a pardon from Queen Isabella. Not too hard to see the symbolism in that parable but Catherine spells it out for Harry anyway: he is broken but not defeated.
It’s a pep talk message she uses on herself later, as she resolutely refuses to return to Spain. As Catherine and her ladies are evicted from the palace and forced to set up shop at Durham House, she assures herself that she may be losing battles but she will win this war. Careful what you wish for…
Meg, meanwhile, prepares to leave for Scotland and her marriage to James IV. Of everyone in this episode, she is arguably the most honest and virtuous… appropriate as she is being fitted for her white wedding gown. She’s a bit of an innocent, virginal in many manners.
Sex, like everything else in this episode, is a bit duplicitous according to Lady Pole’s advice to Meg– it hurts, but then it doesn’t.
My inner Outlander fan laughed quite a bit at Catherine asking Meg if Scotland is colder than England and Meg’s reply that Scotland is basically colder than anywhere.
Poor Margaret Pole…she essentially fears for her life every day, and not without reason. Notice in the confrontation with Lady Margaret that she’s suspicious of being poisoned, watching to make sure Lady Margaret eats and drinks the same food.
Talk about duplicitous actions…like the candied oranges they eat, Lady Margaret is sweet one minute then tart the next. As Lady Pole gives politically safe answers regarding Catherine and Arthur, Lady Margaret rages and banishes her from Court. As always, both actresses are phenomenal.
Richard Pole adds a bit to the obscurity of everyone’s relationships as he outwardly rebukes Lady Pole but perhaps also knew her chaperones would lead her to Edmund? Is he in on it? More ambiguity.
I will only briefly mention this scene by saying that I am in full support of the artistic license to age Harry up for this series. Also I empathize with Lady Margaret’s frustration that her logic is no match for adolescent hormones and teenage male confidence.
Edward Stafford has been duplicitous from the start, as an adulterous womanizer that most of us can recognize from a mile away. Most of us. Minor spoiler alert: it’s telling that of all the people executed under Henry VIII Stafford was probably one of the few that was actually guilty of any crime.
As for my favorite couple? Lina is stuck between a rock and hard place with Oviedo, who perhaps expects more than she can realistically provide given her position. It’s a pretty universal theme of women forced to make concessions for their personal lives and men often not being fully understanding of those compromises. Appropriate to theme, their relationship adopts new complexity and nebulousness this hour.
After an emotional rally by Meg, Henry finally emerges- literally and figuratively- from the depths. And he quite possibly has the most cringeworthy family announcement of the century: he plans to marry Catherine as per Lizzy’s deathbed wish.
On to the next episode! A tasty Tudor quagmire, everyone in a mess of their own creation. Perhaps we can rewrite history and have Catherine escape to Scotland with Meg for a marriage to a hunky laird?
Mixing up my fandoms is my favorite ambiguity of them all.