The Spanish Princess, Ep. 5: Heart Versus Duty

Before we get started, a huge congratulations to the cast and crew on the renewal for a second season! This show is more than deserving and I can’t wait to see this story continue.


Warning- Contains spoilers from The Spanish Princess, Episode 5: Heart Versus Duty

“I don’t know what my choices are…I don’t know if I have a choice.”

The difficult choices women are forced to make is at the core of this episode– a discussion that feels exceedingly relevant. Catherine has to choose between love and defying two of the most powerful monarchies in the world. Rosa must decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy…and whether to invest hope in a man who likely will toss her aside in the end. Maggie weighs living with a clear conscience against her family’s security. Lina determines whether a future with Oviedo is worth some fairly big challenges.

Because despite what the love songs might have us believe, love is perhaps not capable of conquering all. It cannot directly put food on the table or a roof over our heads. It cannot completely save us from the actions of those who wish us harm. In this century, it stands little chance against strict societal and religious norms. Most sadly, it cannot completely shield us from tragedy and death.

Different versions of love are explored in this episode and nearly every story line examines a different interpretation of love and relationships…it’s like Love, Actually, 16th century-style (but decidedly darker with less Mariah Carey songs). Instead of a linear recap this week, I thought I’d discuss how different versions of love and relationships are represented.

Lady Margaret seems to express little genuine love but what small amount she has she saves for England and the Tudor dynasty. Her family’s power is her sole motivation and she has little empathy for romantic love…notice how flippantly she discusses Lizzie with Henry, who is quite obviously still mourning her death.

Her offer of prostitutes for Harry was also quite…special. Poor kid– his dad tries to marry his girl and his grandmother is playing pimp. That’s some pretty crazy shit and perhaps we might have saved the world (and six wives) a whole lot of strife if we’d provided Harry some good psychoanalytic therapy.

Rosa, poor soul, is an example of unrequited love. Stafford is sending up red flags all over the place, obviously visible to everyone except Rosa. It doesn’t matter the century, womanizing men who discard women once they become inconvenient is a depressingly timeless pattern. I’m actually fearful for Rosa’s safety– wouldn’t an “accident” be a neat way for this shady man to make his problems disappear?

Harry and Catherine represent a more passionate love, quick to ignite…and possibly also quick to burn out. History tells us their marriage was unusually loving for a couple of decades– unusual at least for a royal marriage of the time. But there are prophecies galore in this episode this marriage’s eventual demise is foreshadowed more than once. Isabella predicts Harry’s eventual betrayal in a dream to Catherine, and Maggie rightly sees Harry as an indulged young man with unchecked power.

(Speaking of therapy, maybe we can appoint Maggie Pole as official Tudor Psychologist? She seems to cut through everyone’s bullshit quite cleanly, always keenly aware of others’ motives)

Oviedo and Lina have a more grounded love, one that will likely last if they can hurdle some pretty major obstacles. But Oviedo being sent away for a few weeks just as Lina is ready to commit has me worried plotwise…I suspect their relationship will encounter some major challenge before the season is over.

Pssst, STARZ: Once The Spanish Princess has wrapped can we get a spin-off show of Oviedo and Lina where they live in the countryside and have beautiful children and he shoots things and she gets to take her own herbal-scented baths? That’s it. That’s the show and I would watch the hell out of it.

Catherine, Lina, and Rosa’s scenes together were lovely and are my favorite category of love: the love women have for each other. They create a safe space with their friendship in a century that is incredibly unforgiving toward women.

And before we get to the sad stuff I must first do a little happy dance for Meg as her obedience to family and country is rewarded with total babe of a husband:

James IV, King of Hotland. Something tells me she won’t be that cold in Scotland after all.

Lastly, the tear-jerker stuff. Maggie and Richard’s love represents a mature marriage, one that is honest and open and flexible. It’s the one good thing in her life, so of course it must tragically end.

This scene was so incredibly heartbreaking and Laura Carmichael just breaks my heart. Would it have ended this way if they hadn’t been punished and heavily taxed and had more men around the property? Perhaps, and I have no doubt that’s something with which she’ll grapple for the rest of her life. Her life is like a Shakespearean tragedy– repeatedly star-crossed.

No, love cannot always save us. But for women, especially, it can help see is through. For the difficult decisions we are forced to make, no matter the century, we find the strength to move forward with the hope that love provides.


photos: STARZ

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