Think being a princess is a glamorous gig? Think again. Sure, there are wonderful gowns. But The Spanish Princess, airing on Starz Sunday evenings, exposes the tremendous sacrifice that accompanies royal status — especially in Tudor England.
Take the case of Margaret Tudor (played by Georgie Henley of The Chronicles of Narnia). When she's just 14, Margaret learns that her fate is to be shipped off to Scotland as part of a treaty. She's not a person. She's a pawn.
But then, so is Catherine (Charlotte Hope), the main character of The Spanish Princess. Catherine is raised knowing that eventually she will leave Spain for England's drizzly shores and marry the heir to the throne. While Catherine accepts this as her destiny, Margaret is reluctant to leave England — the only place she's ever known — to marry the much-older King James I of Scotland.
"This treaty with Scotland turns the sword into a wedding band," Lady Margaret Beaufort (Harriet Walker), Meg's controlling grandmother, explains in the second episode. Meg's not swayed by international politics. "You throw my body to them for their old king to pounce on?"
Unfortunately for Meg, this marriage goes through – and it's not her last marriage, either. Meg's life has major reverberations on English and Scottish history (and plays into some of last year's most famous queen movies). Here's what you need to know about Meg Tudor, and what happens to her after the events of The Spanish Princess.
The conclusion is obvious: Meg needs her own Starz show.
Margaret Tudor was destined to be influential.
Margaret Tudor was one of a famous pack. She was born to King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in November 1489 (making her a Sagittarius, if you're curious). She was the second of four children. Her older brother, Arthur, and her younger brother, Henry, were caught in a strange love triangle after Henry married Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon.
Arthur and Catherine's marriage had been arranged in a strategic treaty with Spain. Margaret was a similar bargaining chip, whether she liked it or not.
At age 14, Margaret was married off to King James IV of Scotland.
Margaret's fate was sealed in 1502, when James IV of Scotland and Henry VII of England signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. Margaret would marry the 30-year-old King James as part of the treaty's conditions. The marriage's goal was to bring peace to the warring nations.
The wedding between the teenager and the king took place in August 1503 at an elaborate ceremony in Scotland's Holyrood House. The famous Scottish poet William Dunbar wrote a poem to commemorate the wedding.
Margaret's son became the future king of Scotland.
As Margaret Beaufort forewarns in The Spanish Princess, Meg's job would be to have children. She and James had six children together. Tragically, only one survived childhood: King James V was born in 1512.
The name James V may be familiar from the movie Mary, Queen of Scots — she was his only surviving legitimate child. Mary was just six days old when James V died and she ascended to the throne.
In 1513, Margaret's new family clashed with her old one — to dire consequences.
Peace between England and Scotland wasn't so perpetual after all. At this point, Henry VIII was already King of England. Henry had declared war on France. Scotland, a long ally of France, decided to invade England. The ensuing Battle of Flodden was a complete disaster for Scotland. James IV was killed in battle, making Margaret regent for her son, James V.
But imagine this tidbit: A heavily pregnant Catherine of Aragon rode to the Battle of Flodden to address the troops. She ended up presenting a piece of her brother-in-law James VI's bloody armor to her husband, Henry VIII, as a sign of victory. In a letter, she expressed regret over not being able to send over James IV's body. That would make for an awkward Thanksgiving dinner.
Margaret's next marriage was messy.
Less than a year after the Battle of Flodden, Margaret, a 24-year-old widow, secretly married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. She didn't know that Archibald was already engaged to Lady Janet Stewart of Traquair (and they'd continue their relationship). Henry VIII described his sister as "a shame and disgrace to all her family." Ironic, considering he sent his own country spiraling in turmoil so he could remarry.
In marrying Archibald, she gave up her position as Queen regent, which required her to be unmarried. Enter John Stewart, the Duke of Albany, who took over as regent for James V. Margaret had to leave her two sons, James and Alexander, with the Duke (and Alexander died under his care).
Margaret's remaining years would be consumed by power grabs for the throne. In 1524, Margaret managed to depose Albany as Regent and put 12-year-old James V on the throne.
Archibald, who in 1522 had been exiled to France for living with his former lover and using Margaret's money, returned to Scotland and insisted on providing guidance to the king. In response, Margaret fired the cannons of Edinburgh Castle at her husband. Archibald retaliated by kidnapping King James V for three years.
In 1528, Archibald and Margaret had their marriage annulled. In the same year, 16-year-old James escaped from his step-father by dressing as a servant and riding to his mother at Stirling Castle. Archibald was exiled to England, where Margaret's brother, Henry VIII, gave him a pension. He took his daughter with Margaret with him.
Margaret married again for love. It was still messy.
In April 1528, Margaret married Henry Stewart, who had been her treasurer. Unfortunately, the new Lord Methven was an equally terrible husband. He immediately started living with a mistress. But James V wouldn't let his mother try for another annulment — he liked Lord Methven.
Margaret played a part in uniting England and Scotland.
In 1541, Margaret died of a palsy-related illness. She was 52. While she was alive, Margaret failed to broker trust between her brother and son. But Years later, her great-grandson James VI would be the first monarch to be called the King of Great Britain. He ruled both England and Scotland.
Margaret's life had uncanny parallels with her granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots'.
The lives of Margaret and her granddaughter, Mary, Queen of Scots were defined by what happened when they married for love. They both married handsome young Scottish earls — to disastrous consequences. They were plunged into conflict between England and Scotland. Margaret spent her adulthood on bad terms with her son and daughter with Angus; Mary was locked up and executed by her cousin, Elizabeth I.
Poor Meg — she doesn't know what's ahead of her. If our Tudor England fan-fic, she and Catherine rule together.