Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Spanish Princess finale, which you should watch.
"Catherine has now become Queen. That’s the real start of what history remembers, and doesn’t even remember much of that," Charlotte Hope, who plays Catherine, tells Refinery29.
Being Queen of England is all Catherine wanted — and yet the ending of The Spanish Princess is hardly joyous. Disaster follows disaster. When King Henry VII (Elliot Cowan) dies suddenly, his mother, Margaret Beaufort (Harrier Walker), seizes control and launches a miniature reign of terror to cover up her own tax-related wrong-doings. There's a messy execution, a near execution, and a deep betrayal. By the time the young lovers make it to the chapel, the mood in the court — and between them — has darkened significantly.
In the few moments before their wedding, Catherine and her soon-to-be-husband King Henry VIII (Rauiri O'Connor) meet in the chapel. Harry has replaced his usual moony eyes with a glint of suspicion. Is the previously married Catherine not a maid, after all? Catherine's "big little lie" about her virginity will chase her until the end of her life – but now Henry has a lie of his own, too. Did he sleep with Catherine's sister, Joanna (Alba Galocha), during her brief but impactful stint in England?
Charlotte Hope has her own opinion about what happened between Harry and Joanna after the camera cut away. We talked to Hope about the charged final scenes, and what they mean for the next season of The Spanish Princess.
Refinery29: The episode ends with Catherine running down a corridor. What is she thinking in that final moment?
Catherine Hope: "She so believes in her destiny as being queen of England. Then suddenly she gets to the finish line and she’s like, Oh shit. It's not what she thought it would be. It’s so much more complicated. I think she expected pure ecstasy, and instead she feels consumed. She’s running out into that hallway because she’s suffocating more than anything, and she just needs to breathe and be in the air. It’s overwhelming — and Catherine has never felt overwhelmed through this whole thing. This is the first time in the show when she realizes it’s too much for her, and she needs to come up for air.
"Even filming the scene was emotional for me because it was the culmination of this huge job that meant so much to me. I have this memory of running down that corridor and thinking, This really happened, and now it’s over. There were so many emotions flowing through me and through Catherine. It was this moment of total culmination."
There’s a lot that’s going on in the conversation between Catherine and Harry, but it's left unsaid — including the big question: Did they sleep with each other’s siblings? How do you think this conversation sets up the dynamic for them moving forward?
"It’s one of my favorite scenes in the whole show. There’s so much subtext and power play. I imagined The Spanish Princess would end with this big wedding and Catherine fulfilling her dream. It’s not that. It ends in a stolen moment before the event. My favorite moments in the show are the stolen, human moments — when you forget it’s a show about kings and queens, and instead it’s a show about people. I think that Catherine wants to believe him. She wants to believe that he’s true to her and loves her. But she’s probably also convinced herself that she is a virgin. She so needs to believe in these lies. She really, desperately loves him, and he desperately loves her. They’re trying to make the marriage work, but you can’t stop the truth from coming out."
We know that Catherine lied, but what Harry did is not as clear. Do you think he was lying about sleeping with Joanna?
"Personally, I think that he lied. I think Rauiri would have a different version. Catherine is so in love with him that she'll bend whatever truth she needs at this point."
What’s working with Rauiri like?
"He’s amazing. We work in very similar ways. We did a lot of craft on the weekends. It meant that by the time we got to shoot a scene, we had lived in those characters so much. In those later episodes, he’s got a kind of petulance. It's like, I know exactly the King you’re going to become. He’s plotted that early characterization so brilliantly. I really believe he’s going to end up being a tyrant. You can see flashes. It’s a hard thing to pull off."
The show is also planting seeds for Catherine's future. What was filming that Anne Boleyn cameo like for you?
"I love that stuff — a nod to what’s coming. We know where this story is going to end. You’re watching a train that’s going to crash and are like, Noo! Don’t do it! It's how I feel a lot of the time watching Catherine’s decisions — maybe do something different this time! I kind of loved Anne's cameo and found it deeply depressing because that girl is about 9 years old. It made me feel old."
Imagine how Catherine must’ve felt.
"I know! But it’s annoying! I haven’t got to the stage in my life yet where men are like, choosing women 10 years younger than me. I don't want that stage to come."
The scene drives in the fact that she's with Henry for a really long time. Twenty-four years! And then the no-longer 9-year-old girl swooped in.
"Yeah! Catherine was his main wife! It was a very serious romance! Not even a romance — it was a whole marriage! People forget that. They say, ‘Henry VIII had six wives.’ Actually, he had one wife and five footnotes! That’s how I feel."
What do you think of Lina’s decision to tell Margaret Beaufort that Catherine wasn't a virgin?
"Lina and Catherine have a complicated friendship. They’re sisters, but they’re they’ve also got duties to their men. [Emma Frost and Matthew Graham] haven’t just written a story about two women and made it a friendship that’s a pure celebration. They made it complicated. That’s what friendship is a lot of the time. It’s interesting and rounded. They are sisters, and they will be tied to each other and care for each other, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be complicated. Because it is. I understand why Lina did it. I get it. I don’t support it — I’m Catherine — but I get it."
Did you ever want to become a princess when you were growing up?
"I don’t think I did. I grew up in the middle of the deep, dark countryside. I don't know what I wanted to be. But I hope that I'd be a princess like Catherine. A warrior princess. Determined and strong and bossy and all those words that you tell little girls they shouldn’t be. I hoped that she'll bring a new brand of princess. I’d want my daughters to want to be like Catherine, because she’s fucking badass."