Charlotte Hope Says She Wasn't Acting in Season 2 of "The Spanish Princess"

Photo credit: Jason Bell
From Oprah Magazine
Season 2 of the premiere of The Spanish Princess on Sunday October 11th on Starz.
The season focuses on the marriage of Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) and Henry VIII (Ruari O'Connor) and the struggle for children.
Speaking to OprahMag.com, Hope reflects on the real story that took her to a very dark place.
Charlotte Hope struggled to survive the second season of The Spanish Princess despite playing the title character of the Starz drama, Catherine of Aragon. The English actress collapsed while watching the series with her co-star Ruari O'Connor, who gives the notorious King Henry VIII an enchanting glow.
"Ruari said, 'Charlotte, do you cry at your own performance?' I said, "No, I'm not crying about my performance. She really goes through it and I just really feel it, "Hope tells OprahMag.com.
The second season of The Spanish Princess, which premieres October 11th, is going to be very dark, very fast. The Spanish princess began with two young monarchs who dreamed of ruling England as equals. Your imagination will be brutally tested in season 2.
"At the start of season two, Catherine and Henry are a bunch of cocky teenagers. They took over the castle. They're having a party in the center of the world. What could possibly go wrong?" Creator Sarah Frost tells OprahMag.com. "You learn the hard way that a hell of a lot can go wrong - and quickly."
Photo credit: Jason Bell
As the king's wife, 23-year-old Catherine has one main role and a spoiler: she doesn't plan a battlefield strategy as she is used to. According to the royal rulebook of the time, Catherine must have a child - a male child - to be heir to the throne.
As any Tudor fanatic can tell you, Catherine tries hard to do her so-called duty. Historians believe that Catherine of Aragon gave birth six times. Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn. In 1510, Catherine gave birth to a healthy son named Henry, who tragically died 52 days after he was born. Two more infants were stillborn, and another girl died within weeks of birth.
Historians have not been able to determine exactly why the couple suffered so many losses - but it probably wasn't the "curse" Henry VIII so feared on the show, divine retribution for him to marry his brother's wife. "We can only conclude that the losses Katherine suffered were only tragic examples of what could happen in an age when childbirth was not perfectly understood," wrote Alison Weir, author of Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen, for History Extra.
Only one child survived to adulthood: a daughter named Mary, born in 1516. The story later named her Bloody Mary for the number of people she had executed for heresy when she ruled as the first British monarch.
Often, Catherine's pregnancy problems can only be traced back to the massive historical upheavals that they caused. In a desperate search for a male heir, Henry VIII divorced Katharina, broke off with the Catholic Church and married five other women (and beheaded two). He never got his male heir - but his daughters Mary and Elizabeth became Britain's first female monarchs and some of the most legendary.
The Spanish princess offers a closer, more intimate perspective on the pain Catherine must have felt during her traumatic pregnancies, and lets viewers explore its far-reaching effects for themselves.
"The tragedy for Catherine is her inability to do what they want her to do as a woman. It is what tears away her power," says Frost. "If she could only have one son, Henry would have loved his strong, political wife. The more she is unable to achieve this, the more panic Henry becomes and the more Catherine is relegated to a much more conventional, docile role." "
Photo credit: Print Collector - Getty Images
The Spanish princess is not afraid to portray Catherine's protracted, gruesome births and the tribute that child to child loss means for her. The series understandably equates birth and war with war: Maternal and child mortality was high in the Middle Ages. "In those days, having a child was just as dangerous as going to war," says co-creator Matthew Graham.
"When people think period drama women are passive and calm, I always think, are you kidding? It was so hard to survive, especially as a woman. Each of them that was made of must have been made of steel," adds Hope.
In a poignant moment, Catherine tries to create a new role - one that is not a warrior or a mother, but both. She puts on armor during pregnancy and takes to the battlefield in Flodden like Catherine of Aragon did in real life, bespoke maternity armor and everything.
"She believes she can be whoever she wants to be as a woman. She's not defined by her biology. It's what Henry loves about her, and what she thinks he has to curb and control because that's exactly what he does fears she does these things, which prevents her from giving him an heir, "says Frost.
Photo credit: Jason Bell
While Catherine survived all six births, she was emotionally destroyed - or at least in The Spanish Princess. Hope too while she played it. "I wanted to make sure the darkness felt really honest. It's kind of hard for me to see because it's not really acting. I was really in a pretty dark place in those scenes," says Hope. "You can only lie to your body so much before it starts to believe it's real."
Hope says it took her time to shake off the remains of Catherine, whose lonely journey ends at the end of the two-part miniseries. Before Catherine died in 1536 at the age of 50, she wrote a letter to her husband whom she still professed to love. "I make this vow that my eyes will desire you above all," she wrote in the last sentence of her letter. At the time she was living in exile in Kimbolton Castle - the proverbial first woman in the attic - and hadn't seen her daughter Mary in years. Henry reportedly celebrated her death.
"Lockdown was a blessing in the beginning because I had the opportunity to wash it through myself. I've never been one of those actresses who can just click in and out. She got under my skin," says Hope.
Still, while she has recovered, she hopes that watching the Spanish princess will prove to be as visceral an experience for viewers as it is for her. Catherine's path from Spanish princess to English queen is difficult - but so is she.
"When I saw some of these scenes, I remember how awful I felt those days. It's uncomfortable to take care of myself. And hopefully it is uncomfortable to take care of a lot of people," says Hope.
While Catherine's struggle is specific to her place in history, Hope sees universality there too. “I'm a woman and I want to get married, have kids, and have a career. Juggling everyone successfully seems like an impossible task of some sort, but that's the same task Catherine did, only she happened to be the Queen too . "
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