Oh, 16th century Spain, that contraceptive-free land. Leave it to an 18-year-old boy to get his special friend pregnant and then moan about how he wants the baby and he wants to take care of her. Pretty much the opposite of what a present-day 18-year-old boy would do.
Courts of Castile and Aragon
So the very first scene of the episode is Germana telling Carlos that, yes, she is pregnant. Past the initial shock, Carlos actually seems quite happy about this –not so much his advisors, who want Germana out of the way. They want this so much that they send a letter to Carlos’s aunt, Margarita, to do something about it. And her idea is to send Mercurino Gattinara over as Carlos’s new chancellor, and let’s be happy about this, because someone needed to teach Chièvres a lesson and it was about time.
Alas, the pressure is too much for Carlos, and after a few months in Aragon being sworn as their new king, he ends up telling Germana, who has now given birth to little Isabel (yes, they all have the same names over and over again), that he is going to marry her off. This was an extremely painful scene, especially because you could see in their eyes that none of them wanted this. This episode made me realise that Álvaro Cervantes’s acting is all about his eyes: he can transmit pure innocence or deep fury with only a subtle look.
But because Carlos is so heartbroken, he decides he does not want to marry his first cousin, Isabel of Portugal (daughter of Manuel and her aunt María). There still needs to be an alliance with Portugal, so Carlos’s only choice is to marry his sister Leonor to Manuel, whose wife has recently died. Needless to say, Leonor is not happy about this, mostly because she still hoped to return to Flanders to see her beloved Frederick II, Count Palatine of the Rhine. But let me spare you the pain here: she would end up marrying her uncle Manuel, who died shortly afterwards (and her little sister Catalina would marry the next king, i.e. her first cousin) and a few years later, when she was weak and sick, she was forced to marry François I of France, aka my new favourite character (more on that later). Poor Leonor.
Not much happened in France this week, except the fact that I finally admitted to myself (as stated above) that, oh my, is François one of my favourite characters now? He is surprisingly alluring and… well, I’ll just leave it there, or this might end up becoming an essay on him. Or it will stray into fan fiction territory. Yep.
The French court this week is related to the English one, as Cardinal Wolsey arrived to ask for the king’s signature in a peace treaty among all the Christian countries. Of course, what he really wanted was to watch over his own interests: he would make sure Henry VIII would support his claim as the new Holy Roman Emperor if François put on a good word for him when the time came to name a new Pope (and let me tell you this, the current Pope wasn’t happy about his intrigues at all). This Wolsey made Chièvres look like a nice guy!
And France links us to one of the moments I had been looking forward to. We finally meet the thirty-something queen Catalina, who learns about Wolsey’s plans and is not too happy about it. As she tells her husband, it is her nephew Carlos who is the rightful heir to the Empire. I just really liked the strength of her family values here and the fact that we got to see one of the children of the Catholic Monarchs again. So happy.
Needless to say, even though Henry was being a prick about it, he eventually forced Wolsey to withdraw their support from the French king’s candidacy. And then Chièvres visited England and did the only redeemable thing he will ever do: he convinced Wolsey to support the Spanish king instead and acted like a total mafia boss.
We saw no more than three minutes of this storyline, but they mostly consisted of Isabel of Portugal, who had been rejected by Carlos, saying over and over again that she knew she would one day marry Carlos and that otherwise she wouldn’t marry anyone at all. I don’t get her obsession with marrying a first cousin she has never seen, but my guess is that she was super ambitious and wanted to marry the most powerful sovereign in the world? Must be that.
But oh, then she mentioned how she wanted to fulfil the dream of her grandparents the Catholic Monarchs by uniting the entire peninsula and whatnot and I wanted to cry because it instantly reminded me of the entire run of ‘Isabel’, and to make it even worse they played a themed throughout the scene that sounded very similar (or identical) to the theme that used to play in the romantic scenes in ‘Isabel’. So many feelings.
But don’t get your hopes up, because Isabel of Portugal died after roughly ten years of marriage, so don’t expect her to show up in more than four or five episodes. Sorryyyy!!! Lesson to learn: giving birth back then sucked –it also sucks nowadays, but at least it’s not a life-threatening event anymore.
I can’t begin to tell how much I loved these scenes. The previous episode ended with Carlos sending his 14-year-old brother Fernando to Flanders, where he would be received by their aunt Margarita, who was one of the most beloved characters from ‘Isabel’. Seeing her again (different actress, though), was like a huge nostalgic wave. And to make things even more tearful, the first thing Fernando did upon his arrival was to offer his aunt a present: the laud her late husband, Prince Juan, was playing when she first met him. So, so sad.
Hernán Cortés finally gets to do things! After Diego Velázquez tricked him last week, Cortés has made sure to make him pay for it, so he gets his wife to get Velázquez drunk while he sets sail to conquer new lands and become extremely famous and rich. Who wouldn’t? The last scene of the episode was an Aztec finding a sword, and then the very last shot was lovely: a partial view of the Aztec Empire. Well, I hope they’ve enjoyed living there, because Cortés is about to overthrow their entire civilization! Oops. But he is charismatic, so they might forgive him (just kidding, they won’t). Plus Ultra and all that.
As usual, watch the making of the episode here.