Up until about 10 days ago, Spain’s television docudrama series Isabel – which recounts the life and times of the 15th-century Queen Isabella of Castile, whose marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon effectively united the country – seemed to have everything going for it: rave reviews, an average television-audience share of around five million, and an eagerly awaited third series being filmed this autumn.
However, five centuries after her death, Isabel has now found herself at the centre of a political row in separatist Catalonia. Producers have been barred from filming two scenes at Barcelona’s former Royal Palace, provoking a welter of accusations that the ban has possible political motives – and equally fierce denials.
An official from Barcelona’s Museum of Civic History told El Pais newspaper that the two scenes at the centre of the row, one of an assassination attempt on Ferdinand, the other of a meeting with Christopher Columbus, cannot be filmed there because there is a blanket ban on redecoration of any kind at Spain’s heritage sites – as they would be, albeit temporarily, with Aragonese and Castilian flags.
However, the Socialist party’s spokesman at Barcelona Town Hall, Jordi Marti, said the party had joined forces with its rivals the Catalan Communist Party in saying the bar on filming Isabel is tantamount to censorship, and even Barcelona’s mayor, Xavier Trias, has said he would have allowed the filming to go ahead. And while the two scenes of Isabel will now be shot outside Catalonia, the real-life political drama of whether Catalonia breaks away from Spain is set to continue for some time to come.