Luan Gaines interviewed author Sandra Worth about
Lady of the Roses, royal feuds, and love during the Wars of the Roses.
Interviewer Luan Gaines: Lady of the Roses begins when Isobel Ingoldesthorpe arrives at the court of the Lancastrian queen Marguerite d’Anjou. What is the cause of the enmity between Marguerite and the Yorkist Nevilles? Why do their differences result in civil war?
The atmosphere is tense, bristling with half-hidden enmity between the factions of York and Lancaster. Marguerite d’Anjou, who is married to the mad Lancastrian King Henry VI, believes she is entitled to wield her husband’s power with absolute authority. The Nevilles, who have sided with the Yorkists, want good government and a voice in policy decisions. The feud finally explodes into civil war when Marguerite d’Anjou, imperious and arrogant, refuses all overtures at compromise and succeeds in murdering the man many consider the rightful King of England: the Yorkist leader, Richard, Duke of York.
The love story between Isobel Ingoldesthorpe and John Neville is an anomaly in a turbulent time. Why does Marguerite allow Isobel to marry John?
The marriage appealed to Marguerite d’Anjou’s romantic nature and also her greed. She wished, in her own words, “to make some money from this [the match].” The bride-price finally agreed on was outrageous, even in those days. She also hoped to pacify the Yorkists with this small concession.
Marguerite is a controversial queen, not the least of which is her French nationality. Why do the people believe her untrustworthy? What do they fear she will do?
By her actions, Marguerite d’Anjou proved to the English people that she was looking out for France’s interests, never for theirs. She came to them in poverty, without a dowry, yet within a few months she had prevailed on her weak-willed husband, King Henry, to cede England’s rich French province of Maine back to France.
From her position at court, Isobel is privy to some of the schemes to do away with the Yorkist Neville’s. How does she use this knowledge to save John from an ambush?
Without giving away too much, let me say that Isobel disguises herself and takes a huge risk to personally deliver the warning to John. In doing so, displays her great courage and ingenuity—and her love for him.
Marguerite has given Isobel a ring to claim as a favor. When she uses the ring to save John from death after his capture by the Lancastrians, Isobel’s relationship with the queen is affected. How does Marguerite respond to Isobel and why?
By this time, violence and hatred have irretrievably inflamed passions on both sides. Marguerite grants Isobel’s request, at least in part, but tells her this is the last favor Isobel can ever expect from her. From now on Queen Marguerite considers her an enemy.
When the Duke of York is finally successful at routing Marguerite’s forces, Henry makes an agreement through the House of Lords regarding the throne. How is the succession to the throne determined? What is Marguerite’s response?
The Duke of York and Henry VI reach a compromise. Henry keeps the throne for life, and on his death the throne will pass not to his son, Prince Edward of Lancaster, but to the Duke of York and his heirs. Marguerite refuses to accept this agreement and vows death and destruction on the House of York.
Why is Isobel suspicious of the ambitious Earl of Warwick? Do her suspicions prove correct? How?
Isobel fears that Warwick’s personal rivalry with the new king, young Edward IV, is a threat to the House of Neville, and time proves her right. Warwick’s troubles with the king end in Warwick’s rebellion and death.
The mentally unstable Henry VI is beloved, but not a capable ruler. How much does his instability influence the growing war between the York’s and the Lancastrians?
King Henry’s mental stability is the single most crucial factor that leads to the civil war known as the Wars of the Roses. Had he been of sound mind, his queen Marguerite could not have wielded power so abusively and the land would not have been ripped apart.
Two women are important figures in Isobel’s life: the ambitious Marguerite d’ Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville. How is Isobel’s future affected by each?
The great tragedy is that Isobel—and England—could have survived one evil queen, but not two. In a twisted irony of fate, both these queens of severely flawed character followed one another in succession, creating the enmity and faction that led to twenty years of civil war. Had Edward not wed Elizabeth Woodville, it is very likely that an entire decade of strife would have been averted, and Isobel—and England—would have lived in peace.
How significant is the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and Edward of March’s defeat of the Lancastrians? Is Edward a challenge to the powerful Warwick?
By his triumph at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross, nineteen year old Edward proved his valor and ingenuity. He single-handedly turned the tide of battle against the Lancastrians and showed himself an equal to Warwick. It was Warwick’s fatal mistake to underestimate “the wanton boy.”
The Duke of Somerset is a frightening figure for Isobel while she is in Marguerite’s court. Why does he change from an enemy to a humble man who praises her courage? How does his affection complicate Isobel’s life with John?
Somewhere along the line, Isobel’s courage wins Somerset’s admiration and turns lust into love. This changes him from a careless adventurer into a man of substance. Against her will, Isobel comes to feel an unwelcome affection for Somerset, who aids her when she most needs his help. John senses this and it causes a rift between them that they must overcome.
How does Edward become king in lieu of Warwick?
The heir to the throne is determined by birth, and Edward of March is his father’s heir. Warwick would have made a better king, but this had no bearing on the succession.
What is Warwick’s reaction to the coronation of Edward IV? How does the relationship between “the Kingmaker” and Edward IV eventually lead to John’s most dire conflict of loyalty?
Edward’s coronation crowns Warwick’s own triumph in winning him the throne. But when Edward humiliates Warwick by going behind his back to marry Elizabeth Woodville in a secret ceremony, the rift begins. In the end, John must choose sides between his brother and his king.
Why is Edward’s new queen, Elizabeth Woodville, seen as a threat to the Nevilles? How does her influence on the king affect Isobel and John?
Elizabeth Woodville is jealous, possessive, domineering, vengeful and greedy. She wants complete control over Edward and is determined to get it. By her machinations, Edward eventually falls out with everyone except her relatives, including John Neville, his most faithful knight.
John is made Earl of Northumberland, only to see his title given away. Why does Edward do this to his most loyal and brave knight? Does Edward doubt John’s loyalty?
Though John remains loyal to Edward against his brother, King Edward no longer feels he can trust him. He strips John of his earldom and gives it to John’s worst enemy, Henry Percy.
“Here we are, all that we tried to avoid has caught up to us now. God help us all.” What does this statement mean?
This statement is made by “Good” Duke Humphrey just before the battle in which he dies. Duke Humphrey has played peacemaker between York and Lancaster and realizes all his efforts have failed. War has come, bringing the death and destruction he had tried so hard to prevent.
Isobel’s uncle, John Tiptoft, a favorite of Elizabeth Woodville’s, is known as the Butcher of England. Considering what he has done to innocents, why does Isobel continue to write him?
Isobel’s uncle is her only living relative, and she owes him her marriage to John. She is bound to him by blood and debt, though she hates what he has done, and what he has become.
When Warwick realizes the English people will not support Edward’s brother Clarence on the throne, he makes a fateful compact in France. What is Warwick’s plan and why is it outrageous?
Warwick makes a pact with his bitter enemy, Marguerite of Anjou, the queen who had murdered his father and brother, to win England back for Lancaster.
John fights with Warwick but wears the king’s colors under his armor. How is John judged for his inability to choose between king and brother?
Some understand his anguish, and some condemn him as a traitor to both sides.
After John leaves for Barnet in 1471, Isobel says, “As I had done all my life, there was nothing else for me but to await the tidings.” How does this statement describe Isobel’s life as John’s wife?
Though she had done all she could to help her husband through his troubles, she could not fight his battles for him. Waiting was her burden.
Isobel’s story is at the beginning of the Wars of the Roses and your next novel is at the end, with the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. Can you share something about your next novel, The King’s Daughter?
Thank you, Luan. Elizabeth of York was a remarkable woman who lived a dramatic life. There is so much to say about her, but perhaps it’s best for me to close by giving you a peek at Penguin’s back cover for The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen, coming in December 2008:
“Some are destined for greatness, few more so than Elizabeth of York. Yet, while she was the only English Queen to have been a wife, daughter, sister, niece and mother to English Kings, the legacy of her noble spirit and love of country far outweigh her impressive bloodline. In this groundbreaking novel, award-winning author Sandra Worth brings us the first complete account of the people’s Queen, “Elizabeth the Good.”
Sandra Worth holds an honours B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Toronto. She is a frequent lecturer on the Wars of the Roses and has been published by
The Ricardian Register, the quarterly publication of the U.S. Richard III Society, and by Blanc Sanglier, the publication of the Yorkshire, England, branch of the Richard III Society. She has won ten awards for her "Rose of York" trilogy, including the First Place Prize in the 2003 Francis Ford Coppola-sponsored New Century Awards. Her work has been translated for publication in Spain and Russia.
Luan Gaines is a contributing reviewer to curledup.com.
Her interview with Sandra Worth was written in conjunction with her review of Lady of the Roses. © Luan Gaines/2008.