Ten Rules for Depicting Margaret of Anjou in Historical Fiction

Although this very blogger has propagated ten rules for writing fiction about Richard III (which, I am pleased to say, continue to be followed), and Kathryn has provided us with her excellent rules for writing about Edward II and Isabella, no one seems to have provided guidance for depicting Margaret of Anjou in historical fiction. So to simplify the writing process, I have taken it upon myself to provide these ten easy-to-follow rules:

1. Margaret must be depicted as being in absolute control of her husband from the very day she sets foot on English soil at age fifteen. Historians whose research has shown otherwise can and should be avoided, which has the added advantage of saving the novelist both research time and book money. (Indeed, a perfectly decent novel featuring Margaret can be written without consulting any secondary source written after 1955.)

2. While any male fourteen or older can be made to father Edward of Lancaster, the truly conscientious novelist will supply several possible candidates for the role, preferably with Margaret herself having no idea of the identity of the proud papa. The exception, of course, is Henry VI himself, who cannot be entertained for a second as a possible father of his nominal son. If you make him the father, you are a hopeless case and need not waste your time reading the rest of these rules.

3. At Ludlow, Margaret’s troops should behave in a manner that makes the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the Sack of Rome look like shoving matches. A novelist who does not take the opportunity to have the evil Margaret cackling at the terrified little Richard, Duke of Gloucester, thereby emotionally scarring the poor lad for life, should really find another career.

4. The executions of Thomas Kyriell, Lord Bonville, and (possibly) William Gower following the second battle of St. Albans must be depicted as illustrative of Margaret’s vengeful, twisted, and depraved nature. On the other hand, Yorkist executions of dubious legality, like Warwick’s executions of seven people at the Tower following the battle of Northampton and his executions of Richard Woodville, John Woodville, and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke in 1469, should be ignored or shrugged off. Boys, after all, will be boys.

5. Hall’s noncontemporary, historically dubious account of a helpless and unarmed Edward of Lancaster being slain in cold blood after the Battle of Tewkesbury must be dismissed as Tudor propaganda and avoided at all costs. Hall’s noncontemporary, historically dubious account of a helpless and unarmed Edmund, Earl of Rutland, being slain in cold blood after the Battle of Wakefield must be followed to the letter.

6. When frail, helpless little Anne Neville arrives trembling and shaking in Margaret’s household as her new daughter-in-law, Margaret must be the living embodiment of all that is unpleasant in a mother-in-law. (Married writers who are at a loss for inspiration here should simply think of the negative traits of their own mother-in-laws and magnify them a hundredfold.) Big points to the writer who goes even further and has Margaret attempt to murder the hapless and pitiful Anne.

7. Following the marriage of Edward of Lancaster and Anne Neville, the novelist has some discretion, within reason, of course. She can have Margaret refuse to allow the consummation of the marriage (and have both Margaret and Edward make some mean and/or crude remarks about Anne). Alternatively, Edward of Lancaster must consummate the marriage in the most painful and degrading manner possible. By no means may the young couple mutually enjoy their wedding night, for this would preclude the glorious sexual awakening that is later in store for Anne at the tender hands of the sensitive, studly, infallibly G-spot-finding Richard, Duke of Gloucester. It is, after all, called the G-spot and not the L-spot.

(Remember, though, while Anne Neville and Richard are making glorious whoopee, the author should remind the reader that Richard is still emotionally scarred from Margaret’s cruel behavior at Ludlow. This may serve as a template:
“Richard, my dearest love, I heard you cry out in your sleep following our two hours of marital bliss. What troubles you?”
“I’m sorry, my dearest love. I was dreaming of cruel Margaret at Ludlow.”
“Oh, Richard, you poor, sensitive soul!”)

8. At no time should any Yorkist account that reflects poorly on Margaret be viewed skeptically as Yorkist propaganda, because there is simply no such thing. In a similar vein, the adage that “history is written by the victors,” which can be trotted out so usefully to discredit anything written about Richard III after the Battle of Bosworth, cannot be used to discredit anything written about Margaret after Edward IV took the throne.

9. When confused, remember this simple guideline: Yorkists are good, Lancastrians are bad. A person’s switching sides need not complicate this rule in the slightest, for when the (good) John Neville switches his allegiance to the House of Lancaster, he in fact can remain a closet supporter of the House of York, whereas when the (bad) Woodvilles switch their allegiance to the House of York, they can remain closet supporters of the House of Lancaster. When Warwick switches to the House of Lancaster, he is simply revealing his Inner Badness.

10. When in doubt, consult Shakespeare.

17 thoughts on “Ten Rules for Depicting Margaret of Anjou in Historical Fiction”

  1. Too funny! And thank you, I now have ELO's Medieval Woman in my head and I can't get it out!

  2. Rule 10 sounds like such a good fail-safe that I will surely use it whenever I am confused about some point in history, particularly about Richard III. And further, I wish I had some Inner Badness – I think it would do very well some days.

  3. Thanks, Susan, for another post which added some much-needed humor to my day. You basically spelled out the reasons why I could never completely like The Sunne in Splendour, The Rose of York series or most of the Wars of the Roses fiction I've read.

  4. Thanks Susan, you've made my job sooooo much easier now! I don't think I'll bother consulting any sources at all after this, it'll certainly make my sources list shorter! And to think, I was considering making Anne Nevill the sexual aggressor after her marriage to EoL (for what 17 year old boy can resist a determined young girl, no matter what Mother might have to say?), but now I know the truth I need not besmirch her purity after all!
    As for that Inner Badness of Warwick's – isn't that why we love him?

  5. Hannah Kilpatrick

    Shakespeare, naturally, is infallible. Especially when it comes to dramatic fiction.

  6. Oh why not make it a dozen?

    Imagine how Margaret must have felt when she finally realised that thanks to her aunt by marriage Jacquette that regarding the battle of St Albans (Mark 2) she had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I just can’t get it out of my head of Margaret and not the for the first time going on the rant just like the Wicked Queen of Snow White Well if we’re going to have Shakespeare why not Disney?

    Secondly Margaret was French and undoubtedly when things began to go awry resorting to her mother tongue. ‘Zut alors! ‘ and all that. Pourquoi pas de francais? Je vous prie !

  7. Oh Lord, Trish, a Disney version of Wor! Can you imagine the songs? They'll be kicking themselves that they've already used "Just Can't Wait to be King"!

  8. Imagine the Disney version? I’ve done better than that and here are some of the songs which may be familiar

    Whistle while you war
    Some day my Prince will come (EOY)
    If I were a Rich Three
    I’m reviewing the situation (MoA, Warwick, Clarence and Gloucester with various reprises)
    Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho it’s off to War we go
    How to handle a woman (definitely one for R3 a la Shakespeare)
    Fie on goodness (take your pick)
    What do we do about a girl called Margaret
    As long as he needs me (Anne Neville)
    I’m Henery the Seventh I am
    The Phony King of England
    Not in Nottingham (Poor old R3 always had a BAD TIME in Nottingham)
    Here comes the Sunne.

    And now the sun has come it's barbie(BBQ)time.

    Happy weekend everyone!

  9. Absolutly brilliant Susan . Couldn’t top laughing from the beginning to the end.My husband Adrian was reading over my shoulder as I was laughing out loud and he thought them hilarious as well. He loves History as well.
    I think they should be published as a guide for aspiring novelists !

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