Catherine Hokin Interviews Margaret of Anjou from Blood and Roses
Today Catherine Hokin is interviewing Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI of England.
* Where and when were you born?
I was born on March 23rd 1430 at Pont-a-Mousson which is in Lorraine, an area of north-eastern France ruled by my father.
* What influence did your birth family have on you, your choices, your life? Explain why and how.
I come from a family in which the women are far stronger than the men. My father, Rene, wanted to be a painter or a poet not a king. My mother, Isabella was a far stronger ruler than him and everyone knew it – she was Queen Consort of Naples and frequently acted as regent when my father was off chasing dreams or imprisoned through his own foolishness. My grandmother Yolande of Aragon, was also Queen Consort of Naples and regent in Provence. She was a warrior: she helped to finance Joan of Arc’s army. I had no choice who I married: I married a weaker man than even my father and I was married in England where they do not like strong queens. I acted as my mother and grandmother would have done when my husband could not rule: the English made me into a devil for it.
* If you could relive your life, what changes would you make?
I would have protected my son better. Everything that happened to my son was my fault. I will blame myself for that until my dying day.
* Tell us why you believe women really are/are not the weaker sex?
This seems to be the belief in England, it is not the belief in France or Italy where women are prized for far more than their ability to bear children. My father could not make sense of politics and never made a decision that served him well. My husband is gripped with an illness that makes him like a ghost for months on end, asleep but awake; even when he is well, he prefers prayer to the business of government and is terrified of the battlefield. I am not. The women in my family are not weak; the woman who has proved herself my enemy is not weak.
* What do you want from life?
What is my family’s by right: the English Crown.
* What, in the outside world, is preventing you from getting it?
My husband’s weakness. The inability of his advisors to recognise that I can hold the rule until my son, who carries my strength in his blood, can wear it. The Yorkists who believe their claim is as strong as my husband’s Lancaster line. Richard, Duke of York has three sons to my one, each as grasping for power as the next. The oldest boy, Edward of March, is treated like a god by fools who see his pretty face and are fooled into believing that what lies beneath it is as sweet. It is not, trust me: it is not.
* How do you decide if you can trust someone? Experience with others? with this person? First impressions? Intuition? Do you test the person somehow? Or are you just generally disposed to trust or not to trust?
I learned very quickly, almost as soon as I stepped onto English soil, not to trust anyone. There is no one at the English Court who will not twist with the wind to grasp power. The Duke of Warwick changes sides faster than he changes his cloak, although he at least, is honest enough to know how fickle he is. I cannot have friends: they will use any softness against me. I trust my son, I think I could have trusted his little wife Anne but that was pulled from me quick enough. England is a dark place: the crown has us all enthralled and poisoned.
* What really moves you, or touches you to the soul?
My son, Edward. I thought I craved a child only to keep me safe, a barren queen does not sit easy on her throne, I did not know how much I would love the tiny scrap that was put into my arms. How much I would live the boy he became. I took a terrible risk in the getting of him; I have paid for it until my heart is broken.
* What do you consider are your strengths?
I have lived long enough with fear to no longer be afraid. That makes me strong.
* What do you consider are your weaknesses?
My son is my weakness, everything I have done is for him. I cannot make friends, I have lost the way of it in the chaos of the world that surrounds me. There would be such loneliness in my life if I allowed myself to feel it. I cannot.
* What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Why?
I have betrayed and broken a strong woman who could have been my friend. My need was greater than friendship, my need made me destroy her life. I am sorry for it. I would do the same again.
* What are you most afraid of?
Harm falling on my son, it is my waking nightmare. It is the only thing I cannot control, no matter how much I pretend otherwise. I made my son as strong as me: that is our curse.
On what occasion would you tell a lie?
To protect my family. I have lied about my husband’s illness. I have lied about my son. I have no choice. If my life was different, I would be a better person – that is not a luxury I can afford.
Which living person do you most despise? (Remember the time period.)
Edward, Earl of March. He hides a twisted nature under his charm and puts a spell on everyone around him. He is a monster, trust me. I have seen the depths he will sink to.
When and where were you happiest?
When I was waiting to be queen. When I was newly betrothed and had made my family so proud. When I had not yet met Henry and understood the trap I had been led so blindly into. I was a happy child and a happy girl; I wish I could find that girl now.
How would you like to die?
In my bed. Old, much older than I am now. Surrounded by my son and his children, safe in the knowledge that he has the crown and England is ruled peacefully and well. It is a dream that makes me weep to think of it. Perhaps the best I can wish for is a death that is gentle and not done in the dark or in a dungeon’s coldness. Perhaps.
What is your motto?
Trust no one but yourself. I wish it was not so but it is what I have learned.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a better woman than I fear I will be. I loved my child, I wanted nothing more than peace in this poor country which our wars have ripped apart. I was a gentle girl, I wanted to be a gentle woman but the world did not need that of me. The Yorkists are as well-versed in using words to destroy as swords: I fear I will suffer for that. Remember me, if you remember me at all, as a woman dealt a hand she could not have seen, who was trained for a very different life than she was forced to live and was ill-equipped for it. And remember me as a mother: that is how I remember myself.
Catherine Hokin is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. Catherine also writes short stories – she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition and has been published by iScot magazine – and regularly blogs as Heroine Chic. She is represented by Tina Betts of the Andrew Mann Literary Agency.
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