Lady Rowenna’s character is set in 12th century England. She is a beautiful young maiden who is ward of Cedric of Rotherwood. Cedric is the father of Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Rowenna was known to be a beautiful and captivating maiden. She was so beautiful in fact that upon first seeing her beauty the evil Norman knight Sir Maurice de Bracy swore that he must have her as his wife even if it was against her will.
Rowenna comes from a wealth family of noble Saxon blood. At this time in England’s history, England is dominated by the Normans whose origins lay in France and northern Europe. The Normans have all but conquered the Saxons who lived in England long before the Normans arrived. The Normans tend to look down on the Saxons and generally treat them with the disrespect of a conquered people. Cedric who is of Saxon blood hopes to marry young Rowenna to Lord Athelstane, a claimant to the crown of England.
If Cedriec can marry the Lady Rowenna to Lord Athelstane he believes this is the first step in reviving the Anglo-Saxon monarchy and nobility in England. Rowenna, however, has other ideas and refuses to marry Lord Athelstane because she has always loved Ivanhoe who is Cedric’s disinherited son. Cedric has disinherited Ivanhoe because he is angry that Ivanhoe disobeyed him by going away to war during the Crusades to fight with England’s Norman king, King Richard the Lionheart. Both Rowenna and Cedric believe Ivanhoe is off to war in Europe with King Richard and are surprised when Ivanhoe secretly returns to England and fights in a jousting tournament that he wins defeating four Norman knights.
After winning the tournament, Ivanhoe chooses Lady Rowenna as the Queen of the Tournament. Having the Lady Rowenna, who is Saxon, as Queen of the tournament is a great source of pride not only for the Lady Rowenna, but for Cedric and the rest of the Saxon spectators in attendance. Between refusing to go ahead with the a prearranged marriage to Lord Athelstane and dodging the unwanted advances and imprisonment of Maurice de Bracy, the Lady Rowenna is able to keep her virtue for the one man she truly loves Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Sir Walter Scott, the author of Ivanhoe leaves us with an interesting unanswered question, who is the best companion for Ivanhoe is it the Lady Rowenna or the Rebecca?