The Sunne in Splendour

   Posted by: Kevin Herbert   in

Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour. Penguin Books, London, 1982. ISBN 0-14-006764-7

This novel is a very well researched novel that is hard to put down.  Its characters, even the minor ones are all well drawn and very believable.

The novel opens when Richard is just four years old, showing even then the steadfast qualities which were to dominate his character throughout his life.

It also shows Edward at 14 as the flawed charmer he was to become and suggests the strong affinity that was to dominate relations between these two brothers from here on.  Their brother Edmund is shown as a much nicer person than Edward and one wonders what would have happened had Edmund survived.

Did the death of Edmund at such an early formative age affect Edward? Certainly Edmund, much more like Richard and their father, understood Edward and was not blind to his shortcomings, talents and charm.

Richard‘s development is plotted well through his early years and his acquaintance with the others who won his love and loyalty also features strongly and believably and provides compelling evidence for their place in Richard’s firmament – and all played poignant, purposeful and believable cameo roles in the over all tragedy that was his fate:

Cecily Neville, Dowager Duchess of York his widowed mother.

Edward IV, his charming, amoral, elder brother and mentor.

Elizabeth Woodville, Edward’s queen.

George, Duke of Clarence, the treacherous middle brother to Edward and Richard.

Isobel Neville, wife of Clarence and sister of Anne  Neville.

Edward, the pathetic future Earl of Warwick;  son of George and Isobel.

Anne Neville, wife of Edouard, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, later Richard’s wife and queen.

Edward, Earl of Salisbury, only surviving child of Richard and Anne, who dies aged 11.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, father of Isobel and Anne, cousin to Richard and his siblings.

Anne (nee Beauchamp), Countess of Warwick, wife to the Kingmaker, mother of Anne and Isobel.

Johnny Neville, Marquis of Montagu and sometime Earl of Northumberland,  younger brother of  The Kingmaker.

Francis Lovell  of Minster Lovell, ward of the Kingmaker, Richard’s greatest friend, married to the Kingmaker’s niece, Anna Fitzhugh.

William, Lord Hastings,  second cousin of the father of Richard and his siblings, close cousin of the Percy family of Northumberland, a brother-in-law of the Kingmaker.

Thomas,  Lord Stanley, another brother-in-law to the Kingmaker, later fourth husband of :

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry Tudor.

Cecily Plantagenet, third daughter of Edward and Elizabeth, married off to Margaret’s younger step-brother, John, Lord Welles.

Bess, eldest daughter of Edward and Elizabeth, destined to become Tudor’s queen.

Katherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham – a younger sister of Elizabeth Woodville married to:

Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, second cousin of Richard and his siblings.

John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, (later proclaimed Richard’s heir), eldest son of :

Elizabeth de la Pole, Duchess of Suffolk,  an elder sister of Richard’s and his siblings.

John Morton, a sinister and ambitious cleric, Edward’s Master of The Rolls and Richard’s confirmed enemy, destined to become Tudor’s adviser and Archbishop of Canterbury.

Harry Percy, the erratic second cousin of Richard,  his siblings and the Percy and Mowbray families.

Margaret of Burgundy, sister of Richard and his siblings, wife and later widow of Charles the Bold, fourth Duke of Burgundy.

Anne Holland, Duchess of Exeter, eldest sister of Richard and his siblings.

John and Katherine Plantagenet,  Richard’s natural children, born before his marriage.

Even Edouard, the young Lancastrian Prince of Wales (first  husband of Anne Neville ) and  his mother, Margaret of Anjou elicit some sympathy.

We are also encouraged to see the Lancastrian band of supporters as just that – loyal and steadfast, not the “baddies”.   John de Vere, Earl of Oxford; Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and his brothers are but a few..

Sharon Penman’s solution to so many of the mysteries that occurred in this period are handled honestly and believably.  The author manages to capture the essence of Richard and all those who peopled his world.  Highly recommended to anyone who wishes to go back in time and walk in Richard’s and his contemporaries’ footsteps.

If you are interested to find out about other books by this author, visit Sharon’s own website.