The Sunne in Splendour

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The Sunne in Splendour is a historical novel written by Sharon Kay Penman. Penman became interested in the subject of Richard III while a student and wrote a manuscript that was stolen from her car. She rewrote the manuscript which was published in 1982.


As a student, Penman researched and wrote The Sunne in Splendour that chronicled the life of Richard III. When the 400-page manuscript was stolen from her car, Penman found herself unable to write for the next five years.[1] She eventually rewrote the book and by the time the 936 page book was published in 1982 she had spent 12 years writing it, while practicing law at the same time.[2]

The Sunne in Splendour is about England's Wars of the Roses. In the book, Penman characterizes King Richard III as a good, but misunderstood, ruler.[3] She chose to write Richard's character this way after becoming fascinated with his story and researching his life, both in the US and in the UK, which led her to believe that "his was a classic case of history being rewritten by the victor".[4] Penman rejects the common belief that Richard killed the "Princes in the Tower," the sons of his brother King Edward IV, and attributes their deaths to the overly ambitious Duke of Buckingham.

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins in 1459 with Richard as a young boy, and ends in 1485 with his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

When their father is killed, Richard's older brother Edward leads the House of York to victory and becomes king as Edward IV.

Edward dies prematurely at age 40, and Richard becomes the Protector of the Realm for Edward's sons, Edward and Richard. Richard learns of Edward's previous secret marriage, which makes Edward's marriage to the boys' mother, Elizabeth Woodville, illegal. Edward's children are therefore illegitimate, and Richard is the rightful heir to the throne. Elizabeth's brother, Anthony, Lord Rivers, plots to crown young Edward without Richard's knowledge. Richard has no choice but to end his protectorship and assume the throne.

Soon after Richard is crowned, both his son, Edward, and his wife, Anne, die. After two years as king, he faces his greatest challenge from an army of French mercenaries led by Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII. At Bosworth, Richard is betrayed by two of his nobles, and left in a perilous situation. Richard himself is killed a few feet from Henry.


  1. ^ McDowell, Edwin (September 16, 1982). "What Authors do to Protect MSS". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "On Reshaping History". Ricardian Fiction. Richard III Society, American Branch. Archived from the original on 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2010-02-13.
  3. ^ Johnson, George (February 2, 1990). "New and Noteworthy: The Sunne in Splendour". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  4. ^ "Author Interview: Sharon Kay Penman". Trivium Publishing LLC. 2002. Retrieved 2009-07-27.