Saturday, May 12, 2012

My mom introduced me to Richard III

 Like most people who know anything about Richard III, I got my first impression about him from Shakespeare. For me, he was the arch villain I loved to hate. And who could not love Laurence Olivier’s brilliant portrayal, or Ian McKellen’s controversial one. They both brought Shakespeare’s villain to life creating a man with whom the audience could even sympathize.

Richard III
One day, about nine years ago, my mother asked me if I had ever read Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman. I hadn’t, but since my mom has great taste in books (I agree with her choices), I went to the library the next day and borrowed this nearly thousand page historical fiction. I was spellbound from the start. Penman introduces us to a seven year-old boy, who eventually becomes the king of England—not through treachery and murder that Shakespeare would have you believe—but through unwavering loyalty to his brother, Edward IV and through a strange twist of fate. On his deathbed, Edward IV names his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, protector to his oldest son, Edward who was still a minor. Richard was not there when Edward IV died, but only learned of the events about a week after the fact. While serving as protector, Richard learns from the Bishop of Bath that Edward IV had been previously married before he had married the mother of his children, and that his first wife was still alive at the time of the bigamous marriage. All Edward’s children were legally declared bastards, thus unable to inherit title. Richard of Gloucester was next in line.

I was so blown over by these and other revelations in Sunne in Splendour, that I had to do my own research. I found Richard’s life so compelling that I found I wanted to have a chat with him. The only way I could think of doing that was to write him into the 21st-century. It started small, but grew to three novels, the first two of which are published and the third a work in progress.


  1. Joan, I know I seldom comment on this blog, but the title struck me. I know just how you feel. I was "introduced", as it were, by my gran who had just come back from London and brought with her a book of the city's past.In it was a picture of Richard while mentioning, what else, the princes. I was so flabbergasted. All I had known of Richard was shakesphere and thought this person was just too awful to be. However, seeing this person, this incredibly human person and trying to factor in the monster history had told me he was- well it really began at that point. Wonderful entry.

  2. That's neat that your mom "introduced" you to the man who ended up setting off your writing career! As a writer, I think ideas just grip you and will not let go until you write them. Always nice when Mom points in the right direction!

  3. Chris, I think you had the same reaction to Richard's portrait that Tey's Inspector Grant had in "Daughter of Time." Although it wasn't his portrait that initially drew me to Richard, I had the same reaction after the fact. In "Loyalty Binds Me" I have one of the characters compare a postcard of the NPG portrait (the one I used in this blog post) to my modernized Richard III.

    "Always nice when Mom points in the right direction!" Ain't that the truth, Chantel. :)

  4. Amazing story. I, too, love to discover things about historical characters and imagine what life would have been like for them. Thanks for bringing them to life.