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Literature / The Sunne in Splendour

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A Historical Fiction novel by Sharon Kay Penman.

The Sunne in Splendour covers 33 years, from 1459 to 1492, focusing on the Wars of the Roses and in particular Richard III, whom Penman depicts as a heroic character, vilified after his death by political enemies.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Elizabeth Woodville, even when she was 'trying' to be nice to Anne.
  • Anti-Villain: Even though Edmund of Somerset is directly allied to Lancaster, and thus is bought into direct conflict with Richard and Edward, he is depicted as being a moral man who pleads for Anne Neville's safety even when he knows he is facing death.
    • This applies to most of the people in the book, as everyone who is bought into conflict with York is given at least some redeeming qualities and there is no clear cut good and bad side.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Cecily Neville slapped George for betraying his family. Later Elizabeth Woodville also slapped Bess after Bess called her out.
  • Arranged Marriage
  • Babies Ever After: or rather "baby" ever after since Anne and Richard only had one child
  • Badass: Richard of York, Edward IV, Richard, Francis, and most men. They were trained warriors and fought in battles.
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  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: The much-maligned double turncoat George of Clarence was the one who fell upon and killed the defeated Lancastrian prince Edouard; King Edward is greatly relived that it was his unscrupulous brother who took it upon himself to kill off his teenage counterpart. Later, Edward makes the contentious decision to execute — or, if you like, murder — the boy's captive and deposed father, Harry of Lancaster, whose mere existence, however harmless on its own, continued to serve as a wellspring for rebellion. Edward knows that he's crossing a major line with this, and his dismayed inner circle all consider it a despicable, honourless act... except for George, of course, who thinks it's a wonderful idea.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: applies to Bess, Cecily Neville, and Anne though she was described as frail; averted with Elizabeth Woodville, the most beautiful woman who wore a coronet but a complete Jerkass.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Véronique, a lady-in-waiting to Marguerite and then Anne Neville, is a lonely youth with Lancastrian roots, having neither friends nor family to rely on. She starts pulling for York after Anne shows her great kindness and friendship.
    • A similar example with Francis, another lonely and unbelonging youth with Lancastrian loyalties. The hand of friendship offered by Richard of York inspired a lifelong bond between the two, each the other's dearest friend, Francis going on to become a hardcore Yorkist loyalist and eventually King Richard's lord chamberlain.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Richard. As children, George often picked on him until he suddenly retaliated. It gotten worse after Edward IV died at age 40 when Richard had Anthony Woodville executed and took the throne to protect himself and his wife and son.
  • Big Brother Worship: Richard's relationship with his older brother Edward.
  • Black Sheep: George of course
  • Born Lucky: Edward... well, at least it's invoked plenty of times.
  • Broken Bird: Anne after her marriage to Edouard. She was frustrated and disappointed with herself that she couldn't feel the love from Richard during their intimate moment on their wedding night.
  • Broken Pedestal: Edward IV to Richard, especially after George's execution. The saintly, inviolable image of his dearest brother is gradually torn down as the novel goes on; by the end, Richard has come to deeply resent the legacy left by a predecessor whose many flaws and mistakes have cast dark shadows over his own reign.
  • Cain and Abel: George and Edward (Isabel even lampshades this); subverted in that Edward isn't exactly a good guy himself. Later George and Richard, too.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Anne confronted her mother the Countess of Warwick after the Countess returned to Middleham. Anne was hurt and distraught that the Countess failed to protect her from Edouard's abuse, especially after becoming a mother herself. She pointed out that Marguerite of Anjou even knew better on this aspect. The Countess defended her actions but was sorry that Anne was hurt. The two reconciled in the end.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Richard and Anne can't have sex after she gets diagnosed with tuberculosis, for fear he'll get infected too.
  • The Casanova: Edward IV
  • Catapult Nightmare: Richard had one after the disappearances of Princes in the Tower.
  • The Chessmaster: King Louis of France.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: George. This is also the hat worn by the Stanleys, who at one point or another were pulling for nearly every major claimant involved in the power struggle. Their final and greatest turn of the wheel turns the tide of the final battle, just when the Yorkists are in danger of overwhelming Henry Tudor's main camp.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Anne. She started off as the younger daughter of Warwick, the most powerful men in England. Then she was forced to marry Edward of Lancaster for the purpose of alliances. After fall of Lancaster, she became ward of George, who treated her badly. To save herself, she escaped with Veronica and hid in an inn, where Richard later found her. They married and she eventually became Queen of England.
  • Clear My Name: Penman wrote the book partially to do this for Richard. Also, toward the end, the characters become increasingly concerned about how history will view them.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Harry of Lancaster, of course. Edward and Richard think George is becoming this, as well.
  • Coitus Interruptus: Richard and Anne's intimate moment was cut short when Buckingham walked in on them, to deliver an urgent message.
  • Comforting the Widow: applied and averted. Anne was more than happy that Lancaster is dead.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Anne and Richard; they were children at the beginning of the novel
  • Conflicting Loyalty: The most obvious example of this would be poor Johnny Neville, who died fighting against York... and yet secretly wearing its colors.
  • Cool Uncle: Richard, to all his brothers' children except young Edward, but especially Bess.
  • Courtly Love: Richard courted Anne after she returned to York's side. He gave her a locket as a present and Anne asked for a lock of his hair. They sealed their love with a True Love's Kiss.
  • Creator Breakdown: Penman's first copy of the manuscript was stolen, making her so depressed that she didn't write a word for five years. Finally she rewrote the whole thing from scratch.
  • Cruel Mercy: Edward IV lets Marguerite d'Anjou live after the Battle of Tewkesbury, knowing that she'd rather be dead than see the ruin of all her hopes.
  • Dead Guy Junior: The same names get recycled over and over.
  • Decadent Court
  • Deadpan Snarker: Elizabeth has her moments.
  • Death by Childbirth: happened to Nell Percy, wife of Rob Percy and later possibly Bella. Richard was afraid that it'd happen to Anne too after the difficult birth of their son Ned.
  • Death Seeker: Richard in the end. His supporters are all terrified of this and try to will him out of it.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In spades.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The last stretch of a book is a long one for Richard; see below. Having lost nearly everyone he loves and jaded by a string of constant betrayals, he goes to his final battle a broken man determined to either win or die.
    • Elizabeth had hers sometime before. After seeking sanctuary from Richard, she looks back on her the long road and the many corpses between then and the last time she'd sought sanctuary, realising that this time she is utterly without hope.
  • Deus Angst Machina: The last 200 pages or so of the book. Everything that could possibly go wrong in Richard's life does so, in the most brutal way possible. Justified in that it comes straight from the historical record.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Elizabeth's attempts to circumvent Edward's will and have Edward V declared King and avoid Richard becoming Protector. The Woodville's coup is immediately stopped by Richard and so Elizabeth flees into sanctuary.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Anne. Major tearjerking scene.
    • Edmund as well, since he died in his friend Rob's arms. Another major tearjerker.
  • Dirty Coward: Eduoard and John Wenlock. They both refuse to support Edmund of Somerset during the battle of Tewkesbury, even though their battle plan hinged on their aiding him. It comes back to bite them in spectacular fashion as it causes the Lancaster loss and leads to both of their deaths. (The latter at the hands of an enraged Somerset who had to watch all of his men be butchered by the Yorkists.)
  • Doomed by Canon: Those familiar with the War of the Roses will know what's coming.
  • Doorstopper
  • Domestic Abuse: George physically abused Isabel after she tried to speak for her sister's cause. Anne was shocked after seeing her swollen eyes and bruises on the face. George's treatment towards Anne when she was his ward also applies since he was taking away her freedom, stealing her fortune, and even planning for her disappearance.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Brothers Richard and George marry sisters Anne and Isabel.
  • Downer Ending
  • Due to the Dead: Everyone is appalled when the bad guys behead or otherwise mistreat the bodies of those fallen in battle. The good guys accord their dead enemies a decent burial. When Richard fails to do so, with Will Hastings, it's a clear sign of a Heroic BSoD in progress.
  • Dying Alone
  • Dysfunctional Family: the Nevilles and the Plantagenets
  • Easily Forgiven: After attempting to publicly shame Jane Shore, Richard allows her to marry Thomas Lynom. The two meet and part on somewhat pleasant terms given the circumstances.
  • Enemy Mine: Marguerite and Warwick are probably the most clashing example, when they join forces to depose the Yorkist king Edward. Considering the two are each other's Arch-Enemy – and that it was in large part due to Warwick that Edward was able to seize power from the Frenchwoman and her "illegitimate" son to begin with – it speaks to the very deep-running hatred they've come to share for Ned.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Buckingham and Stanley both betrayed Richard
  • Evil Matriarch: Elizabeth Woodville after death of Edward IV. She became ruthless to protect her power even if it meant to use Bess as her pawn or to cause another civil war in England. Her daughters Bess and Cecily called her out on that.
  • Evil Uncle: How young Edward views Richard. The rest of the nieces and nephews.... not so much.
  • Fatal Flaw: Richard's is his poor judge of character, causing him to trust certain people he really ought not. As he all but publicly admits before the final battle, had he taken a firmer, more lethal hand with proven traitors and the disloyal, he would not have arrived at the final hour in such a weak position.
    • Edward's is Lust. His prodigious sexual appetite installs an unsuitable tyrant as queen, granting her scheming family members undeserved position of power, and causes a major issue of succession when a secret plight-troth he'd once made to another woman technically voids his marriage and disinherits his children as bastards.
    • Will's is his jealousy; innocuously towards his legendary best friend Edward, but more cuttingly towards Richard, eventually leading him to betray the latter when his advice (concerning Richard's own fatal flaw, funnily enough) goes unheeded and he feels disfavoured.
  • Feuding Families: York and Lancaster
  • First Love: Although Anne did marry Edouard first, Richard was her first love and vice versa.
  • Foregone Conclusion: if you know history, then you know how the it ends
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The way most of the main characters react to Elizabeth Woodville Grey and Margurite of Anjou.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Anne's wedding night with Richard was very different from her wedding night with Edouard
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Most of the conflict in the book. Particularly between Lancaster and York.
  • Happily Ever After: applied and then averted. This trope certainly applies at the end of Book 2 where Anne and Richard got married after numerous obstacles and returned to Middleham together as Lord and Lady of the North. However, at the end of the entire novel, Anne died from consumption; they lost their only son; and Richard met his end at Bosworth.
  • Happily Married: Richard and Anne, adorably so. For most of their marriage, this was true of Edward and Elizabeth as well.
  • Heart Is Where the Home Is: Anne and Richard got married and returned to North living in Middleham Castle. When arrived to the North, Anne even said, "We're home."
  • Heartwarming Orphan: George's poor son Edward.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Edward and Will, best friends who think nothing of sharing the same women... until Will falls hard for one, anyway. Even this fails to come between them, though; Will is even buried next to his beloved sire after his death.
  • Hidden Depths: George, for all his flaws, did seem to love Bella in his own way. He is a broken man at her funeral vigil and even Anne is moved to pity for him.
  • Honorary Uncle: Jack Howard, to Bess.
  • Honor Before Reason: Richard is appalled at his brother making peace with France, seeing as him cheaply selling their honour for empty promises and pensions, preferring to have pushed the advantage and toppled King Louis in battle. Louis observes this and marks Richard as a potentially dangerous opponent to France.
  • Hot Consort: Elizabeth Woodville.
  • Ill Girl: Anne became one
  • Imaginary Love Triangle: Richard, Anne, and Bess. Richard loved Anne till the end while Bess harbored false hopes that Richard would love her too. Elizabeth Woodville did want to see Richard falling in love with Bess so that Bess could be Queen of England. After Anne's death, there were rumors that Richard poisoned Anne and wanted to marry Bess. Of course, in this novel at least, it was only a rumor spread by Richard's enemies to blacken his name.
  • Incest Is Relative: Provided there's a papal dispensation.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Anne
  • Jerkass: Elizabeth Woodville has a constantly acidic personality, and passages written from her point of view exude her vindictiveness. George is worst of all, plotting at one point to have Anne kidnapped and disappeared so that he can claim her half of the Neville fortune.
  • Kick the Dog: George's treatment towards Anne after she lost her father and her husband. Elizabeth Woodville also has more than a few, not least of all laughing when she learns that Richard's young son abruptly took ill and died, considering it proof of God's disfavour upon her enemy.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Sir William Stanley takes great pleasure in breaking Marguerite d'Anjou after her capture, telling her that if he had his way, she'd be presently joining her most loyal battle commander and "bastard-born whelp" in Hell everlasting. He then spells out the details of her son's ignominious death, painting him as a coward who begged for mercy before being skewered. Privately, the news brings about Marguerite's Despair Event Horizon.
  • Kill 'Em All: Well, mostly. Elizabeth Woodville, Bess, Francis Lovell and a few other characters make it.
  • King Maker: Warwick was the original kingmaker. Also seen later on with Buckingham, who does this for Richard, and then the Stanleys and Northumberland, who do it for Henry Tudor.
  • Kissing Cousins: Richard and Anne were cousins. George and Bella as well.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Marguerite d'Anjou to a T.
  • Lady Macbeth: Elizabeth Woodville, to the core. Played with in that Edward is mostly on board with her machinations, indulging them when the whim strikes him and otherwise generally agreeing with the dark path she's pushing him down, even executing his own brother (admittedly, his most despicable and least-loved brother) at her urging. Ironically, the one demand of hers that he'd scrupled not to grant — the murder of a priest who knew too much — comes back to cause carnage for his line of succession when he's gone, casting down his wife and children.
    • Anne of all people has a good go at this during the final tumultuous scramble for the crown. Knowing that she, Richard, and their son are all doomed if he does not seize his birthright, she pushes him hard, hating herself all the while, but knowing it's the only way to secure all of their futures. Richard ends up agreeing with her, at the last admitting to her that a part of him had in fact always wanted to be king.
  • Lady of War: Margaret of Anjou
  • The Lancer: Richard and Will for Edward, Francis for Richard.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Anne suffered one miscarriage after another after giving birth to Edward. Edward died at age 10.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Henry Tudor's initial attitude towards Bess was based on his disdain towards her mother Elizabeth Woodville.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Edward IV might have thought through his romantic choices a bit better.
  • The Lost Lenore: Anne. Richard could never love another.
  • Marital Rape License: Poor Anne.
  • Marry for Love: Surprisingly.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Warwick really didn't like the whole "let's promote all the Woodvilles" thing.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink
  • The Mourning After: Richard after Anne's death
  • My Greatest Failure: On her deathbed, Elizabeth's greatest regret was not arranging Stillington's death herself.
  • Never My Fault: George. Elizabeth is guilty of this too at times.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Averted, much to certain characters' disgust. Foul rumours and Historical Villain Upgrades concerning the recently deceased are very commonplace.
  • Nice Guy: Richard
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween: Richard, George and Edward, respectively.
  • Nobility Marries Money: not exactly for Richard and Anne, but the Beauchamp inheritance was an issue with George who wanted it all for himself. Richard himself did gain financially from his marriage to Anne. Truth in Television.
  • Obviously Evil: Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Richard really should have listened to Will on that.
  • Off with His Head!
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Richard and Anne. The two were torn apart by wars and Warwick's fallout with King Edward IV. After the war, George did everything he could to prevent the two to be together; Edward IV was not helping much either with Beauchamp properties involved. Finally, after the two were married, they faced other issues such as miscarriages, lost of siblings, etc. In the end, the two were separated by death but their love remained.
  • The One That Got Away: applied and then averted. Richard did not take it well after hearing Anne was marrying Edouard of Lancaster. Edward IV told Richard that had he informed him sooner about his love for Anne, he would've made it happen. Luckily, Anne did not ended up as The One That Got Away after Edouard was slain in battle.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: All of Edward's charm and grace drops at the mention of Nell Butler.
  • Out of Focus: Despite being the ultimate victor, Henry Tudor is a fairly minor character in the novel.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Ned is this for Richard in relation to his other two bastard children. Richard admits privately that this is because Ned is the child of his beloved Anne.
    • Bess is this for Edward IV.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Edward exercises this with his brothers, with varying success.
  • Pet the Dog: Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset asked Richard to be merciful to the younger daughter of Warwick (Anne). Later Anne forgave her mother and accepted her back in her life despite her mother failed to protect her or support her while she was abused by Edouard.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: the marriage between Bess and Henry Tudor turned out surprisingly well
  • Really Gets Around: Jane Shore, whose earnest nature makes her very appealing to many men. Her display even seduces the austere solicitor who'd come to deal with her during her imprisonment.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Richard gives a scathing one to Will Hastings and the other conspirators who'd plotted his death and risked another great bloodletting of England for personal gain.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In a rare endearing version of this trope, Edward declares that Richard has succeeded their deceased brother Edmund as the brother Edward is closest to.
  • The Resenter: Edward fosters a lot of this after his death. After taking power, Richard bitterly reflects on the poor decisions his beloved brother had made, having seen them bear calamitous fruit: for taking to queen an utterly unsuitable schemer; for putting his son under the tutelage of a snake who poisoned the boy against the better half of his family tree; for ignoring the rivalries and hostile factions warring within his court, juggling them rather than decisively addressing them; and most of all, for delivering himself into far too early a grave through decadent living. Anne and Elizabeth also look back on the late king with similar resentment (although in the latter's case, very different, not-entirely-unjustified reasons).
  • Royal Brat: Edouard shows signs of this.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Edward IV and Richard III. Both were politicians and warriors.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Sensitive, wise-beyond-his-years Edmund, Earl of Rutland, is murdered (Red Wedding Style) early in the story when he is only seventeen.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: George's attitude toward life.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!: Happens in France, much to Richard's dismay.
  • Secret Relationship: Hoo boy.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Richard noticed the changes in Anne after the Battle of Tewkesbury. They hadn't seen each other for nineteen months and he saw that she grew taller and developed curves. Later Edward IV noticed it too on her wedding day.
  • Sibling Rivalry: George didn't get along with either Edward IV and Richard.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. She was not a Lady of War like Margaret of Anjou, but she was also a politically acute woman who knew how to protect her children.
  • Sole Survivor: Rob Apsall, after Sandal Castle, and Francis, after the foiled attack on Henry Tudor.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Anne and Richard. They genuinely loved each other but were torn apart because Warwick fell out with Edward IV. Anne was married to Lancaster; after the war she became a ward of George, who did everything he could to keep them apart.
  • Storming the Castle
  • Teen Pregnancy: Richard was in his teens when he fathered his bastard daughter Katherine
  • Thicker Than Water: averted. Brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins turned against each other for power and crown.
  • True Love's Kiss: When Richard first saw Anne after the war, he gave her a kiss as a friendly gesture. Later he began to court her and gave her a True Love's Kiss. Unfortunately, Anne was traumatized from her marriage to Edouard that she did not take it well.
  • Undying Loyalty: Richard towards Edward — for all their disagreements, some enormous and seemingly irreconcilable, Richard never turns on his most beloved brother. Will always has this towards Edward... but not Richard.
  • Unequal Pairing: Cecily Neville never saw Elizabeth Woodville as a worthy bride for her oldest son Edward.
  • Unexpected Successor: Richard and Henry Tudor
  • The Un-Favourite: Richard's bastard son Johnny is acutely aware of being this compared to his younger legitimate brother Ned. When Ned dies Johnny is full of Survivor's Guilt. Richard has to assure Johnny that he loves him and that he would be heartbroken if Johnny really wished he died instead of Ned.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Richard and Anne
  • Villain's Dying Grace
    Edward: I'd not stain my hands with a woman's blood.
    Marguerite: Even if it were a mercy?
    Edward: Especially if it were a mercy, Madame.
  • War Is Hell
  • Wedding Finale: Richard and Anne's wedding at the end of Book Two
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: Although that never ends well for the traitor.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Edward and Warwick.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Joan. We never even find out if she survived the sacking of Ludlow.
    • Averted for Margurite in a chapter, her ignominious death is mentioned.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Women never get executed for treason, no matter how serious their crimes.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: After Richard came back to London, Anne was missing. Richard immediately suspected George either harmed her or imprisoned her. He searched all around and finally found her in an inn.
  • Young Future Famous People: Bess in earlier chapter. She would be Queen of England.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Anne.
    • Edmund had shades of this, too.


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