Are you ready for the Richard III rumble? Week 2!

What a thought! Art by Lynette Roberts on FB.


King Richard Armitage fan initiative updates readers about petitions in York and Leicester to inter Richard III in those cities, should the remains discovered during the dig be authentic. The fan initiative is officially neutral, but you don’t have to be!

And hey, sign the fan initiative petition — we only need seven more signatures to get to a thousand!


Did you enjoy last week’s opening?

For those still struggling with the names and chronology of the book, the King Richard Armitage Fan Initiative is putting together a list of characters and a chronology to help. If this would be a project to interest you, I know they’d appreciate help on their present to King Richard for his 560th. I got him an iPhone. However, he still hasn’t called to thank me! I guess being a deceased king means never having to say you’re grateful. Dude, see if I remember your birthday next year or not.

I admit that I’m unlikely to tweet because the time is inconvenient for me (I’m usually deep into preparations for Monday on campus by that time on Sunday), but I hope that those who are tweeting are enjoying the experience and that others who’d rather not will leave their comments either here or else on the facebook page. All possibilities to participate are linked again at the end of this post. As far as I know, this is the first time the Armitage fandom has tried something like this over multiple platforms simultaneously, so we’re still working out kinks, but even if you didn’t participate last week, you are emphatically invited to do so this week — especially if you’ve read the work all the way through already (which I admit that I haven’t).

Last week, my comic poll question concerned Dickon’s sweetest moment. Poll results at left. I went with the security blanket — liking the idea that even medieval children had transitional objects. (I also have to say that it sucked that Dickon left it behind — I wondered whether he could sleep after the Channel crossing, or if it was supposed to be an indication that he’d abandoned his childhood.) The clear majority of respondents, however, liked the image of the little boy standing with his mother at the market cross in Ludlow, although at least one commentator objected that this moment can’t be described with the adjective, “sweet.”

More seriously, I also asked readers to think last week about Penman’s focus in the beginning of her story mostly away from battlefields. Instead, she centers on the narrative contrast between Marguerite d’Anjou vs Cecily Neville as the metaphorical engine for portraying the Lancaster / York tensions. Behind that question lies my “attenuated feminist” standpoint regarding traditional readings of female rulers that castigate them for doing things they’d have been lauded for had they been men. Had Henry VI behaved as Marguerite did, he’d have been praised for ferocious, decisive kingship; the fact that she is such a b**** not just in novels, but also in historical narratives, justifies a description of Henry VI as saintly and maybe mentally ill as opposed to just downright incompetent and unsuited to the tasks he had inherited. The French / English rivalry also plays into her historical picture. But I digress. My point was that I don’t think Penman was trying to establish York legitimacy on the basis of Cecily Neville’s greater attractiveness in that portion of the reading.  Rather, I think Penman was trying to say something about the exercise of power by noble women in an age of warring armies. I think this point becomes clearer in the chapter that describes Marguerite’s reaction to the results of the Battle of Townton. On some level, in this week’s reading, we see a lot of that same terrain retrod in the discussion of Elizabeth Woodville (Grey), the wife of Edward IV, who never appears in the flesh, but only as described by others in terms of her various troublesome qualities and relationships.

This week’s poll comic question is found below. To help you answer, I offer you the Richard Armitage picture at right, supposedly from 42nd Street in 1990, as evidence of how Armitage might have looked if he’d been able to play Dickon when he was closer to Dickon’s age than he would be nowadays. Didn’t he have a sweet face? Don’t you just want to squeeze his cheeks? Kiss his nose?

OK, back to the seriousness. Or the comicness. Or something. Here’s the question:



More seriously, however, I have two slightly more substantive questions for this week.

First: In chapter 7, Penman introduces Francis Lovell, a teenage boy and reluctant York client brought as a page to Middleham Castle after his (Lancastrian) father’s death. Lovell developed a relationship with the future king and a loyalty to the Yorkist cause that he sustained even after Richard III’s death — he became involved in a pretender’s revolt against Henry VII in 1487. Historically, what’s known about Lovell is drawn primarily from legal documents and tax registers — the main mention of him in historical chronicles, alleging that he was slain at Bosworth, is an error. There’s practically no chance he was writing a diary that historians could get their hands on — this is Penman’s addition. What does it add? What do you see as the purpose of her introduction of Lovell into the narrative here? What perspective is it supposed to offer us?

Second: This second chunk of reading covers roughly seven years. It starts with Dickon’s witnessing the decision of his oldest surviving brother, Edward, now King Edward IV, to pardon a major Lancastrian opponents, the Duke of Somerset, and ends with Richard’s decision to cast away a treasured gift his uncle, Warwick, has given him, after his uncle uses Richard’s older brother, George, as the tool for a successful rebellion against Edward IV. The span let us see an important chunk of Dickon / Richard’s adolescence, with different facets of the young man’s character coming to the fore. In chapter 11, in a conversation with Edward while Edward is imprisoned, Warwick will describe Richard to Edward as “G-d help him … both an idealist and a moralist.” I assume that both Warwick and Penman are setting us up here to see the seeds of Richard’s triumph and demise as foretold in the many sides of Richard we see here. Based on these chapters, to what extent are the words Penman puts in Warwick’s mouth a convincing description? Is Warwick’s estimation correct? Is there more to Richard here?

OK, no need to answer these, but they were two things I was wondering. Happy reading, happy tweeting! I have to go grade.


The Sunne in Splendour Group Read continues on Sunday night at 9 p.m., U.S. East Coast time, and continuing Sunday nights through February.

Directions for veterans of #ArmitageWatch are found here.

Participate via the Institute of Armitage Studies facebook page, here. You can sign up there for a reminder to come and chat on facebook, too.

If you want to sign up for Twitter in order to participate in the chat, but haven’t yet, an explanation of procedures is found at the bottom of this post. The tweetchat “room” for this event will be here.

The chat is free form — come to tweet your impressions, or even a favorite quote from the first five chapters of the book.

~ by Servetus on October 8, 2012.

13 Responses to “Are you ready for the Richard III rumble? Week 2!”

  1. Signed the petition! I hadn’t before (for shame). So glad I can search these posts out later when I get around to reading Penman’s book.


    • Thanks for your signature! I really think it raises awareness of the project when fans sign. And yes, these posts will still be here. I intend to continue blogging my way through the book — I seem to be committed now 🙂


    • Oh, and I should add, I attempt to answer comments that come very late, so if you want to talk about this stuff when you get around to it, I will still be around, too.


  2. Must admit I’m behind in the reading.. Haven’t finished the 2nd chunk… 😦 Haven’t had a lot of time for reading last week..I’ll try to catch up this week. I like the poll question and the answers! It’s going to be a tough choice!


    • I’m finding that it’s going in chunks that are a bit different from the schedule. I didn’t especially like the first four chapters, but I gradually got more involved and then found myself moving past ch. 10 for this week. I think having a better command of who’s involved is helping.


  3. I enjoy your observations and LOVE these polls! The first week his brother stealing his pillow struck a cord with me & I thought the scene of Dickon revealing his identity to Francis so revealing of Dickon’s personality. Thanks for telling a little about Francis future. I find it highly unlikely that young Francis would maintain a personal diary in the setting described, (i would think it requires a lot of cunning to keep secrets & maintain privacy in medieval times) but his experience gives us a view of the depth of personal conflict between families.


    • Thanks — that’s really kind of you — this was more fun to write than I initially anticipated.

      Very, very few documents that we would call “diaries” survive in Europe from before the fifteenth century and most of the early ones are from places like Italy. There are various reasons for this including simply loss of material due to time, but an important one is that most people are thought to have lacked the necessary interior personality features to write this sort of contemplation. This sort of writing starts to become more common with the Renaissance and the development of the modern self, but even then you probably wouldn’t see a teenager doing it. Also, I think she has him write on paper, which would have been fairly thin on the ground in England of that period. All of that is to say the diary is not a total impossibility but as good as. Whenever a historical writer as savvy about history as Penman introduces an anachronism like that, we have to ask why.

      It will take on different functions in later chapters, but here I think it serves to save us space in the narrative. We can see Lovell describing the group of young men around Richard III — and we need to understand their relationships at this point because they’ll become politically important later. That’s one clear function at this point, anyway. But there are certinaly others.


      • I did find a confession that she originally had been remiss in her research about a squirrel species in her first publication. My take is also life was so hard there simply wasn’t space for emotion the way we allow its presence in today’s individualized world.


        • Possibly, though that would have been less true for someone like Lovell. There’s an ongoing debate among historians about the nature of the emotional connections between parents and children in a situation where child mortality rates are so punishingly high. I’ve never been certain where I stand on it.


  4. […] Last week‘s comic poll (results at right) asked readers to consider which teenage Richard Armitage / Dickon moment they’d most like to have seen. You will be unsurprised that I went with the whole “when will I lie with a woman?” problem, but as you can see, reader opinions were quite evenly split. What this split suggests to me is that a lot of what we would call “teenage moments” simply make for really great screen fodder. I love the quote on p. 126 that has adolescent Richard saying, “I still do think that fourteen is a rotten age!” (Dude, my mother would totally agree.) […]


  5. […] 6 – 10 of “The Sunne in Splendour” by Sharon Kay Penman and a poll for you: Are you ready for the Richard III rumble? Week 2!   Servetus’ background information and new questions to chapter 11 – 15: Richard […]


  6. […] — ps. I wanted, during week 2, to mention something important and forgot. In ch. 9, Penman dropped the name of Robert […]


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