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About Sharon Kay Penman
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Sharon Kay Penman

About Sharon Kay Penman

An Interview with Sharon Kay Penman

More About Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey. She has a BA in history from the University of Texas and a Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers School of Law. She has not practiced law since the publication of her first novel, The Sunne in Splendour, in 1982. To date, she has written six historical novels and two medieval mysteries. She has lived in England and Wales while researching books, and currently lives in New Jersey. IN HER OWN WORDS BY SHARON KAY PENMAN

The movie Braveheart was a great success for Mel Gibson and offered fans an undeniably entertaining couple of hours. But the film was also responsible for giving migraine headaches to historians and history students all over the world. Consider that William Wallace was not the lover of the Princess Isabella, future queen of Edward II. How can I be so sure? Well, for one thing, he was already dead by the time she landed on English shores. It would be almost as easy to find fault with Elizabeth or Becket or Mary, Queen of Scots. Despite their entertainment value, these films tend to take some large liberties with historical fact.

Is there a historical film that I can enjoy while not dissecting it six different ways from Sunday? As a matter of fact, there is: The Lion in Winter. For those few souls who have not seen this Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn classic, here’s a synopsis of the story. Henry has an affair with his son’s betrothed. Eleanor, his queen, is imprisoned for instigating a revolt. His sons are plotting against him and one another. And the French King, Philippe, has come for Christmas. Philippe is the son of Eleanor’s first husband and is rumored in some quarters to have been the lover of Richard, Eleanor and Henry’s son. Philippe also happens to be the brother of Alys, Henry’s mistress.

This all sounds like a medieval road show version of the novel Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with a bit of primetime soap operas Dallas and Dynasty thrown in for good measure. What is so astonishing, however, is that The Lion in Winter is not the result of a Hollywood screen writer gone amuck. All the unlikely events in this film have valid historical roots. Henry was believed to have had an out-of-wedlock child with Alys. Questions about Richard’s sexuality have been swirling about him for centuries. Eleanor of Aquitaine did indeed spend sixteen years in confinement for doing what to the medieval mind was inconceivablerebelling against her husband.

So the question is not why I chose to write about these remarkable historical figures, but how could I not? Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine were larger than life, legends in their own lifetimes. He was one of the greatest of the medieval kings, and she was the only woman to wear the crowns of both England and France. They loved and fought and schemed on a stage that stretched from the Scots border to the Mediterranean Sea. Their children were branded by contemporaries as "The Devil’s Brood," but they founded a dynasty that was to rule England for three hundred years.

My first novel in their trilogy, When Christ and His Saints Slept, traces the beginning of their tempestuous union. Time and Chance continues their story at high noon. From the greenwoods of Wales to a bloodied floor at Canterbury Cathedral, theirs was an amazing story, and I very much enjoyed being along for the ride! Find Books by Sharon Kay Penman

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