Brought to life on screen by Sean Bean, maverick soldier Richard Sharpe has thrilled millions with his historical escapades. So how did the swashbuckling character come into being? Here's some facts from the Sharpe end...
The Cornwell connection
Bernard Cornwell, the author of the Sharpe saga, was born in London in 1944. Bernard's father was a Canadian airman, whilst his mother was English and a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The pair decided to give Bernard up for adoption and young Cornwell was brought up in Essex by a family belonging to a strict Protestant sect.
After graduating from university, Bernard began working for the BBC as a television director where he met and married Judy, an American. Re-locating with her to the USA, Cornwell was unable to get a Green Card. His solution? He began writing novels, as it didn't require a work permit. Sharpe was born
What's in a name?
Cornwell admits his greatest challenge was finding the right name for his hero. Having temporarily named him after Richard Sharp, the famous rugby player, he found that the name stuck. In the end, Bernard simply added an 'e' to the end.
Sharpe meets Mr Bean
It's the general consensus that Sharpe's on-screen charm is largely due to the brilliant Sean Bean. Cornwell agrees: "Sharpe's greatest stroke of good fortune was meeting Sean". Sean wasn't actually the first choice for the role, but stepped into Paul McGann's shoes after an accident stopped Paul from taking the part. The Sheffield born actor soon made the part his own. Cornwell now concedes: "When I write Sharpe these days, I hear Sean's voice".
Life imitating art
Sean owes Sharpe a slice of his lovelife. He met and married Abigail Cruttenden, his on-set wife, Jane Sharpe. The couple married on November 22, 1997 at Hendon Registry Office in London. Their daughter, Evie Natasha was born a year later on November 6, 1998. Sadly, the pair divorced in 2000. Sean also has two other daughters, Molly and Lorna by actress Melanie Hill.
I'll be back
Cornwell jokes that Sharpe has "more lives than a basketful of cats" but due to popular demand he's still writing more Sharpe adventures.
Seven years after the final instalment, Sharpe's Waterloo, the production company released a statement confirming the rumours that Sharpe would be back: "Sean Bean and ourselves really felt that we had made the last Sharpe. But we now find ourselves missing our favourite production and Sean is certainly very happy to come back on board." Sharpe's Challenge was shot in late 2005 on location in Jaipur, India.
Did you know?
# The first Sharpe book was started in London and finished in New Jersey
# Sean Bean's real name is Shaun Mark Bean
# In 'Sharpe's Honour', 1994, the horseback accident is real! Sharpe and the Marquesa Dorada fall off a horse mid-gallop. Director Tom Clegg kept the shot. How's that for authenticity?
# Liz Hurley appeared in 'Sharpe's Enemy' as Lady Farthingdale.
# Sean has one distinguishing Sharpe-like trait: a scar above his eye. Sean acquired the scar whilst filming 'Patriot Games' with Harrison Ford.