The Daughter of Time (1951)

by Josephine Tey

Generally categorized as a mystery, Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time appeals to a wide audience. Those interested in history, particularly British history, find a carefully reasoned exoneration of the "evil hunchback" uncle, King Richard III, who supposedly murdered his two nephews to secure the throne for himself. General readers find a message: don't trust everything that you read in even "authoritative" sources. ("Truth is the daughter of time," reads an "old proverb" on an introductory page.)

And for lovers of mysteries, the novel is considered one of the genre's best ever, a police procedural with the unusual twist that the investigation is done from the policeman's hospital bed.

Inspector Alan Grant is laid up from an on-the-job injury and bored. Knowing Grant is interested in faces, a friend brings him a package of famous portraits. In the face that intrigues him the most he sees conscientiousness — a judge perhaps — not villainy. He is surprised to discover the portrait is of Richard III.

With nothing better to do as he recuperates, Grant has people bring him old history books so that he can learn more about the mysterious crime involving the last king from the House of York. But, with his detective's instincts, Grant senses a bias in what he reads. He learns that there were no contemporary histories and that Thomas More, considered the authoritative source, took his "facts" from an enemy of Richard's.

Grant conducts his criminal investigation with the help of an American researcher who scours 15th-century documents. He discovers that the boys' mother remained on good terms with Richard, and that Henry VII, who seized the throne from Richard, never accused his predecessor of the murder. Not only does Grant conclude that Richard III has been unfairly villified, he also offers his own opinion about who disposed of the princes.

For the record, what happened the boys has never been resolved with certainty; they were sent to the Tower of London and disappeared. The Richard III Society, "dedicated to . . . a reassessment of the reputation of Richard III," devotes a page to Tey (aka Elizabeth MacKintosh) on its web site. "The Daughter of Time (1951) brought the controversy surrounding Richard III and the Princes in the Tower to a wide public audience and is perhaps the most popular defense of Richard," it says.


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