The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Inspector Alan Grant is in hospital recovering from a broken leg. In an attempt to alleviate his boredom, his friend Marta encourages him to investigate an unsolved mystery from his hospital bed. When she brings Grant a picture of Richard III, he’s immediately intrigued. Richard, of course, is widely believed to have murdered his two young nephews, the sons of his brother King Edward IV, to secure his own claim to the throne after Edward’s death. Grant, however, is not convinced. How can this kind, sensitive face belong to one of the most notorious murderers of all time? Over the next few weeks, Grant reads everything he can find about Richard and his alleged crimes, and makes some surprising discoveries about this controversial king.

With my interest in the Plantagenets, the Wars of the Roses, and Richard III in particular, I expected to enjoy this book and I did. It doesn’t compare to Sharon Kay Penman’s wonderful The Sunne in Splendour, which I read last year, but then, it’s a completely different type of book.

Much as I happen to agree with Josephine Tey that Richard has been unfairly treated, this book is obviously very biased in his favour. But the argument she makes for Richard’s innocence is certainly very convincing. She shows how Grant takes one source at a time, looks at who wrote it (often one of Richard’s enemies) and what the writer’s motive could have been in discrediting Richard. The book also considers Richard’s possible motives and what reasons he may have had for committing (or not committing) the crimes of which he was accused.

As Alan Grant, at the beginning of the novel, knows very little about Richard III it means that the reader doesn’t need to have a lot of prior knowledge either and can learn along with Grant. In fact, from reading other reviews it seems that for many people this book has been their first introduction to this period of history. If, like me, you’ve already read one or two books about Richard and have some basic knowledge of the subject, The Daughter of Time is still a fascinating read. I was surprised that the Duke of Buckingham was hardly mentioned, as he is usually considered along with Richard and Henry Tudor to be one of the main suspects for the murder of the two princes. Tey also suggests that the princes were still alive when Henry VII took the throne, which is interesting as the general opinion now seems to be that they died during Richard’s reign.

But whether we agree with Tey’s theories or not isn’t really important. What is important is that we’re aware of the unreliability of many historical sources and how we have to be very careful because something that is now considered to be ‘historical fact’ may actually originate from nothing more than lies or rumours.

12 thoughts on “The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

  1. Annie says:

    This is definitely my favourite Josephine They book, but then that just might have something to do with the fact that I was born knowing that Richard III was innocent. Shakespeare has a lot to answer for!

    • Helen says:

      This is actually the first Josephine Tey book I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be looking for more of her books. And yes, Shakespeare does have a lot to answer for where Richard III is concerned!

  2. Jo says:

    I know this book has been referred to in Nicola Upson’s books where she uses Tey as a character. I have not read it. Although have just read The Franchise Affair a few weeks back.

    Will certainly look out for it, as it is a historical area I know little about and would willingly like to learn a bit more at a leisurely pace.

    Thanks for the review.

    • Helen says:

      I think this would be a good introduction to the subject if you don’t know much about it. It’s a fascinating period to read about!

  3. Aarti says:

    I didn’t love this book, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. I think you’re right in that the main thing I got from it, too, was how we shouldn’t rely on historical records that were written by the victors, but look at facts. I fell in love with Richard when I read The Sunne in Splendour and while I could very easily be biased in his favor because of THAT, I prefer the Plantagenets to the Tudors, anyway, and am ok with that 😉

    • Helen says:

      The Sunne in Splendour made me fall in love with Richard too! And I also find the Plantagenets much more interesting than the Tudors. 🙂

  4. Margaret @ BooksPlease says:

    This is my favourite Tey book, too. What I particularly liked apart from the mystery side of it is the way historical research is used, making it seem like detective work. My knowledge of Richard III was limited to what I remembered from school – ie he killed his nephews, Shakespeare’s play and augmented a bit by reading Alison Weir’s The Princes in the Tower.

    I have The Sunne in Splendour – must read it soon.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, this book was an interesting blend of history and detective novel. I haven’t read The Princes in the Tower but I probably should read it to get Alison Weir’s perspective on the subject.

  5. Lyn says:

    I love this book, I’ve read it dozens of times & it started my fascination with Richard & the Wars of the Roses. All Josephine Tey’s detective novels are interesting. Franchise Affair & Singing Sands are two more favourites.

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