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.