Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DAUGHTER OF TIME - Josephine Tey - Book Review

The Daughter of Time, written by Josephine Tey, is a clever way to write a mystery story combined with rethinking what has almost become a historical fact: that Richard III murdered his young nephews to take the crown of England.  This book is an investigation into the famous "Princes in the Tower" stories that have been going around forever.   Tey is excellent laying out all the facts and working it through Scotland Yard Inspector, Alan Grant, who is stuck in a hospital bed with a broken leg, ribs, etc after a nasty turn in his professional life.  Since he is growing restless, his friend Marta (a famous actress) brings him stacks of copies of portraits to study (Grant loves to study faces).  He comes upon a portrait of Richard III which starts him on the path to determine whether Richard is guilty or not. 

One of the funniest scenes takes place between Grant and Marta, who at one time played the Queen (mother of the two murdered princes) in a play.  Marta, the actress, is mimicking the part of the Queen who has sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey:

'Of course, the thing is farce, I hope you see,' Marta said, going on with her flower arranging. 'Not a tragedy at all. "Yes, I know he did kill Edward and little Richard, but he really is a rather charming creature
and it is so bad for my rheumatism living in rooms with a north light". This made me laugh out loud (which I love to do while reading or listening to a good book.)
The following is Alan Grant's analysis of Richard, the supposed criminal: 

"He reached for his writing-pad and pen, and made a neat entry:

CASE: Disappearance of two boys (Edward, Prince of Wales; Richard, Duke
of York) from the Tower of London, 1485 or thereabouts.


Previous Record:

Good. Has excellent record in public service, and good reputation in
private life. Salient characteristic as indicated by his actions: good

In the matter of the presumed crime:

(a) He did not stand to benefit; there were nine other heirs to the house
of York, including three males.

(b) There is no contemporary accusation.

(c) The boys' mother continued on friendly terms with him until his
death, and her daughters attended Palace festivities.

(d) He showed no fear of the other heirs of York, providing generously
for their upkeep and granting all of them their royal state.

(e) His own right to the crown was unassailable, approved by Act of
Parliament and public acclamation; the boys were out of the succession
and of no danger to him.

(f) If he had been nervous about disaffection then the person to have got
rid of was not the two boys, but the person who really was next in
succession to him: young Warwick. Whom he publicly created his heir when
his own son died.


Previous Record:

An adventurer, living at foreign courts. Son of an ambitious mother.
Nothing known against his private life. No public office or employment.
Salient characteristic as indicated by his actions: subtlety.

In the matter of the presumed crime:

(a) It was of great importance to him that the boys should not continue
to live. By repealing the Act acknowledging the children's illegitimacy,
he made the elder boy King of England, and the younger boy the next heir.

(b) In the Act which he brought before Parliament for the attaining of
Richard he accused Richard of the conventional tyranny and cruelty but
made no mention of the two young Princes. The conclusion is inevitable
that at that time the two boys were alive and their whereabouts known.

(c) The boys' mother was deprived of her living and consigned to a
nunnery eighteen months after his succession.

(d) He took immediate steps to secure the persons of all the other heirs
to the crown, and kept them in close arrest until he could with the
minimum of scandal get rid of them.

(e) He had no right whatever to the throne. Since the death of Richard,
young Warwick was de jure King of England.

And it occurred to him too for the first time in full force just how that
family atmosphere strengthened the case for Richard's innocence. The boys
whom he was supposed to have put down as he would put down twin foals
were Edward's sons; children he must have known personally and well. To
Henry, on the other hand, they were mere symbols. Obstacles on a path. He
may never even have set eyes on them. All questions of character apart,
the choice between the two men as suspects might almost be decided on
that alone.

It was wonderfully clearing to the head to see it neat and tidy as (a),
(b), and (c). He had not noticed before how doubly suspect was Henry's
behaviour over Titulus Regius. If, as Henry had insisted, Richard's claim
was absurd, then surely the obvious thing to do was to have the thing
re-read in public and demonstrate its falsity. But he did no such thing.
He went to endless pains to obliterate even the memory of it. The
conclusion was inevitable that Richard's title to the crown as shown in
Titulus Regius was unassailable."
A great, fun read--especially if you love the odds and ends of British history. 


  1. I read this one years and years ago and loved it! I've checked the library for it a couple of times in the past few years, but it must have been one of those that after a few years with no check-outs hits the free book bin.

    I just skimmed your review because you reminded me that I've often wanted to re-read it. Off to Amazon! Thanks, Kim!

  2. Jenclair: I actually listened to this book on tape. It was read by Derek Jacobi which, of course, enhanced the story. Especially when he was reading Marta's role in the scene I mentioned in my review--he hit it spot-on.

  3. Well this is just fascinating and fun! I'm reading a book about the Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir right now so this book would tie in nicely. thanks for the recommend!