"Everybody knows that Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings, murdered his two nephews. But everybody could be wrong -- according to Scotland Yard's Inspector Grant, who studies 500-year-old evidence to try to determine who really killed these two heirs to the British throne…"
(Harris, 2001, p. 1).
On the initial page of author Josephine Tey's book, The Daughter of Time, the author (whose real name is Elizabeth MacKintosh and who also uses the name Gordon Daviot) embraces the quote, "Truth is the Daughter of Time." That is an appropriate use of the proverb because much of the discussion of Tey's fictitious historical novel centers on the concepts of truth and perception when it comes to King Richard III.
Summary of the Book
One of Tey's characters that she uses in this novel, and in several of her other books, Alan Grant, is an inspector with Scotland Yard in London. Because Grant is normally very active and on the go, when he is confined to a hospital bed -- as he is at the outset of the novel -- instead of his normal gumshoe detective work he puts his investigative mind and imagination to work. His investigative side has been activated because a friend has brought Grant a reproduction of a portrait of King Richard III. It can be said with assurance that the arguments that Tey presents in this novel are organized in a very clear manner, and indeed the book presents it's narrative in a readable form, following the work of Grant and his associates with clarity and logic.
True to the typically adroit detective's uncanny ability to focus on -- and draw conclusions about -- a person's character through the face and through expressions, Grant determines that King Richard is not the cruel, brutal murderer that he has been made out to be. Grant sees the face of a kind who seems rather kind, intelligent, and even gentle. This leads Grant to enlist the help of trusted friends and associates to help him dig into the history of England as it pertains to Richard III.
Hence, the reader is carried through the novel lining up with the side that Grant has taken, that indeed Richard III did not commit the heinous crimes he is blamed for. Grant became convinced that there must be other more logical explanations for the crimes that historians, scholars, writers and others had blamed on Richard III -- the fifteenth century murder of two disinherited princes in the Tower of London. One of the conclusions reached by Grant in the novel was that Richard III was not a murderer but in fact that assertion was merely a rumor, a result of the English Tutor propaganda. This conclusion was reached after much digging, but Grant, noting that Richard III was the last of his line and that his successor was the very first Tudor monarch, King Henry VII, smells a rat in the historical accounting of this matter.
On page 106 (Chapter Nine) Grant asks the surgeon in the hospital if he (the surgeon) thinks it's a little unusual that there never was a "Bill of Attainer" in Parliament, nor was there a coroner's inquest related to the alleged murders by Richard III. "Really?" The surgeon responds to Grant's point; "That's odd, isn't it," the surgeon continues, suggesting that perhaps the family was just trying to "minimize the scandal"
(Tey, 106). But wait; Grant reminds the surgeon, Richard III was not succeeded by one of his family.
And moreover, as to the allegations that Richard III did in fact kill the two princes -- who were his nephews, the sons of Richard III's brother, to whom Richard III was fiercely loyal -- there was never any evidence that the princes were actually murdered. And moreover, there was the clear conclusion (which Grant and his colleagues dug up) that Henry Tudor created the doubt and rumors to make his own hold on the British throne legitimate. Following the overall respected stewardship of Richard III, it appears that Henry was jealous and wanted to rise above Richard's reputation in the eyes of his constituents.
So Grant searches through laws, letters, and various books that have accounts of Richard III's actions; some of the testimony that is found by Grant and his associates in the chronicles is suspect, given the motives of the chroniclers, and Grant is an expert in digging up background materials that show the testimony to be biased.
Critique of the Book
In the book The Detective As Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, Volume 1, the authors believe that Tey has employed a "…universalistic psychology, putting her at odds with professional historians"
(Kelly, et al., 2000, p. 135). Typically, historians tend to base their explanations and narratives vis-a-vis Richard III's behaviors "…in the context of the politics of the period, rather than in universal, i.e., ahistorical, psychological categories and assumptions" (Kelly, 135). In other words, the quality of Tey's research and writing -- albeit Tey's book is technically fiction -- can trump the stuffy explanations historians put forward to attempt to solve the riddle of what happened to the two nephews.
As mentioned, Grant is an experienced sleuth, and Browne notes that at Scotland Yard Grand enjoys a reputation for his uncanny knack to "pick them on sight"; he was respected because although he knew it was not possible to "put faces into any kind of category" but he also knew that it was indeed possible to "…characterize individual faces" with a degree of accuracy (Kelly, 135).
Kelly and colleagues point to the fact that the rumors and innuendo over the years had created a solid belief among citizens that Richard III was a bad person but when Grant saw the picture of Richard III, at first he did not know who it was (until he checked the back of the picture) and his eagle eye saw a kind, gentle man, not the villain that the rumors and innuendo over the years had created. But when Grant did turn the picture over he believed "to his dismay" that he had made a bad mistake in judgment; he first thought that he should be embarrassed "…to have mistaken one of the most notorious murderers of all time for a judge… [and it was] a shocking piece of ineptitude" (Kelly quoting Tey; page 135).
The way Grant did his research was to work his way backward in time; using "various historical accounts" and aided by a young American man (Brent Carradine) who was a kind of "Watson" to Grant the way Watson was to Sherlock Homes, Grant dug into the research. During this research it becomes known to Grant that Richard III was not to be held accountable for the deaths of the two prices -- and in time Grant reveals that the person responsible for the deaths of Richard III's nephews is not Richard III but Henry VII (Kelly, 135).
Digging further, Grant lays the blame for the lies and rumors at the hands of "…the earliest historians, Thomas More ('the sainted More') and Polydore Vergil (Henry VII's 'pet historian); both of those individuals Grant believes to be nothing more than propaganda mavens (Kelly, 135).
Kelly goes deep into the everything he could dig up regarding the fate of the two nephews, coming to the conclusion that Richard III was innocent and that Tey has basically become an adroit historian -- using Grant as her vehicle for discovery -- because of the notably competent research put together in this novel. As to how the author's prejudices affect the view on the subject, it should be noted that because Tey herself believes Richard III to be innocent of the slanderous charges she may have presented a case that is wrong. Guy Townsend believes that what Tey was really trying to do was create a "new genre"; Townsend quotes from David Allen's "Hyst're Myst'ry Magazine":
"There can be no doubt that Tey was wrong… Richard III was as bad a guy as the establishment had painted him. Tey purveyed wrong history, and she probably withheld evidence that would have prejudiced her case"
(Townsend, 2010, p. 1). That said, Allen writes that whether Tey is right or wrong, this is "…still a great book and a classic" (Townsend, 1).
Critic Robin Winks does not believe the authors' conclusions are correct. As an historian, Winks writes, "I should & #8230;admire it. Actually, I dislike the book rather intensely, for it seems to me that Tey began with her conclusion -- that Richard III was innocent… and thus [she] defied all the canons of the historian, who begins with a question" and not with a thesis (Winks, 2010).
How does the historian (Tey) use and interpret primary sources? Tey paints a picture of Grant as a man who does not trust any account of Richard III except for primary sources. "…All other accounts of history at the time are jaded narratives written to…