The Daughter of Time

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The Daughter of Time
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey.JPG
First edition cover
Author Josephine Tey
Language English
Genre Mystery novel
Publisher Peter Davies
Publication date
Media type Print book (Hardback & Paperback)
Preceded by To Love and Be Wise (1950)
Followed by The Singing Sands (1952)

The Daughter of Time is a 1951 detective novel by Josephine Tey, concerning a modern police officer's investigation into the alleged crimes of King Richard III of England. It was the last book Tey published in her lifetime, shortly before her death.

Plot summary[edit]

Alan Grant, Scotland Yard Inspector (a character who also appears in five other novels by the same author) is feeling bored while confined to bed in hospital with a broken leg. Marta Hallard, an actress friend of his, suggests that he should amuse himself by researching a historical mystery. She brings him some pictures of historical characters, aware of Grant's interest in human faces. He becomes intrigued by a portrait of King Richard III. He prides himself on being able to read a person's character from his appearance, and King Richard seems to him a gentle and kind and wise man. Why is everyone so sure that he was a cruel murderer?

With the help of other friends and acquaintances, Grant investigates Richard's life and the case of the Princes in the Tower, testing out his theories on the doctors and nurses who attend to him. Grant spends weeks pondering historical information and documents with the help of Brent Carradine, a likeable young American researcher working in the British Museum. Using his detective's logic, he comes to the conclusion that the claim of Richard being a murderer is a fabrication of Tudor propaganda, as is the popular image of the King as a monstrous hunchback.

Themes and arguments[edit]

The book explores how history is constructed, and how certain versions of events come to be widely accepted as the truth, despite a lack of evidence. The "Daughter of Time" of the title is a quotation from the work of Sir Francis Bacon: "Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority."[1] Grant comes to understand the ways that great myths are constructed, and how in this case, the victorious Tudors saw to it that their version of history prevailed.

The novel also explores and pastiches different types of historical writing. In his researches, Grant starts with children's history books, then moves on to general popular histories and the very scholarly but dull "Tanner's Constitutional History of England". He also reads Thomas More's History of King Richard III and a historical novel called The Rose of Raby by "Evelyn Payne-Ellis", about the life of Richard's mother Cecily Neville. Both Tanner's history and the novel are non-existent; it has been suggested that the title of the latter is derived from Guy Paget's 1937 biography of the same name.[2]

Other alleged historical myths touched upon by the author are the commonly believed (but false) story that troops fired on the public at the 1910 Tonypandy Riot, the traditional depiction of the Boston Massacre, the martyrdom of Margaret Wilson and the life and death of Mary, Queen of Scots. Grant adopts the term "Tonypandy" to describe widely-believed historical myths, such as the supposed shootings at the Tonypandy Riots, and believes popular accounts of Richard's activities to fall into this category. This thread reflects a dislike and distrust of emotional popular narratives concerning supposed historical injustices which also surfaces in Tey's other works[citation needed].

Grant's case for the innocence of Richard III[edit]

Late 16C portrait of Richard III (National Portrait Gallery, London), copied from an early 16C one in the Royal Collections. A reproduction of this version is kept by Grant at his bedside.

In this, as in works such as The Franchise Affair and Miss Pym Disposes, Josephine Tey relies heavily on physiognomy as a valid and reliable clue to a person's character. Grant's first impetus towards an intellectual investigation of the evidence is his certainty—mirroring Tey's—that Richard's face cannot possibly be that of a murderer. The book also points out that there never was a Bill of Attainder, Coroner's inquest, or any other legal proceeding that accused—much less convicted—Richard III of any foul play against the Princes in the Tower.

Tey's pro-Richard arguments repeat those made in Clements Markham's 1906 book Richard III: his life & character, reviewed in the light of recent research.[3]

The main arguments presented in the book in defence of King Richard:

  • There was no political advantage for Richard III in killing the young princes. He was legitimately made king by an Act of Parliament known as Titulus Regius.
  • There is no evidence that the princes were missing from the Tower before Henry VII took over.
  • Although a Bill of Attainder was brought by Henry VII against Richard it made no mention of the princes. There never was any formal accusation, much less a verdict of guilt.
  • Henry never produced the bodies of the dead princes for public mourning and a state funeral.
  • The mother of the Princes, Elizabeth Woodville, remained on good terms with Richard and her daughters took part in court events.
  • The Princes were more of a threat to Henry VII as the foundation of his claim to the crown was significantly more remote than theirs.

Grant and his American collaborator argue that there is little evidence of resistance to Richard's rule (ignoring Buckingham's rebellion). They allow that there were rumours of his murdering the princes during his lifetime, but they decide that the rumours had little circulation, and attribute them to the Croyland Chronicle and to the Lord Chancellor of France, and ultimately to Tudor sympathiser John Morton. They also propose that Morton was the actual author of Thomas More's biography of Richard, suggesting that the incomplete manuscript found after More's death was an unfinished copy by More of Morton's lost original. They conclude that the princes probably remained alive throughout Richard's reign and were later killed by Henry.

Alison Weir has pointed out several flaws in Tey's reasoning and the fact that she was not acquainted with some then-unpublished source material.[4] For example, Dominic Mancini's account of his stay in England was not published until 1969. Mancini contradicts Tey's claim (following Markham) that there were no widespread rumours about the death of the princes in Richard's lifetime.[3]

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

On its publication Anthony Boucher called the book "one of the permanent classics in the detective field.... one of the best, not of the year, but of all time". Dorothy B. Hughes also praised it, saying it is "not only one of the most important mysteries of the year, but of all years of mystery".[5] This book was voted number one in The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time list by the UK Crime Writers' Association in 1990.[6]

Winston Churchill stated in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples[7] his belief in Richard's guilt of the murder of the princes, adding, "It will take many ingenious books to raise the issue to the dignity of a historical controversy", probably referring to Tey's novel, published seven years earlier. The papers of Sir Alan Lascelles contain a reference to his conversation with Churchill about the book.[8]

In 2012, Peter Hitchens wrote that The Daughter of Time was "one of the most important books ever written".[9]

Works with similar themes[edit]

  • Mystery author Elizabeth Peters's novel The Murders of Richard III references Tey's book repeatedly.
  • Colin Dexter uses the same plot device of the incapacitated detective solving an old mystery in The Wench Is Dead.
  • Guy M. Townsend's To Prove a Villain is a detective novel about a series of modern murders that seem to be linked to Richard III. The hero, a history professor, launches a scathing attack on Tey's arguments as "hopelessly unprofessional and untrustworthy for her 'slavish' following of Clements Markham's argument".[3]


  1. ^ Quotations. "The Daughter of Time quotes & quotations". Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Toby Malone, " "A Dog, a Rat, ... a Cat to Scratch a Man to Death!": Olivier's Richard III and Popular Cultures", Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2
  3. ^ a b c R. Gordon Kelly, "Josephine Tey and Others: The Case of Richard III", in Ray B. Browne, Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr, et al. (eds.) The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, Volume 1, Popular Press, 2000, p.134.
  4. ^ Alison Weir: Website
  5. ^ Roseman, Mill et al., Detectionary. New York: Overlook Press, 1971. ISBN 0-87951-041-2
  6. ^ Susan Moody, ed. (1990). 100 Top Crime Novels Selected by the Crime Writers' Association. The Hatchards Crime Companion (London). ISBN 0-904030-02-4. 
  7. ^ Churchill, History of the English-Speaking Peoples, vol 1, p486
  8. ^ Janus: The Papers of Sir Alan Lascelles 1922–1977
  9. ^ Hitchens, Peter (1 November 2012). "A Good Read – and an Encounter with Those Wicked Russians". Retrieved 2 November 2012. 

External links[edit]