Josephine Tey was one of two pseudonyms used by Elizabeth Mackintosh, a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels which feature Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard, and her play, Richard of Bordeaux.
This is not a mystery novel exactly, even though it does feature Inspector Grant. He is laid up in hospital in this 1951 novel, with nuttin’ to do. A friend brings him a collection of portraits for his amusement, and he is quite taken with that of Richard III. I thought this might be an interesting read for me, seeing as how His Majesty has gotten so much press lately, what with being buried under a parking lot, and all that followed from that.
Inspector Grant, while giving the king’s portrait a really good look, can’t decide whether he looks like a judge or a murderer, and remembers that the king was accused of murdering or having someone else do the deed, of his two young nephews, supposedly because they were in his way to succession to the throne.
Grant gets interested in this and wonders how the story came to be and was it in fact true. It seems to be based entirely on Sir. Thomas More’s account, which upon some savvy detective work, turned out to be based on the account by John Morton, Henry VII’s Archibishop of Canterbury. Yeah, THAT John Morton. Morton hated Richard. It is on this account that Shakespeare fashioned his character in his play, Richard III.
A young man who is doing research on another time of history is sent to Grant to help him out and becomes his happily willing research assistant.
As the research goes on and gets deeper and deeper, it becomes clear that all this history that everyone believes is all hogwash and not what happened at all. It is Tey’s way of examining how history is constructed, and how certain version of events come to be widely accepted as the truth, despite a lack of evidence.
Here’s a quote about Mary Stuart:
Her tragedy was that she was born a Queen with the outlook of a suburban housewife.
And at the very end of the book, the researcher finds out that unknown to him (and Grant), historians have known for yonks that the story about Richard was a bunch of hooey, but that the correct version had not yet made its way into the history books.
So we have this whole book used as a vehicle to talk about the history of Richard III. Yawn.
The title of the book comes from a quote by Sir Francis Bacon:
Truth is the Daughter of Time, not of Authority