Daughter of timeJosephine 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

Richard III

Richard III




2 comments on “THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey

  1. Judith Anderson says:

    The Daughter of Time has been a vital book in my life, first read around 1960, when I was in High School.

    Although, I do understand your complaint re so many historians already knowing that much of the Richard story was Tudor propaganda as I had the same annoyance with The DaVinci Code.

    The issue becomes does the general public know or is the myth widely embraced?

    Prior to my mother handing me the Tey book, I had been totally engrossed with the Tudors, especially Elizabeth.

    This book sent me on a lifetime search of reading, making thousands of note cards, fascinated by not only the history but how the Tudor, or Shakespearean propaganda has formed the generally accepted view of the man.and his reign.

    Part of what intrigued me was the cultural aspects of the Yorkist Lancastrian dynamic. This was a period of a long struggle between those moving towards Renaissance, education, women’s rights, peasants’ rights, religious shift and those trying to maintain feudalism..

    My life was changed and my world view expanded by this book.

    But, when my mother and sister were reading The DaVinci Code, I tried it and was annoyed all the way through as I had read Holy Blood, Holy Grail years before, read more on the issue, seen tv shows re Jesus and Mary Magdelene being married and having children. So to me this was all a well known given, yet Brown was treating it as a big secret the Catholic church would kill to suppress.

    But while this “secret” was well known to me and my closest friends – metaphysicans all – my mother and sister and apparently many others had never heard of it.

    To me, The Daughter of Time served the same purpose – taking hidden history, perhaps known to a select few, and expanding that information via popular literature out to a larger public.

  2. Marti says:

    I think my disappointment in the book was that I expected it to be an actual mystery, and I always have a tantrum when I don’t get my own way, and secondly I felt that Tey conned us readers by using Grant as a lure to learn history by having him do all this running around doing research fol-de-rol. It wasn’t a mystery, and I felt cheated that everybody knew the ending but me. I did find the history most interesting, but frankly I could have learned what was doled out to us in the book in a ten minute read on Wikipedia.

    Agree with everything you say about Dan Brown. I had been fascinated for years with symbology, and all that code stuff, so was disappointed in that book, kind of Metaphysical Secret Religious Codes for Dummies, although what’s not to love about Tom Hanks, right? His next book about the symbols was really awful, although it was nice to see Pierre de Chardin’s noosphere given a nod.

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