The Daughter Of Time Summary

Josephine Tey

The Daughter Of Time

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The Daughter Of Time Summary

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The Daughter of Time: An Inspector Alan Grant Mystery (1951) by Josephine Tey follows a British police officer as he investigates, through circumstantial evidence, the alleged crimes of Richard III, King of England. He concludes that Richard III did not murder his two nephews, but that Henry VII — who took the crown from Richard III — did murder his nephews then created propaganda to make it seem that Richard III was a wicked man.

The Daughter of Time is considered by critics and readers to be one of the best crime novels of all time. Josephine Tey was the pseudonym for Scottish writer Elizabeth MacKintosh, who died in 1952, a year after writing her masterpiece. Major themes include historical relativism and the importance of an objective search for truth.

Alan Grant, a recurring character in Tey’s work, is a detective for the famous Metropolitan Police Service, Scotland Yard. The novel opens with Grant feeling bored in a hospital, recuperating from a broken leg he suffered while pursuing a criminal through a trap door.

He asks his friends for advice on staying entertained during convalescence. An actress friend, Marta Hallard, loans him several books, none of which hold his interest for long. He ends up spending days studying the ceiling and memorizing the routines of his nurses.

One day, Hallard tells Grant that he should try to solve an old murder-mystery. To pique his interest, she brings painted pictures and drawings of English people living around the late 1400s. Grant is especially interested in a painting of King Richard III, who is best known for being the last king of the Middle Ages, possibly murdering his nephews for the throne, and being the subject of a Shakespearean play.

Grant has shown a knack for deducing character qualities from looking at a person’s face. In the painting, Grant sees a sensitive and noble-looking man who does not at all seem like the “murderous uncle” that history would have us believe. Grant begins to question whether those who took the crown away from Richard III — the Tudors — actually invented the whole story of Richard being a villainous uncle.

The overriding narrative that Grant was taught as a schoolboy is that Richard orchestrated the murder of two boys who ascend the throne after the death of Edward IV. Richard, who was then Duke of Gloucester, was appointed the guardian of Edward V (twelve years old and technically the king) and Richard of Shrewsbury (second in line for the throne and nine years old at the time).

Grant shows the portrait of Richard III to a few friends without naming the king. One friend says he thinks Richard III suffered a great deal in life. Grant’s surgeon says he thinks the man suffered a few childhood diseases. However, no one whom he shows the portrait to feels that that man is capable of murder.

With the assistance of Brent Carradine, an affable American researcher at the British Museum, Grant reviews scores of original documents to locate the true killer. Tey stresses on several occasions that it is Grant’s reliance on logic that helps him catch murderers, past and present.

Grant, as a police investigator trained to identify the motive behind various crimes, believes that there was no political reason for Richard III to murder the two princes once he was king. Richard III was a popular king at the time. And due to an act of Parliament, Titulus Regius, Edward IV’s predecessors — the Princes in the Tower — could not inherit the throne because at the time he was already contract to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot when he planned to marry Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of the Princes in the Tower. With Richard’s nieces and nephews considered ineligible for the throne, they were no threat to his rule.

With more research, Grant and Carradine find that the two princes were more of a threat to Henry VII than Richard III. The Tudor’s claim to the throne, after all, was much less solid than the Plangeant line, to which Richard III belonged. Henry Tudor married Elizabeth, Edward IV’s daughter and Richard’s niece to make his claim to the crown seem more legitimate. The only problem was that Elizabeth’s predecessors, because of Titulus Regius, were also considered illegitimate. Henry’s first act as king was to repeal Titulus Regius so that his progeny could ascend the throne. However, this made the Princes in the Tower once again legitimate, and they would remain so until eliminated by Henry.

Grant and Carradine look into the Bill of Attainder that Henry VII received against Richard III. A Bill of Attainder is a powerful document ratified through parliament that convicts someone of treason without trial. Grant and Carradine find it odd that the Bill of Attainder against Richard III made no mention of the Princes in the Tower. They reason that this is strong evidence that the princes were alive while Richard III was alive. The bill says that Richard III committed treason because he was cruel and tyrannical toward his subjects, but makes no reference of the missing princes; if Richard III was guilty of murdering his nephews, the Bill of Attainder would have used that evil act to legitimize their decree.

The more they look into it, the more the investigative duo realize that the Bill of Attainder was likely coerced by the Henry VII to bolster his political ambitions. The bill retroactively dates to the day before the Battle of Bosworth, thus giving Henry VII the right to charge all supporters of Richard III with treason.

Grant also locates documents that suggest that Elizabeth Woodville, mother of both princes, was amiable with Richard III during his two-year reign. Her daughters also remained an integral and well-respected part of court life. Her behavior was further evidence that Richard III did not murder her two sons.

Grant concludes that the Tudor dynasty fabricated the story of Richard being a murderer. The dynasty, which succeeded the House of York, also fabricated the image of Richard being an ugly hunchback.

The Daughter of Time shows how, despite social and political power, the truth of history will one day be bared in public. The title comes from a proverb of uncertain origin that Tey quotes in the beginning: “Truth is the daughter of time.”

By the time Grant has “solved” this murder, he is ready to rejoin the force and catch more contemporary criminals.