Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ricardian: A Review of Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time

Most of my readers didn't warm to my first Ricardian post. This is completely understandable since the subject of whether Richard III did, in fact, murder the princes Edward and Richard in the summer of 1483 is quite academic. I will keep indulging my love of Ricardian arcana from time to time, while you should feel free to skip posts tagged "Ricardian" if the subject bores you. 

Josephine Tey created several classical British mysteries that any lover of the genre would appreciate. Few people know, however, of her contribution to Ricardian Apology. In The Daughter of Time, Tey offers us her take on the provenance of the myth that blames Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, for the murder of his nephews (the Princes in the Tower.)

Inspector Alan Grant finds himself stuck in a hospital, bored and desperate to participate in some sort of an investigation. While he is in a hospital bed, he only has access to history textbooks. The story of Richard III catches his eye and as he begins to read accounts of Richard's "crimes", Grant realizes just how senseless and lacking in logic all accusations against Richard are.

I might have believed Grant's asseverations
that murderers don't look like this
had I never seen pictures of Ted Bundy,
a wholesome-looking serial killer
The Inspector's journey begins in a way that I didn't find very convincing. Grant looks at the famous portrait of Richard III and realizes that a man who looks this way could not have possibly been a cold-blooded murderer of two small boys. This, of course, is very naive and smacks of Lombrosianism that had been discredited long before Tey wrote The Daughter of Time.

This, however, is the only weak point of an otherwise logical and reasonable account of the numerous holes in the myth of Richard's guilt. Inspector Grant and a young researcher who helps him discover the truth soon realize that Richard III had absolutely no reason to kill his nephews. The boys had been declared illegitimate by an Act of Parliament and Richard III occupied the throne as a well-loved and legitimate King of England. Elizabeth Woodville, the boys' mother, was friendly with Richard III until his death. Would she had visited his court and allowed her daughter to do so had Richard III, indeed, murdered her small sons? That seems highly unlikely. Moreover, after Henry Tudor defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field, he never declared publicly that Richard had killed the boys or even that the boys were dead. He did, however, imprison the boys' mother in a convent. 

In the view of these facts, Grant arrives at a conclusion that the first Tudor king, Henry VII, was the only person with means, motive and opportunity to kill the Princes. Having absolutely no claim to the throne, he needed to destroy the Plantagenets so that nobody would dispute his rise to power. I need to tell you right now that not every Ricardian shares Tey's belief in the culpability of Henry Tudor. There are many other suspects, and you can make up your own mind as to which one is the likeliest murderer. I will keep bringing you these accounts on a regular basis.


Izgad said...

I actually suggested this book to my class. I allow students to pick what books we do, even works of ficiton. I fell through because one student said they already read it and hated it. I like the book even if I do not buy its argument.

Pagan Topologist said...

Were you able to get a copy of the ballad I referred you to?

Clarissa said...

It hasn't been released yet but I pre-ordered it. Thank you!

Pagan Topologist said...

I am not sure that his is as worrisome as you think. Little boys, and probably girls, too, come up with all kinds of strange ideas. I knew boys when I was seven or eight years old who told me that Stalin was a [American] five-star general. We had, of course never heard of him until he died and we heard it on the radio. (We did not have television, of course.) I knew other boys about the same time who tried to convince the rest of us that we should write the Pentagon and offer to take over things there so the soldiers there could go to Korea and fight.

Clarissa said...

If you think of it, the topic of boys being mixed up in politics is very relevant to this thread. :-)

Izgad: so you believe in Richard's guilt?

el said...

Most of my readers didn't warm to my first Ricardian post

May be they don't know much / anything about the subject, like me? I was interested and intend to read the mentioned plays.

Decided to comment to mention one song I know, which is connected to the Tudors:
"Catherine Howard's Fate" by Blackmore's Night

Would you be interested in songs about King Author's legend too? My favorite is "Mordred's Lullaby" by Heather Dale, who has many songs with great lyrics, imo.

Clarissa said...

Thank you for the encouragement. Now you will be to blame when I persecute everybody with endless posts on the subject. :-) :-) Kidding!

King Arthur's legends are one subject I never found interesting.

Tom Carter said...

I like the Ricardian posts, Clarissa. Keep 'em coming.

I've read about the murder of the princes and speculation that Richard III was responsible for it. However, I've never read anything that makes the case strongly either way. Now I guess I'll have to....