They say history is written by the winners, and in the case of Richard III that seems to be a tragedy indeed. Richard III is most often pictured as the hunch-backed murderer of his young nephews, Edward and Richard, better known as the “Princes in the Tower.” In Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, Alan Grant of Scotland Yard takes up the question of Richard’s guilt to pass the time when he’s in the hospital recovering from a broken leg.
I’ve never been wild about the statement that history is written by the winners, because that’s so often a lazy way of discounting traditional accounts without really thinking about them. However, Grant is not lazily dismissing the traditional image of Richard III. He methodically assesses the evidence against him and finds it lacking. There’s no reasonable motive, there are no reliable witnesses, and there is little evidence that the boys died during Richard’s lifetime. The most authoritative contemporary source, Thomas More’s account, is called into question when Grant realizes that More himself was only 8 years old when Richard died and most likely got his information from the biased John Morton.
This is a fascinating picture of how history can get written and rewritten and even the most baseless rumors end up standing the test of time. (One wonders whether 400 years from now people will be reading campaign ads as if they were reliable histories.) It’s also quite the page turner—no mean feat when the book takes place entirely in a single hospital room. The mystery itself is interesting, but I also really liked Grant himself. He’s clever and funny and great fun to read about. I highly recommend The Daughter of Time for fans of historical fiction and of mysteries.
And now for a quick Read-a-Thon Update.
I’ve read 432 pages, raising $43.20 for the classroom libraries I’m donating to through Donors Choose. I’m feeling pretty alert, even though it’s nearly midnight (about 30 minutes past my usual bedtime), so I’ll probably manage at least another hour or two. I’d love to stay up for Carl’s RIP Mini-Challenge, but that might be too late for me. I’ll be reading Persepolis next in order to increase my page count and rest my eyes from all those teeny tiny words!