Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

Anyone who knows me would not accuse me of doting on a king. ‘Royalist’ is not the term that comes to mine when people think of me. It may therefore come as a surprise that I found this book by Josephine Tey so compelling a read. I think it must be the historian in me. I just like a good ‘review of the evidence’ and evaluation.

The Daughter of Time looks at the way history has remembered King Richard III, and investigates the justification for this. This task is performed by a policeman who is whiling away his time recovering in hospital.

The blurb says:
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains – a venomous hunchback to may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet  really was and who killed the Princes in the Tower.

That pretty much sums it up. It provides an interesting and comprehensive review of the evidence. I found it particularly interesting as I have been following the ‘King in the Car Park’ stories surrounding the discovery of the body of Richard III in a Leicester Car Park in 2013.

The Richard II Society has been doing what it can to publicise how history has been written by the victor of the battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor, and perpetuated into prosperity by Shakespeare. However, it is still commonly misunderstood by the public that Richard III killed the Princes in the Tower, and often sloppily reported. Someone told me at work recently that they answered a pub quiz question on which king killed the Princes in the Tower, with the answer being Richard III!

** Spoiler Alert **

A favourite part of mine in the book is where Alan Grant writes up his findings in ‘police fashion’.

“CASE: Disappearance of two boys (Edward, Prince of Wales; Richard, Duke of York) from the Tower of London, 1485 or thereabouts.

Previous Record:
Good. Has excellent record in public service, and a good reputation in private life. Salient characteristic as indicated by his actions: good sense.

In the matter of the presumed crime:
(a)    He did not stand to benefit; there were nine other heirs to the house of York, including three males.
(b)   There is no contemporary accusation.
(c)    The boys’ mother continued on friendly terms with him until his death, and her daughters attended Palace festivities.
(d)   He showed no fear of the other heirs of York, providing generously for their upkeep and granting all of them royal state.
(e)   His own right to the crown was unassailable, approved by Act of Parliament and public acclamation; the boys were out of the succession and no danger to him.
(f)     If he had been nervous about disaffection then the person to have got rid of was not the two boys, but the person who really was next in succession to him: young Warwick. Whom he publically created his heir when his own son died. [In preference to his illegitimate son.]

Previous Record:
An adventurer, living at foreign courts. Son of an ambitious mother. Nothing known against his private life. No public office or employment. Salient characteristic as indicated by his actions: subtlety.

In the matter of the presumed crime:
(a)    It was of great importance to him that the boys should not continue to live. By repealing the Act acknowledging the children’s illegitimacy [Titulus Regius], he made the elder boy King of England, and the younger boy the next heir.
(b)   In the Act which he brought before parliament for the attainting of Richard he accused Richard of the conventional tyranny and cruelty but made no mention of the two young Princes. The conclusion is inevitable that at the time the two boys were alive and their whereabouts known.
(c)    The boys’ mother was deprived of her living and consigned to a nunnery eighteen months after his succession [and despite him having married her daughter.]
(d)   He took immediate steps to secure the persons of all the other heirs to the crown, and kept them in close arrest until he could with the minimum of scandal get rid of them.
(e)   He had no right whatever to the throne. Since the death of Richard, young Warwick was the de jure King of England.”

Despite my sympathies to the misaligned, I think it seems silly for people to argue over where the remains should be buried. I agree that it is evidenced that Richard III was well loved in York, however I do not see how burying him there in particular will serve any extra purpose. Richard cannot care about it now. What difference does it really make? Let Leicester have its day. York already has a lot of exciting Viking history to claim. J

Reputation and morality in history is a difficult business. As Tey says, “It was the settled and considered policy of the Tudors to rid themselves of all rivals to the throne, more especially those heirs of York who remained alive on the succession of Henry VII, In this they were successful although it was left to Henry VIII to get rid of the last of them. {Alan] stared at this bald announcement, This placid acceptance of wholesale murder. This simple acknowledgement of a process of family elimination.

Richard III had been credited with the elimination of two nephews, and his name was a synonym for evil. But Henry VII, whose ‘settled and considered policy was to eliminate a whole family was regarded as a shrewd and far-seeing monarch.”

This statement makes Alan feel as though he’ll never understand history and historians. It just makes me think that is why we always need people studying history and researching it. People who don’t just accept what they are told but constantly search, challenge and investigate.

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