Saturday, March 30, 2013

The daughter of time

The recent identification of bones under a carpark in Leicester as being those of Richard III resulted in renewed interest in the king who was the last of the Plantagenets - [Guardian article] For centuries many history books have described Richard as the evil hunchback who stole the role of king from his nephew when Edward IV died, then imprisoned his two nephews in the Tower of London and arranged to have them murdered. Shakespeare's play, Richard III,  has perpetuated that notion.

In the novel, The daughter of time, written by Josephine Tey in 1951, a policeman, Alan Grant, is in hospital recovering from breaking a leg. To fill in the time a friend brings him a collection of portraits of people about whom a mystery is attached. Among them is a portrait of Richard III which inspires Grant to evaluate the story surrounding the king by investigating the actual known facts, rather than stories written long after Richard's death. 

The title of the book refers to a quotation from Francis Bacon (1561-1626) - 'For, truth is rightly named the daughter of time, not of authority.' In the novel Grant reads all the books that he can easily locate about the life of Richard including those credited with providing authoritative accounts. He soon discovers that the 'original' sources were written many years after the events described and by Tudor supporters. It is therefore necessary to seek information from documents produced during the reign of Richard. Aided by Brent Carradine who researches the available documents at the British Museum, Grant is able to debunk many of the myths and piece together the facts relating to this period of British history revealing an entirely different story.

This book should be read by all who are interested in history, including family history, re-enforcing the need to investigate the facts and not to just accept a story at face value.

For those interested in Richard III the Richard III Society provides detailed information.

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