20/02/2011

TRUTH IS THE DAUGHTER OF TIME

Reading a new book is always an incredible, exciting journey to me. When I get to the end of it,  I'm always richer - regardless the different rate of excitement in each different case. This has been an unforgettable trip indeed. Brilliant mystery novel! If you love history and detective stories, this is a precious jewel to collect. Thanks to my dear friend K/V for her treasurable gift. Another one to stay on my bedside table for a long time. I need to digest this amazing experience before moving on to other reading adventures.

The Daughter of Time, the title of the book  I've just finished reading, is derived from a historical source, as it is attributable to Sir Francis Bacon, "For truth is rightly named after the daughter of time, and not of authority." The book itself is not a traditional mystery but rather an application of deductive reasoning to an actual historical event.
With this novel (1951) the mystery novelist Josephine Tey, one of the first popular writers to question the Tudor story depicting Richard III as a monstrous, unnatural man creates one of the most extraordinary and unique works of the mystery genre. Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant, the hero of a series of mystery novels by Tey, is stuck in the hospital with a broken leg. Bored out of his mind, he decides to use his time to explore a historical mystery, and is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III presented to him by his  friend Marta Hallard, an actress. The same portrait I had in my copy of the book all the time while reading, the perfect bookmark to follow Inspector Grant's and Brent Carradine's investigations.
It was only after he had given the portrait further puzzled consideration (it piqued him to have mistaken one of the most notorious murderers of all time for a judge; to have transferred a subject from the dock to the bench was a shocking piece of ineptitude) that it occurred to Grant that the portrait had been provided as the illustration to a piece of detection.


This has been deservedly considered one of the finest mystery novels ever written, being  an astonishingly absorbing and suspenseful exploration of the case for and against Richard III Plantagenet.
The reader is literally taken back in time to examine the accusations, testimonies and material relating to the death of Richard's brother, King Edward IV in 1483, the known history of his sons, Princes Edward and Richard,  after their father's death and their mysterious disappearance, the behavior of Edward's widow and children, including his eldest daughter Elizabeth, who becomes Henry's bride, Queen and mother to Henry VIII. JosephineTey provides an extraordinarily well researched profile of Richard III, pieced together directly from historical documents, and another profile of Henry Tudor. The author also examines the 1934 exhumation of the two children who were first dug up in 1674. Motives are examined and finally, conclusions are drawn, proving, once again, that history is written by winners.

Arguments presented by Tey in defence of King Richard III
  • The Bill of Attainder brought by Henry VII against Richard III makes no mention whatsoever of the Princes. There never was any formal accusation, much less a verdict of guilt.
  • In fact, there is no historical evidence whatsoever that the Princes were found missing from the Tower when Henry VII took over.
  • The mother of the Princes, Elizabeth Woodville, remained on good terms with Richard. Tey sees this as proof of Richard's innocence. (There are possible explanations for Elizabeth Woodville's behavior, including self-interest, her hope to marry her daughter to Richard, her trying to placate him while Henry made preparations for war - but if she put any of these considerations above the lives of her sons, that would make her an unspeakable monster of evil.)
  • There was no political advantage for Richard III in killing the young princes. He was legitimately made king. (Under English law there is no absolute undeniable heir to the throne, only an Heir Apparent. In fact, any male person born in England could be declared King by the Star Chamber.)
  • The Princes were more of a threat to Henry VII as the foundation of his claim to the crown was significantly more remote than theirs.
Weaknesses in Tey's Defence of Richard III

However, Tey does not address or obscures a number of points of evidence that support the theory that Richard murdered the Princes. For example, one character wonders why no one revolted against Richard if he was such a tyrant. Tey does not then mention that there was a revolt: the Duke of Buckingham specifically cited the Princes as a reason for his uprising against Richard. In addition, regardless of the legality of Richard's dubious claim to the throne after Edward V's proclamation as King, Richard knew the boys would be an obvious and dangerous focal point for any opposition to his reign. As a result, their elimination could serve to remove potential rivals.
A major question concerning the guilt or innocence of Richard is why did Richard himself not produce the princes alive, when rumours about their murder were running rampant through London. Tey's story acknowledges that there were rumours during Richard's lifetime and attributes them to the Croyland Chronicle and to the Lord Chancellor of France. But she claims they had little circulation, and all may have been originated by Tudor sympathiser John Morton. (Other commentators suggest that the Chancellor's source was Dominic Mancini ). Tey contends that the princes remained alive throughout Richard's reign and were later killed by Henry.
Probably her best point is that Henry never produces the bodies of the dead princes for public mourning and a state funeral, which would have been more advantageous to him than for them to be dead, but for no one to know that they were dead. If they were dead, but they were assumed to be alive, or were mysteriously missing, then there still could be an uprising in their name

As creatively and intellectually plotted as this novel is, its true beauty lies in the fact that it encourages the reader to think: one should never accept any recorded history without question since most history is written from the perspective of those in power at the time and is not necessarily factual. Desquieting and Orwellian but  so true.  In addition, this interesting work of research  enhances knowledge and vocabulary and stirs you to look up definitions of items such as Bill of Attainder, Titulus Regius, and Star Chamber. A true full immersion in history.
I also appreciated the leitmotiv of the tonypandy, referring to The Tonypandy Riots, through which Tey displays  several cases in which "fake truths" were just crafted by people who could gain or profit from the situation in different moments in the past .

RA-NDOM THOUGHTS
  
(banner  from Enchanted Serenity of Period Films)

Oddly enough, I owe my non-Shakesperian interest in Richard III and his true history to my recent interest in another man of the same name, that is Richard Armitage. I heard him spoke of his father's and his own love for The Sunne in Splendour by Susan Kay Penman (1982), which started my deeply felt journey through this intricate historical matter. I really hope to see Richard Armitage's dream come true:  a TV series dedicated to this wrongly judged but talented and fair monarch, in order to make him justice and make more and more people aware of the truth about him. I fear - as he himself admitted - busy Richard  will be to old to be the protagonist, Richard III, who died at only 34 at Bosworth. But he could be a fascinating bearded kingmaker: Richard Neville,  Earl of Warwick,   his wife Anne's father  and his uncle.


This my  only second read ( after The Sunne in Splendour) sympathizing with the cause of the Ricardian Society and aiming at the re-evaluation and  redemption of the stained image of King Richard III Plantagenet , which was the result of  the distorted, false recount of events made by  historians at the age of the Tudors, men obeying to the demands of the power like  Thomas More and John Morton. Any  suggestion for further readings?

16 comments:

mulubinba said...

I loved "Daughter of Time" Maria. It's been ages since I read it - I must hunt it out on my bookshelves. I have a copy of Sunne in Splendour but have not managed to read it yet :)

Hope all is well with you:)

Anonymous said...

Although I knew you aren't a fan of detective stories, I somehow suspected you could like this one... call it intuition if you want :D
Next step should be joining the Ricardian society, don't you think?
Or, better, planning a tour of Ricardian locations for our next trip to the UK?
Have a nice Sunday,
xx K/V

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Mulubinba
Yeah, everything's fine, thank you. Try to find the time for TSIS. It's so involving, Richard III becomes Dickon and you can but love his character deeply.Take care.
@K/V
As usual, you seem to know me so well...First step, I'm going to start teaching about the true story of Richard III to my students. Let's spread the love. Then Ricardian society, why not? And a a tour in the north of England. Ready. When
Have a nice Sunday!
BTW, does this mean your connection is back?

lunarossa said...

Thanks for this book suggestion, MG. You know how much I love The Sunne in Splendour and what a big fan of Richard III I am. So this is my next reading project...And I volunteer to show you around the Richard sites here in Yorkshire, his own little museum in York, his Sheriff Hutton castle's ruins etc. See you soon! Buona domenica. Ciao. A.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@lunarossa
Let's start planning. We even have a very special guide, already. North of England, wait for us! This tour in search for Richard III's locations is really tempting. I have no plans yet for next summer ...
Un abbraccio. Buona domenica anche a te!
MG

RAFrenzy said...

Thanks for the spotlight on this book. It is excellent!

I became interested in Richard III about, uh, well, oh, I hate writing exactly how many years. Makes me remember how old I am. I'll just say RA was probably not into RIII at the time. LOL! Despite my earlier interest, certainly, RA has kept it from waning.:D

Okay, I was just adding this up, and I probably read that book 32 years ago. I also read Sun in Splendour at that time and a few others. I'll have to send the list of others. I took two semesters of Shakespeare in college, and no, I was not an English major. I was arm twisted into the first semester and fell in love with it so completely, that I took the second semester. Yea! for teachers. My teacher was excellent, and not only gave me a lifelong love for Shakespeare but for the history of RIII, RII, Henry II, and the English in general.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@RAFrenzy
So I'm a newbie as for my interest in Medieval History, I've always preferred the 18th and, especially, the 19th century. It was what I studied more at University too: English Literature from the Restoration to the 20th century. But as I wrote at the end of the post, thanks to one Richard I met the other. And I'm so grateful for "meeting" both!
Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
Have a good Sunday!
MG

FalafelandChips said...

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look this up. I loved the Sunne in Splendor although for ages I couldn't bring myself to read the last chapter. It seemed so unfair!

Traxy said...

We have the same thing about Prince (King) John, hubby and I. The "vilified by history" thing, and suspecting reality was a lot different. Robin Hood has a lot to answer for! Not just for vilifying John, but also for glamorising Richard the Lionheart. The man didn't even speak English and cared more about the crusades than running his own country. Instead, he was a constant drain on resources and John had to try and keep the country together best he could. (Interestingly, Robin Hood also tends to forget that King Richard didn't return to save the day, but in fact, he died on the continent and Prince John became the real king of England. Died in Newark, just up the road from Nottingham.)

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@FalafelandChips
I suffered reading the end of The Sunne in Splendour but I did it. It was truly unfair!
@Traxy
I'm eagerly waiting for Sharon Kay Penman's next novel, which is just about Richard I The Lion Heart. Let's see what her picture of the two monarchs you mention, John and Richard Plantagenet, is. I trust her careful historical research based on documents and her great talent at writing. I have no opinions nor prejudices against them both. The setting of Robin Hood at the time of the third crusade is very much due to Scott's Ivanhoe, more than to the ballads themselves.

onemorelurker1 said...

Thanks for the recommendation, I love misteries, especially those that use deduction (I guess, that's why I love Sherlock Holmes).
I'm behind on my reading list, hopefully I'll get to read The Sunne in Splendour and this one over summer. Right now I'm reading 'Conversation in the Cathedral' by Mario Vargas Llosa.

OML :)

dvd north and south said...

Richard Armitage will forever be Mr. Thorntorn. :D I first saw him in the North and South miniseries DVD and have loved him since then. :D

JaneGS said...

So glad you enjoyed this marvelous novel--it really is a gem.

And I totally love this thought:
>>As creatively and intellectually plotted as this novel is, its true beauty lies in the fact that it encourages the reader to think: one should never accept any recorded history without question since most history is written from the perspective of those in power at the time and is not necessarily factual.

Very well said!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great review! I read Daughter of Time as a child and so have had a lifelong interest in RIII. Discovering that my favourite actor was a fan too and was even named after him was a thrill! I still think he could play RIII, even if he is a bit too old... well, if dark, handsome Eric Bana can play ugly redhead Henry VIII, anything's possible!

I hope you've had a look at the Daughter of Time section on C19, especially the photographic thread - lots of inspiration there for your RIII tour of England!

Anonymous said...

As a huge fan of British history and the Monarchy, I read everything I possibly can. The Sunne in Splendour remains my favorite novel of the War of the Roses.
It would be like a dream come true if this were to become a film, and especially a series like HBO's The Tudors.
Fingers crossed!

thelogothete said...

I also loved Daughter of Time when I first read it back in 1979 (yikes!), and I am a big fan of R111.
BUT, let's face it- Richard would have been a fool not to have killed the princes. His whole life had been shaped by the fight between rival factions based on claims to the throne and don't forget that he was a contemporary of Machiavelli.
Richard would not only have been foolish not to kill the princes, he would have been failing in his duty to England. What the country needed was strong and undisputed leadership.
So let's hear no more nonsense about him not killing the boys- he almost certainly did (and if he didn't, then he should have). This didn't make him a bad person, it made him a realistic one.
Much as I still love the book, it is a little weak- he looks like a judge so he can't be guilty? Please! And the recent archaeological finds pretty well shoot the argument that he wasn't a hunchback out of the water.
Richard was a good man- by the standards of his time. He was potentially a great king. But that doesn't mean he was a saint!