A Centuries Old Mystery: Josephine Tey and Richard III

Cast your minds back to the post with the selection of the TBR Pile featured. I did say that I would be tackling them ‘in no particular order’ but the one I have been reading for the past few days was indeed at the top of the list. See photograph below for proof. The book in question is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (real name Elizabeth Mackintosh) about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower mystery.

This was I think always going to be my first choice (it was the first one that I picked out as well as being the first listed). The reason being as I am sure you have guessed by now that this is a re-read of an old favourite of mine. The book was originally published in 1951 (the last book to be published in Tey’s lifetime as she died in 1952) and issued by Penguin Books in 1954. My edition is a 1969 reprint bought second-hand and it certainly shows: foxed is not the word for it I am afraid. The pages are heavily discoloured and threatening to fall out; both the front and back covers are damaged. Maybe one day I’ll treat myself to a new edition (I am not sure if the title is still in print) or a fine second-hand copy.

pile of classic novels

Working from the top down…

Two things make this book an old favourite: my affection for Josephine Tey’s crime novels and my long fascination with Richard III and the mystery of the princes in the tower. This fascination was in fact inspired by reading Tey’s book as I am sure was the case with many other readers. Indeed the Richard III Society credit her with helping to rehabilitate the king’s reputation and restore him to his rightful place in history. Shakespeare has much to answer for in his creation of the wicked hunchbacked uncle with a rather long crime sheet.

Tey’s novel features her regular detective character Inspector Alan Grant who is laid up in hospital after an accident and is terribly, mind numbingly, bored and frustrated. When his fascination with faces (from the bench or the cells?) causes him to become interested in the mystery surrounding Richard Plantagenet, the scene is set for a modern-day investigation into a historical crime. With the help of an amiable American student as his able-bodied research assistant, Grant delves into the murky doings of the fifteenth century. He is surprised by what he comes up with during his quest and is by no means impressed with your average historian’s powers of reasoning.

On the strength of reading this investigation into the Yorkist monarch several years ago, I did some further digging around and discovered more novels and academic studies on the subject. I then read as much as I could find on Richard and the Wars of the Roses and his eventual demise fighting at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. I was keen enough on the topic to become a member of the Richard III Society though I eventually let my membership lapse. Having looked at the website recently I am tempted once more to become a Ricardian.

Meanwhile, back to the novel to follow-up a few leads! Are there any more Richard III enthusiasts out there? If so, let me know what you have been reading lately, I would love to know.

Just to finish with, here is a link to a fascinating site on Josephine Tey which is well worth a look if you are a fan of her writing.

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7 comments on “A Centuries Old Mystery: Josephine Tey and Richard III

  1. Susan Labuschagne says:

    Chris, hi. Your posts are eagerly awaited in my inbox. Thank you for introducing me once again to a new author. I look forward to my first Josephine Tey. Susan x

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    • Chris Mills says:

      Thanks very much. Glad you like the post. Try ‘The Franchise Affair’ or ‘Brat Farrar’ if you can find them.

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  2. Julie Singleton says:

    Hi Chris – I have enjoyed having a quick look at your site. Your Richard III item sparked a search for Sharon Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour, which I eventually found hidden behind some other books in our increasingly over-loaded bookshelves. It is a bit of a coincidence but H happened to ask over tea whether Richard III was all bad and I guess this books gives a very sympathetic portrait of him.

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    • Chris Mills says:

      Hi Julie, I had that novel too though I can’t recall where it is now. It was excellent, as were Sharon Penman’s other historical novels. I think in the case of Richard’s reputation, it’s worth bearing in mind that much of what has come down to us was written by the victors, i.e.the Tudors and it suited them to blacken Richrd’s name.Thanks for reading, C.

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  3. […] who has read my previous post (in June) on Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time will know of my longstanding interest in Richard III […]

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  4. […] of my Landing Eight titles featured an examination of the alleged crimes of the Yorkist king. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is one of my all time favourite books and was included on the blog as a re-read. […]

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  5. […] post, from a great blog that I follow, as it's nice to see that someone else is a fan of a book previously featured on The Landing. Maybe one day I'll get around to a few more Josephine Tey re-reads! This entry […]

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