daughter of timeThe recent news that the skeleton of King Richard III of England has been found (under a car park in Leicester) may have you thinking about this seminal figure of English history, a lightening rod for controversy from his lifetime to the present. Was he the cruel, twisted, power mad monster responsible for killing the two Princes in the Tower? Or was he a benevolent, innovative leader, wrongly maligned by history?

Most of us know about Richard through Shakespeare and his scathing depiction of him as an evil hunchback in his play Richard III (it is fact that Richard suffered from severe scoliosis) However, take a minute to remember the ruler Shakespeare lived under – Elizabeth I, direct descendant of Henry VII who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth, claiming (rather tenuously) the throne of England. History, as Tey points out, is written by the victors. While we’re unlikely to answer the question definitively, it’s a fascinating question to debate by examining the life of Richard and the times he lived in. Rather than digging through dense academic tomes though, I’d like to point you to Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, an excellent detective story that will entertain as well as give you lots to think about.

In The Daughter of Time, Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is laid up in the hospital, recovering from a broken leg. To save off boredom he begins reading history and becomes intrigued by the mystery surrounding Richard III. With the help of a researcher, he applies his investigative skills to study the controversial King’s life and the people around him. Written in the early 1950s, Inspector Grant does not have the advantage of google or wikipedia, instead using old-fashioned observation and deduction. The story builds and the evidence grows; Tey is masterful in creating tension and complex characters true to their time period. By the time Inspector Grant is ready to leave the hospital, he is convinced by his findings – will you be too? Can truth indeed be the daughter of time?

 

Philippa Gregory does it again with her latest historical novel – another compelling story of a Tudor queen. This time, however, the queen is Mary, Queen of Scots whose very existence threatens Elizabeth’s tenuous hold on the throne.

The Other Queen is told in three voices – Mary, George Talbot and his wife Bess. The Talbots have been commanded by Elizabeth to host Mary but in fact, they are her jailers. Mary had fled to England on the promise that she would be given sanctuary, but instead she becomes a prisoner.

At first honored by Elizabeth’s request, George and Bess soon discover that Mary’s demands and large household (she continues to live in luxury fit for a queen) will bankrupt them and that their home has become the center of the intrigues and rebellions of Mary and her followers, bringing the very loyalty of the Talbots into question.

George falls in love with the Scots queen, Bess, an astute businesswoman, struggles to keep her lands and her marriage and Mary longs for – and plots for – freedom. These three viewpoints bring this distant historical period vividly and fully to life.