Arts and Entertainment

I hadn't realised – until I read this book – how much work Henry VIII's marital problems caused the stonemasons of Hampton Court. After years of carving the letters H&C all over the place, Henry got rid of Catherine of Aragon, so the Cs had to be reworked as As. But, no sooner was the last A in place than Anne Boleyn was executed on Tower Hill and the As had to become Js to suit Jane Seymour, who promptly died in childbirth. And there were still three more queens to go, so, lots more chiseling, presumably.

Mary Tudor: England's First Queen, By Anna Whitelock

On the morning of 18 February 1516, at the royal palace in Greenwich on the banks of the River Thames, the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was born. On 14 December 1558, she was buried in Westminster Abbey. This rigorously researched book brings back to life the period in between; a period in history in which unprecedented events took place.

Best audio books of 2009: Ghost stories and thrillers make for good listening

This season delivers a bumper crop of excellent thrillers. In William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms (Whole Story Audio, £24.46), Adam Kindred, wanted for a gruesome murder of which he is innocent, goes to ground in London. He lives rough, creating a new identity for himself and gradually unravels a huge pharmaceutical fraud. Boyd visits and forensically examines virtually every level of contemporary society, from prostitutes and hellfire evangelists to scientists, corrupt City types and an ex-soldier turned hired gun. Compellingly read by Martyn Ellis, it is a serious, thoughtful and provocative novel. And it speeds along faster than a cheetah.

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, By Alison Weir

An elegant history of the second wife of Henry VIII finds little evidence of her alleged incest or ill intent

Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens, By Lisa Hilton

Probably the most notorious of England's medieval queens was Isabella of France, the wife of Edward II – few of us don't know about the red-hot poker murder that ended his life, a grisly death meant also to signify Edward's homosexual practices. Isabella, who was considered responsible for the murder and the manner of it, largely escaped punishment even though she was, as Hilton notes, a queen who "had managed to do something practically unthinkable: to depose an anointed king". She also dispels another myth: the red-hot poker story may have inspired Derek Jarman and Christopher Marlowe, but it probably wasn't true.

Summer: Your survival guide

It's summertime, but the living ain't easy. Yes, the sun might (sometimes) shine and temperatures might climb but school's out, and that means six relentless weeks of kids, kids and more kids. Don't despair: you can survive. It's all about attitude – and having a few aces up your sleeve to preserve your sanity. Here, Joanna Moorhead offers to share hers

Inspection for Newton's apple tree

Isaac Newton's apple tree, the Magna Carta tree and the Tolpuddle Martyrs' tree will all feature in a mass survey of ancient organisms to be carried out by the National Trust.

The jousting accident that turned Henry VIII into a tyrant

Medical study uncovers turning point in king's life. Michael McCarthy reports

Why Anne Boleyn lost her head for Henry VIII

A love letter written by Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn reveals how he pursued her like a lovesick schoolboy, declaring his "unchangeable intention" to marry her and signing off with "H seeks A B no other Rex" – his beloved's initials in a heart.

Eddie Izzard, Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Return of the genius who knows how to play the Fool

Ready to Wear: Big knickers are a way of sexualising a wardrobe and the wearer

Knickers. They're everywhere. And if that sounds like the most almighty case of stating the obvious, the fact that any underwear is currently being worn over clothes rather than hidden away beneath them or, failing that, that the clothes in question are so sheer that knickers show through is perhaps less commonplace.

DVD: The Other Boleyn Girl, Retail & Rental (Universal)

Adapted from Philippa Gregory's novel, this period romp concerns the rivalry between Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary for Henry VIII's amorous attentions. Having no interest in politics, the tale operates only as historical romance. That would be fine, if the love triangle were firing on all cylinders. It isn't. While Scarlett Johansson shimmers as Mary, a vowel-chewing Natalie Portman makes us wonder why Henry took on the Pope for Anne.

House of Saddam, BBC2<br/>The Tudors, BBC2<br/>The Lost Land of the Jaguar, BBC1

There's more drama in the jungle than in the stories of Saddam and Henry VIII

Tudor terror: John Guy is on a mission to bring history to the masses

Forgery, forgotten evidence and mouse-droppings &ndash; Tudor expert John Guy has made all sorts of unsavoury discoveries down in the National Archives. He tells Mark Bostridge why he's on a mission to bring Tudor history to the masses, and where David Starkey got it wrong

The Other Boleyn Girl (12A)

Keep it in your codpiece, Henry
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As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links