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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