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.

Pandora: Stage dive blunts James's picking

James Blunt's military days may be well behind him, but his second career still provides the odd professional injury.

Robert Fisk: Where is our man for all seasons?

Ghosts from our recent tragedy spring at us from this screenplay

Paperback: Henry VIII's Last Victim, by Jessie Childs

For anyone craving yet another Tudor hit, the snake-pit of Henrician politics is exposed in Jessie Child's elegant biography of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. An aristocratic courtier and soldier and a talented sonneteer, Surrey introduced blank verse into English poetry. While his poetry was sensitive, his behaviour verged on the preposterous. Present at the execution of his cousins Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, he was himself was beheaded for treason in 1547. In the process of debunking this romantic hero, Child also offers plenty of empathetic insights into the 16th-century mind.

Why poetry still matters, by Boyd Tonkin

From Beowulf to Philip Larkin, poetry's past haunts its present. Below, Andrew Motion, Bonnie Greer, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Culture Secretary on the poems that changed their lives

Natalie Portman - more than a woman

She loved being a scheming Tudor temptress but that's not all Natalie Portman is interested in

The Weasel: Tower of Power

Contrary to historical precedent, Mrs W lost her head before she went to the Tower of London. The chain of events leading to her decapitation, which I hasten to add was metaphorical, began when she overcame a lifelong fear of heights and took the brave step of acquiring a pair of high heels. The elegant footwear in black suede was then allowed to mature in its box for about six months. But when we were invited to the Tabasco Club’s supper at the Tower, she decided that the time had arrived for the great unveiling.

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

A Tudor tale of power and sibling rivalry

Pursuits: Creativity

WOULD WEATHERMEN be isobarred and vicars taken out of service? (JR Gore). And still they flood in, those appropriate sackings. So much excellent material was omitted, I will be self-publishing a Creativity Extra (magazine) to give it all a platform. Watch this space.

Interview: Charlotte Rampling - What the Dickens?

Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham? I'm just right for the part, she tells James Rampton

Literary Notes: Bursting bodices and romantic beheadings

WHEN I was a child, my favourite book in the world was neither The Wind in the Willows nor Winnie the Pooh, but a battered volume in my parents' bookcase called The Tower of London.

The 50 best: Good ways to have a really bad time

It's that day of the year when children turn into ghouls and parents have nightmares - so why not make the most of it. This week, our panel picks out the best ways to scare yourself silly this Hallowe'en, from horror movies to theme-park rides. Jenny Gilbert took notes

John Mitchell London SE13

Sir: Twentieth-century presidents are not the first to need spin- doctors to try to guard them against rumours of dalliance or their own imprecision when denying it.

A woman wants a mistress, too

If wives had someone else to look after the family, they would be free to take a lover, argues Glenda Cooper

Exhibition: The heart and skull of humanism

Death is among us, but strife is not inevitable. That's the message of Holbein's 'Ambassadors', now restored by the National Gallery
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How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
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The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
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Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
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Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
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Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
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Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
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Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
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Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
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Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

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Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

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