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Catholics hail Duchess of Kent's conversion

THE DUCHESS of Kent, a direct descendant of Oliver Cromwell who is married to the Queen's first cousin, announced yesterday that she would become a Roman Catholic in a ceremony on Friday.

Crown Jewels moved amid tight security

PART of the Tower of London was sealed off yesterday as the Crown Jewels were boxed up and moved to a new home. The Waterloo Barracks was under tight security as, inside, the world's most valuable collection of jewellery was removed from its fortified bunker 60ft below ground and transferred upstairs.

Letter: Too good to be king

Sir: Mike Pentelow's letter (11 December) concerning King Charles II prompts me to mention that the king, Charles I, who is revered as a pillar of the Church of England, believed that he reigned by Divine Right, could do no wrong and was totally faithful to his wife, was the king that we beheaded for being a bad king.

Rambling home that inspired Dickens for sale: Agents lower financial expectations as 'Miss Havisham's house' goes on the market needing extensive restoration

MISS Havisham's house is up for sale. The huge 17th-century building that inspired Charles Dickens's Satis House in his novel Great Expectations is now in the hands of the receivers.

Happy Anniversary: Another seven for Arsenal

SOME of the anniversaries in the forthcoming week that you might otherwise have overlooked.

BOOK REVIEW / Poems with bottle: So idle a rogue: The Life and Death of Lord Rochester - Jeremy Lamb: Allison & Busby, pounds 14.99

THE MAD prodigality of Lord Rochester, Restoration poet and rakehell, was a world away from the dandified fripperies of sword knots and side-curls. It was demonic, and totally calamitous in the foppish court of Charles II, where Rochester was chief wit. Any gallant could enjoy the broad freedom - sexual, sartorial - that flourished after the riddance of Puritan morality. But only Rochester could yell at the King's favourite sundial - 'Dost thou stand here to fuck Time?' - and then proceed to smash it up.

BOOK REVIEW / All the king's men: 'So Idle a Rogue' - Jeremy Lamb: Allison & Busby, 14.99 pounds

IN THE summer of 1676 appeared on Tower Hill a magnificent quack. Sporting an ancient green fur-lined robe, a flowing beard and jewelled medallions, Dr Alexander Bendo provided remedies for scurvy, green-sickness and inflammations. He was paid for his medicines, which were made of soot, urine, old wall, soap, and powdered brick, among other tasty ingredients - but his advice was free. Simply by studying the naked body he could predict the future, interpret dreams and offer other 'affable and communicative' opinions. He became very popular.

Mahler's piano acquired for collection of historic keyboard instruments

Alec Cobbe, keeper of the Cobbe Collection of historic instruments, with one of his most recent acquisitions, a piano owned by Mahler. The collection, which includes instruments owned by Charles II and Chopin, is kept at Hatchlands, near Guildford.

Diary: Sylvia's battling biographers

IT IS now 30 years since the suicide of Sylvia Plath, but the public's interest in her life has not waned. Nor have people lost interest in the many biographers who have fought with Ted Hughes, Plath's former husband, for the right to tell the unexpurgated story. So far, only one biography - Bitter Fame, by Anne Stevenson - has received the Poet Laureate's blessing, and that book failed to receive critical acclaim. Depending on whom you believe, here is the reason.

Diary: So is there a gene for it?

THIS NEWSPAPER has never shown any great interest in the alleged relationship between the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker-Bowles, but there is one historical snippet of information about Mrs Parker- Bowles's ancestry that, I think, is worth recording. It is generally known that Mrs Parker-Bowles is the great granddaughter of King Edward VII's mistress, Alice Keppel, but it appears there is an even more notorious (although charming) royal mistress lurking among her antecedents: Nell Gwyn.

The Bluffer's Briefing on: Doing a runner

1097: Stephen of Blois (aka Stephen the Funambulist) slid down a rope to escape the Siege of Antioch. On his arrival in England, his wife, Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, sent him back to carry on crusading.

Profile: Embracing mass but not the masses: Ann Widdecombe MP, a stranger to compromise

LAST WEDNESDAY, at a sung mass in the chapel of the House of Commons, the social security minister took her first communion - mass, as she must now learn to call it - after having been received into the Roman Catholic church. Its very public nature has raised hackles among members of both her new church and her old one.

Widdecombe reveals her Thatcherite credentials

LISTENERS telephoned the BBC yesterday after hearing Ann Widdecombe, the junior social security minister, defending the imposition of VAT on fuel bills. The nation's milk had curdled over the cornflakes, writes Colin Brown.

BOOK REVIEW / Bible bashers in alehouses: 'The English Bible and the 17th Century Revolution' - Christopher Hill: Allen Lane, 25 pounds

TO SAY that Christopher Hill is a prodigy of learning is to admit a doubt as to anyone, apart from himself, being qualified to review this book. Every student of the 17th century in England knows that his familiarity with the pamphlet literature of that pamphlet-driven age is unrivalled. They know too, from his more recent publications, that his rapport with Milton and with Bunyan amounts to a special relationship. A finished writer himself, he responds to literary genius as well as to the historical context in which it finds expression. He knows, none better, how completely the Bible dominated the mentality of Englishmen in the first half of the 17th century: Charles I and Archbishop Laud no less than Presbyterian bigots like Prynne, large-minded men like Cromwell or the forerunners of socialism who are so lovingly lingered over in this book were equally ready to appeal to it. He also knows his Bible. If Tyndale had encountered him in the Senior Common Room at Balliol there would have been no room for unflattering comparisons with ploughmen.

ART / The child in time: James Hall on the touring exhibition 'Innocence and Experience' and Rembrandt's Girl at a Window at Dulwich Picture Gallery

THIS summer, one of the most sensational and original of recent art historical studies - Leo Steinberg's The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion - will be 10 years old. Though now remaindered, this iconoclastic tome hit the headlines at the time, and even got a respectful review from the then Director of the National Gallery, Michael Levey.
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
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Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
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world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
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Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
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Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
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Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
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A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice