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.

The enduring charm of the Borgias

One of history's most notorious families is returning to TV – this time with a class cast. Sarah Hughes has a preview

The Girl King, By Meg Clothier

Royal romp is fresh and fast-moving

Chapelle du Roi, St John’s Smith Square

The British a cappella ensemble Chapelle du Roi was set up by singer-conductor Alistair Dixon with two objectives: to bring Renaissance music to a wider audience, and also, as their brochure puts it, ‘to unearth music that has languished unseen and unheard’.

Ready To Wear: There's history behind Matt Cardle's yellow trousers

"What kind of a man wears yellow trousers?" I shouted at the telly, watching Matt Cardle whining away in a pair the night he was crowned winner of this year's X Factor.

Wolf Hall, By Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel's portrait of the blacksmith's son who rose to become Henry VIII's right-hand man, and for a time, the most powerful individual in the country, is a tour de force. It seems unfair to cite this book in a "best of" list once again, after it dominated so many of last year's selections, but it still outclasses almost anything else (and costs less than half as much in paperback, out this year).

Beowulf, OMG!: Hip-hop artist Akala tracks the development of English

Shakespeare has an image problem – but it's all just bad marketing, really. Who was he? Who was his audience? What was London like when he was writing? Despite the factual information to the contrary, the average person's answer to these questions may read: some aristocrat educated at Oxford; the rich and powerful of his day; awfully civilised.

Harriet Walker: It's not easy being Eliza Doolittle

Any girl feels like a new season debutante when she meets the parents. Knowing when to simper and when to smile, at what moment to tinkle out a little giggle or how to pronounce that fancy French thing on the menu – all require a social deftness and lightness of touch that you either have or you don't. S'a matter of breeding, innit.

Heartstone, By C J Sansom

Gripped by intrigue in Tudor times

Cultural Life: Miranda Raison, actress

Theatre: I went to see my friend Hannah Stokely in 'After the Dance' at the National. It is a seldom-done Terence Rattigan play that I had never heard of, let alone seen before, and it is an absolutely sublime production. Han and I were at drama school together and were laughing about what a relief it is when a friend's show is good and you don't have to rehearse a believable compliment on the way up to the dressing room.

My life in ten questions...Sarah Cawood

''He's Just Not That Into You' changed my attitude to romance'

Anne Boleyn: Drama Queen

Powerful, alluring and misunderstood – Howard Brenton reveals why the intriguing Anne Boleyn is the perfect protagonist for his new play at the Globe

The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

In a court crammed with charismatic figures, Anne Boleyn was probably its most captivating player.

Henry VIII, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Henry VIII is notorious as the play which burned down the original Globe when its thatched roof was set on fire by the cannon shot saluting the entrance of the King in an early scene. To modern taste, that disaster has come to look like a shrewd critical verdict on the play. It's no surprise that the reconstructed Globe has only now got round to presenting the play in a vivid, robust, and winningly well-conceived production by Mark Rosenblatt.

Straw keeps his head for portrait

Quite whether Jack Straw will relish being compared to a government minister who was eventually beheaded is unclear – but a new portrait of the Justice Secretary was unveiled yesterday with the revelation that it was inspired by a painting of Sir Thomas More.

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