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 Sisters Who Would Be Queen, By Leanda de Lisle

The sisters in question in Leanda de Lisle's entertaining and sympathetic biography are the Greys: Jane, Katherine and Mary.

Fool, By Christopher Moore<br />The Final Act of Mr Shakespeare, By Robert Winder

Christopher Moore's Fool is a shaggy-dog story of rumpy-pumpy, a primal soup of violence and sex, the latter notably at the hands of a Quasimodo called Drool. He is the sidekick of King Lear's ever-resourceful Fool, the irrepressible Pocket. Drool either masturbates abstractedly in the palace laundry – he is eventually promoted to Royal Minister of Wank – or else, courtesy of Master Pocket, has bionic intercourse in the dark with Goneril and Regan, both under the mistaken impression that they are being bedded by a turbo-charged Edmund the Bastard. Regan, or "bunny cunny" in the Fool's all-licensed language, oozes sex. She is beautiful, murderous, insatiable, while her younger sister Cordelia, issued from one Lear's later marriages, has an unusually raucous sense of humour.

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.

Henry&rsquo;s Music: A King&rsquo;s Christmas, Alamire/Skinner, St John's, Smith Square, London

We tend not to picture Henry VIII as tall, slim, and madly in love – but in the early days of his reign, exactly 500 years ago, that's how he was and that's how the vocal consort Alamire chose to remember him in this timely celebration: A King's Christmas. But history has a way of wrong-footing us and when you hear one of Henry's own compositions – Though Some Saith – achieving such sweet consonance on the line "I love true where I did marry", the knot in your stomach tells you that many a cruel irony resides with the benefit of hindsight. We smile in spite of ourselves.



A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World?, By Simon Schama

First published to accompany his 2000 TV series of the same name, this initial volume in a trilogy about the history of Britain confirms Simon Schama's status as one of the world's leading historians, not only thanks to his expansive knowledge of history, but also to his ability to succinctly and unerringly pinpoint the psychological motivations of his characters.

Museum to show Mary Rose sailors' remains

Human bones and Tudor artefacts are to go on display for the first time

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.

Forget Henry VIII, here is the king of real tennis

A world champion for 15 years, Fahey is chasing his 40th Grand Slam crown

Video: Hilary Mantel talks about new novel 'Wolf Hall'

In the first of a series of discussions filmed at Daunt Books Will Buckley talks to Hilary Mantel about Wolf Hall, the novel which she says she was born to write and the hot favourite to win the Booker Prize on Tuesday.

Pope Benedict to arrive next year for grand tour of United Kingdom

Millions will turn out for only second papal visit to Britain since 16th century

Attila the Hun, By Christopher Kelly

Popular history cleaves to the one-man principle – that world events are controlled by the caprice of a single character – and it's an approach the history-book-buying public tends to favour. So biographies of Napoleon or Henry VIII triumph over interpretations of events that privilege context instead of individuals. Christopher Kelly's approach appears at first to be the former, in that he credits Attila the Hun with single-handedly ending the once-mighty Roman Empire. But given the lack of contemporaneous information about Attila, and that what there is was provided by Roman scholars who weren't best placed to judge him, Kelly must broaden his net and examine the context of his anti-hero.

Grandmother's family make plea to find killer

The daughters of a frail widow who was found strangled in bed before her home was set on fire in an attempt to hide evidence today appealed for the public's help in catching their mother's killer.

Boyd Tonkin: Front runner who tramples our myths

The Week In Books

Lord Mandelson: Whitehall's Emperor, or just a team player?

He faced a barrage of questions from MPs given a rare chance to discover more about his job
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Smash hit go under the hammer

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Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
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Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

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