Life and Style

First of all, a caveat: the clothes we see in 16th-century portraits aren't fashion. At least, not to our eyes. They're court costume – emphasis on the costume. It's difficult to reconcile the lavishly slashed, brocaded and jewel-bedecked gowns of lustrous Renaissance portraiture with our jeans-and-T-shirt culture, or even with the grander creations on the international catwalks.

Letters: Seasteads - islands of hubris and exploitation

These letters were published in the 30th December edition of the Independent

David Bowie in Louis Vuitton's new advert

Video: David Bowie stars in Louis Vuitton's new advert

Legendary singer David Bowie fronts Louis Vuitton's new advert with supermodel Arizona Muse for the L'invitation au Voyage campaign series

The London Metal Exchange's system of quoting prices has remained unchanged for over 100 years

London Metal Exchange is an anachronistic world long since left behind by modern markets

The London Metal Exchange – which sets the rules for the global aluminium trade – is one of the few modern markets to retain “open outcry” trading, in which brokers shout and gesticulate to make their buy and sell orders.

Dame Helen Mirren even played the Queen in action film Red 2 (albeit Elizabeth I not II)

Dame Helen Mirren struggles to 'wriggle out' of Queen's mantle even in action film Red 2

Playing the Queen may have won Dame Helen Mirren an Oscar and an Olivier award, but she revealed she is struggling to “wriggle out” of the regal mantle. Only a rewrite at her request meant the acclaimed actress did not have to imitate Elizabeth II in her latest film, a big budget American action movie.

Michael Gove brings back 12 times tables in new curriculum

Children will be taught fractions from the age of five and will once again have to learn the 12 times tables under a controversial new national curriculum to be announced today by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Plebs

Plebs: A funny thing happened on the way to the Colosseum

Plebs is set in Ancient Rome, but the sitcom tells timeless truths about life at the bottom of the pile, says its writer Tom Basden

Plebs

Plebs: A funny thing happened on the way to the Colosseum

Plebs is set in Ancient Rome, but the sitcom tells timeless truths about life at the bottom of the pile, says its writer Tom Basden

The Saturday Quiz

1. The often-quoted opening line of The Go-Between – LP Hartley's 1953 novel – is what?

John Prescott was one of many who took to twitter to voice their reaction to the Leveson report

John Prescott misses out on title of High Steward of Hull... to arch rival Peter Mandelson

Former Deputy Prime Minister irate at missing out on title

The naked truth: Nadav Kander, Bodies. 6 Women, 1 Man, Flowers Gallery, London

Nadav Kander was inspired by ideas of Elizabethan purity to create these stunning photographic portraits of six nude females and one male. 

Anne-Marie Duff to appear in Shameless finale

Acclaimed actress Anne-Marie Duff is to make a return to Channel 4's Shameless for the show's last episode.

Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell

IoS Sounds of 2013: Classical

Old stories ignite new passions as Oliver Knussen conducts Angelika Kirchschlager in The Rape of Lucretia, and Barbara Hannigan, James Gilchrist and Jasper de Waal join Amsterdam Sinfonietta for Les Illuminations and Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.

First night: Dr Dee, English National Opera, London

Albarn's divisive tale of an Elizabethan mathematician just doesn't add up

Queen visits Roman Catholic church during Enniskillen visit

Protestant and Catholics from a Northern Ireland town devastated by an IRA bombing showed their unity today by joining forces to host a Diamond Jubilee visit by the Queen.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'