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.

Pandora: SAS showdown for portly parliamentarians

Ping! An arresting invitation lands in the email inboxes of our elected representatives. MPs are encouraged to undergo an SAS training course for a television series that involves "politicians competing against each other in an environment that will develop mental and physical strength".

Starkey dubs YouTube Queen an 'uneducated housewife'

The Queen has set up her own royal channel on YouTube, Buckingham Palace has announced. Her Christmas Day message will be posted on the popular video-sharing website for the first time as the 81-year-old sovereign, Britain's longest-lived monarch, embraces advances in technology. The new royal link features archive and recent footage of the Queen and other royals, with plans to add new clips regularly.

Last Night's TV: God save the Queen, she's a human being

Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work, BBC1; Help Me Love My Baby, Channel 4

Migrants to send £105bn back home to relatives this year

Migrant workers will send home a record amount of money this year, outstripping international aid contributions.

Bush heartened by Iranian response to offer

The United States and its allies expressed cautious optimism as they awaited Tehran's final response to the make-or-break offer of a deal to persuade Iran to end its uranium enrichment programme. Proposals were delivered at a two-hour meeting in the Iranian capital by Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, on behalf of France, Britain, Germany China, Russia, and the US - and drew a surprisingly measured initial response from the regime.

Spreckelsen hiring sweetens Thorntons

John von Spreckelsen, the former chairman of Somerfield who has a reputation for selling companies, has been parachuted in to Thorntons, the chocolate retailer that has recently lurched from profits warning to bid talks and back again.

Dexter Fletcher: My Life In Travel

'On Christmas Day in India we ate the most delicious roadside curry'

Richard II, Old Vic, London

A king with a PM's problems

Richard II, Old Vic, London

There's no virtue like necessity as Spacey gives an eloquent answers to his critics

Terence Morgan

1950s leading man and TV Sir Francis Drake

Inside Story: So, what exactly do you do all day?

Who works hardest in the media? Ed Caesar skips lunch to delve into the diaries of those working in TV, radio, press, PR, internet, magazines, marketing and advertising

Book Group: Ian Irvine reviews 'My Heart Is My Own'

A life, and death, of melodrama
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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
Spain
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'