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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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn