Arts and Entertainment

A boy enters a palace of a hundred rooms where an assassin may lurk behind every door and shadowy figures are reflected in a Hall of Mirrors.  An astonishing treasure lies at its heart, but powerful enemies are at the gates.

Letter: Demolition call

Sir: While sharing the concern of the Twentieth Century Society that so many fine buildings of the 1920s and 1930s, having survived the War and post-War planning, are now threatened by decay, disuse and demolition ("Classic buildings decay before they can be listed", 19 November), let us remember that in one of the most grievous calamities of the London Blitz the bombs of the Luftwaffe tragically missed the Faraday Building in Queen Victoria Street, London.

Restaurants: Come to the cabaret

A restaurant inspired by pre-war Berlin and Milan may sound a theme too far, but David Baddiel is won over. Photograph by Madeleine Waller

Historical Notes; The wisdom of Florence Nightingale

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE believed that mistakes bring wisdom. If this is the case, she must have been the wisest person in Britain. Her mistake was to support the doctors in claiming, during and after the Crimean War, that 15,000 soldiers had died in her hospitals because the Army had sent "the wrong kind of patient". During her lifetime, most of Victorian Britain knew that she had changed her mind 12 months after the war, and admired her honesty. Since her death her biographers have avoided mentioning her mistake and her correction of it, and in doing so have ignored the defining event of her life.

Omagh Aftermath: A tiny white box that held the mortal remains of baby Breda

THERE WAS no need for pall-bearers, no need for burly men to shoulder the weight of the coffin. Rather, Paul Devine simply lifted from the hearse the tiny, white box containing the body of his daughter Breda, placed it carefully under one arm and stepped into the stillness of the church.

Historical notes: The prince and the autograph album

LEOPOLD GEORGE Duncan Albert, Queen Victoria's youngest son, was a haemophiliac and started suffering from a form of epilepsy shortly after his 13th birthday. Smothered by his mother's protective love, Leopold found the transition from childhood to adolescence more than usually stressful. The Queen was determined to keep him with her. His frail health was one reason. Another was that he was clever and she wanted to groom him for the role of companion and personal assistant. She chose and disposed of his attendants with this end in view. Even contacts with his brothers and sisters were restricted for fear that they might give him ideas of independence.

Words: Pathetic

POOR William Hague, down with 'flu, missed Prime Minister's Questions last week and was consequently described by a former Tory minister as "pathetic". This struck me as harsh. Pathetic is one of those words children hurl across the playground when they want to be particularly unpleasant - to draw unkind attention, say, to some failure or other in a clumsy schoolmate. It is also much used by those who have lost the thread of an argument, are in retreat and are trying for a Parthian shot. It has more firepower than yah-boo or sucks, but not a great deal, and should not be used by ex-ministers if they want to sound really grown up.

Preview: see high society

THE RECENT rediscovery of several large collections of original negatives taken by three leading studios of the Edwardian era (Lafayette, H Walter Barnett and Bassano) have inspired a lavish new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, from 30 January. Camera technology had developed to such an extent by the end of the 19th-century that society figures were frequent visitors at fashionable photographers' studios to pose against stylised backgrounds and receive a flattering portrait more quickly than traditional painted mediums. The exhibition is divided into five sections, including one devoted to portraits of the guests in elaborate fancy dress at the famous Devonshire House Ball, held to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and another section concentrating on prominent female personalities of the reign, including one Lillie Langtry (left).

Woman fights for her life after firebomb attack

A 23-year-old woman was fighting for her life yesterday after being set ablaze in a firebomb attack in a park. Police scoured the park for evidence as detectives tried to work out why Heidi Brown was doused with what is thought to have been petrol in an apparently unprovoked attack. She is in the Queen Victoria hospital, in East Grinstead, West Sussex.

The intelligent consumer: My giddy aunt

ready to wear

Leading Article: A guiding light for the future of the monarchy

Central to the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom is the unspoken bargain between the monarchy and the people: that the Royal Family is there by popular demand. This is how it should be, and it was right that today's arrangements should have been the product of negotiation and compromise between the monarchy's sense of tradition and the public's sense of what is seemly.

Theatre: Gross Indecency

Minetta Lane Theatre, New York City

Even at 82, Queen Victoria left a nation unprepared for her death

The British excel at great state occasions, reports Clare Garner

Bombay's first crack at freedom

The stained glass of George Gilbert Scott's university building was at the receiving end on the stroke of midnight. Victoria was laid low. Fifty years on will she rise again?

Letter: Missing monarch

Sir: If Pru Irvine's grandmother is 104 (Tabloid; "When Mummy dearest hits 100", 6 August), she has lived in six reigns - not the five asserted by Pru.
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