I have exciting news for UK viewers: my series on the 16th and 17thc women accused of witchcraft – “WITCHES: A Century of Murder” – looks set to start on Channel 5 on 13th October. More details to follow (including any dates for airing in other countries as and when I get them).
Historians try to produce as total a view of the past as possible. Yet does our concern with facts isolate us from how material culture influenced lived experience?
Read my latest History Today post here.
If you are a man seeking a wife, you can do worse than employ this helpful list of questions prepared by King Henry VII in 1505 when he was thinking of marrying again (to Joanna of Naples).
1. Does she speak any French or Latin?
2. How old is she?
3. Does she wear makeup?
4. Is her face fat or lean, sharp or round?
5. Is her countenance cheerful and amiable, frowning and malicious, steadfast or light, and does she blush when she speaks?
6. How clear is her skin?
7. What colour is her hair?
8. What shape is her nose?
9. Measure the height and breadth of her forehead.
10. Are her arms long or short, small or great?
11. Get a look at her bare hands: are her palms thick or thin? Are her hands fat or lean, long or short?
12. What about her fingers? Are they long or short, small or great, broad or narrow?
13. And her neck? Is it long or short, small or great?
14. Are her breasts big or small?
15. Does she have any hair about her lips?
16. Find some excuse to get her to tell a story at some length, get as close to her as possible and note: how sweet is her breath?
17. Every time you speak with her, notice: does she smell of spices, or rosewater, or musk?
18. How tall is she? And is she wearing heels? How high are the heels? Don’t be deceived into thinking she’s taller than she actually is.
19. When she takes the heels off, get a look at her feet: what shape are they?
20. Does she have any sickness, deformities or blemishes? Is she often ill? With what?
21. Enquire about her diet. Is she a great feeder or drinker? Does she eat often? Does she drink wine or water, or both?
22. Finally, appoint a ‘cunning painter’ to produce an image of her.
This, gentlemen, is all the information you need to make your decision.
Instructions given by King Henry the Seventh to his Embassadors, When he intended to marry the young queen of Naples: together with the answers of the embassadors ed. by T. Becket and P.A. De Hondt (1761)
23. Item, … diligently enqere for some conynge painter… [to] drawe a picture of the visage and semblance of the said young quene…
High minded allegations of prurience should not stop historians from examining the intimate lives of people in the past – My August History Today article
Was she ensnared by a conspiracy, the victim of her own loose tongue, or simply guilty as charged? In this 2013 article I tries to unearth the real reason why Henry VIII sent his second wife, Anne Boleyn, to the block.
My new book is out on 5 November!
If you pre-order on Amazon, I’ll love you forever:
You can also find it on Head of Zeus: The King is Dead
It was a great honour to speak and hand out the prizes at the Epsom College Prizegiving Ceremony today, especially as it’s my old school…
26th June 2015 Prize Giving 2015 – read more:http://t.co/JV4Fpyomyh
— Epsom College (@EpsomCollegeUK) June 26, 2015
Here’s a little clip of a debate called ‘Vanity Fair’ at ‘How The Light Gets In’, at the Hay Festival last week on the question of whether narcissism could be a virtue, with Prof. Simon Blackburn, George Galloway and me, chaired by Ritula Shah.
My latest post in History Today in on Cultural Vandalism – take a look here.
The article features the destruction of Nonsuch Palace in Cheam – my old stamping ground.
I’m delighted to be delivering a new talk this evening entitled ‘Public Intellectualism Today’ in which I’ll be looking at the importance of thinking deeply and carefully about things, present and past; and the role of the intellectual in society today.
In the talk I’ll pose the questions: Who and what is an intellectual, today? What does it mean to be an intellectual? Does being ‘a whole person’ include being an intellectual? What is the intellectual’s role in the world? How does an intellectual best engage with society? Has this changed significantly from the past to today? And is a ‘public intellectual’ not an oxymoron?
Wow, after all that I’ll sit back and let others do the work while I help judge the THINK SLAM!
This is how it works – Competitors have 3 minutes to present a thought-provoking idea, theory, or story. From then on, it’s a knockout! Keen but kindly judges, including me as judge-supremo, will decide who pleases the thinking parts that others cannot reach, who inspires good, great, or gruesome thoughts, and who does not.
Just as in all good sporting competitions, there will be a quarter final, semi final, and final! Though there may well be moments of seriousness, nervousness, and puzzlement, a spirit of wonder, wit, and good humour will prevail!
The sixth Swindon Think Slam Champ will receive a bubbly-filled trophy, rapturous applause, and nice words from me!
I’ve enjoyed speaking about the birth of HRH The Princess of Cambridge from a historical perspective on the television and radio (Sky News, BBC Breakfast, LBC, Good Morning Britain on ITV, BBC News and BBC World) this weekend.
The birth of this little girl, fourth in line to the throne is historically interesting, because it brings equality to the sexes. For the first time, following a change in the law – the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, that only came into force a mere five weeks ago – the new Princess can’t be supplanted from her position in the line of succession by any younger brothers. Age, for the first time in history, trumps gender.
Another piece of legislation also applies to this child. The new baby will be titled HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge because of Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm issued by the Queen in December 2012. In 1917, George V restricted the title of HRH Prince or Princess to the children of the sovereign, their children, and the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (i.e. today Prince George). So, born under that law, the new baby would have been Lady Charlotte Cambridge or possibly Lady Charlotte Mountbatten-Windsor or Lady Charlotte Wales. But the Queen’s change to the law means she has been born a Princess. The law doesn’t extend to Prince Harry: if he has children, they will still not be titled Prince of Princess.
Finally, the last Princess of Cambridge was Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth, born in 1833, and known for both her lavish partying and her charitable works. She was also, curiously, known as ‘The People’s Princess’, so already, before we even know her name, this little baby reminds us of her grandmother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
I’m joining a Telegraph ‘World of Wolf Hall’ tour in July and wonder if you would like to join me?
You can find more details here if you are interested The World of Wolf Hall or call 033330 059095.
History Today have re-posted an old article of mine about Henry VIII that was first published in History Today Volume 59, Issue 4, April 2009
It was a great pleasure to go on Griff Rhys Jones’s new quiz show, Quizeum, which will be shown this week in the Museum of London. My erudite team-mate, Lars Tharp, and I took on the formidable combination of historians Hallie Rubenhold and Dan Snow. The fiendish questions were set by Griff and his team at Modern TV. Do watch it to its nail-biting end!
Here’s a couple of clips:
The increasing commercialisation of sites known for their gruesome and violent history raises troubling questions. But to ignore such events would be worse –
I was lucky enough to be part of this series – the last Time Team series ever! Sob. If you’re on Twitter, go and RT this to be entered into the competition (UK only).
If you missed it, Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home is playing on iPlayer for the next 24 days here.
This is what I wrote about it when it was first aired in 2013 Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home
This programme will be repeated on Tuesday 7th April, on The Yesterday Channel. You can see what I wrote about it when it was first broadcast here.
Had great fun (although initially dead nervous) on Monday night recording an episode of Quizeum – a new quiz show in – guess what – a museum! It’s presented by Griff Rhys Jones. The series starts to air on 25th March on BBC 4 (at around 8.30pm) and my episode, at the Museum of London, is about six in. I was in a team with Lars Tharp (whom you’ll know from the Antiques Roadshow) and we fought historians Hallie Rubenhold and Dan Snow. But the question is: who won?
Here’s the first trailer: