Just to clear up any misunderstanding. Henry VIII DID NOT have a seventh wife (as far as we know ). It was just an April Fool’s prank!
On 3rd March, I joined Paul Martin and scientist Steve Mould to present a new series called I Never Knew that About Britain, based on the books by Christopher Winn. Here’s what the Daily Express had to say about it!
On Monday, Paul, Steve and I went on the Alan Titchmarsh Show to talk about I Never Knew that About Britain. As well as the lovely Alan, I was particularly chuffed to meet Simon Callow and Adam Richman, and Ashleigh and Pudsey were brilliant!
I went on on 20th February to talk feminism, history, men who marry repeatedly (think Henry VIII) and Snowden.
On 6th February we screened the first episode of Henry and Anne: The Lovers Who Changed History. .
The first programme airs on Thursday 20 February on Five at 8pm.
I’m very pleased with it; do catch it if you can!
Meanwhile, in advance of the series, I’ve written an article about the story and the process of making it for BBC History Magazine online:
For Channel Five, I have written and presented a two-part series on the love affair between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn – its rise and its terrible fall.
The first episode airs on Thursday 20 February 2014 at 8pm and it concludes a week later.
Although – or perhaps because – this is a much-studied period of history, Henry and Anne’s relationship is a fiercely debated subject. Historians are divided about why and when the couple formed and, above all, why their relationship fell apart so spectacularly and with such fatal consequences.
For this series, I travelled in the footsteps of the couple – from Hever Castle in Kent to Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire, from the Château Royal de Blois to Hampton Court Palace. Above all, I looked carefully at the surviving manuscripts and sources, the most touching of which are Henry’s love letters to Anne, and two Books of Hours owned by Anne herself. These seem to me to give an amazing insight into a 500-year-old relationship.
I have tried to present my view of Henry and Anne, as a partnership based on mutual respect and attraction, and driven apart by the most terrible of misunderstandings.
I have written more about this for BBC History Magazine: (link to follow)
The programme was chosen as a Pick of the Day or TV Highlight on 15-16 February 2014 by: Radio Times, The Sunday Telegraph (Seven), The Observer (The New Review), The Mail on Sunday (Event), The Sunday Times (Culture), The Guardian (The Guide), The Times (Saturday Review), Daily Express (Saturday Magazine), The Sun (TV Magazine), The Daily Telegraph (Review), and The Daily Mail (Weekend).
The series was made by Chris Mitchell and Bill Locke at Lion TV. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are played by Jack Hawkins and Emma Connell.
In the first of a new series of videos commissioned by BBC History Magazine, I was talking Tudors with Sam Willis on 19th January 2014.
This week, I was invited to give the opening keynote address at the Media Evolution Conference in Malmo, Sweden. The themes of the conference were Power, Disruption and Lies, and I talked about what we can learn from the past, and what we can’t.
It was an extraordinary group of people and a brilliant conference, and I was chuffed and honoured to be invited.
You can see a video of my (30-minute) talk here:
Why did the Tudors matter? Funny you ask. I recently made this short film for Chalke Valley History Hub explaining just why I think they were, and are, so crucial.
On Wednesday 22nd May, I went on BBC Breakfast with Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull to talk about the forthcoming programme, The Last Days of Anne Boleyn (airing 23 May 2013 at 9pm on BBC 2). If that wasn’t treat enough, I was also sitting on the famous red sofa when Jamie Cullum and his band struck up to sing us out. Boy, they’re good!
You can watch again here:
On 19 May 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed on charges of adultery, incest and conspiring King Henry VIII’s death.
But what happened in those last days before her death? Why did Anne, and the five men accused with her, have to die?
A new in-depth drama-documentary on BBC 2 will explore the continuing controversy among historians. Rather wonderfully, rather than giving a single linear account, it recreates the historical debate that rages on. It makes for history at its most contentious and exciting.
It features seven historians and historical novelists: Dr David Starkey, Hilary Mantel, Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Prof. George Bernard, Prof. Greg Walker and me.
For anyone interested in Tudor history and in the extraordinary character of Anne Boleyn, this is unmissable.
It will air on 23 May 2013 at 9pm on BBC 2.
And if you want to know more, in progressively greater depth, do consult the following:
I so enjoyed making it. I got to research some fascinating stories in the history of science and technology – and the social and human cost of progress – and to work with some really talented and generous scientists and historians. Here’s what it’s all about:
‘While the Victorians confronted the challenges of ruling an Empire, perhaps the most dangerous environment they faced was in their own homes. Householders lapped up the latest products, gadgets and conveniences but in an era with no health and safety standards they were unwittingly turning their homes into hazardous death traps. In a genuine horror story, Dr Suzannah Lipscomb reveals the lethal killers that lurked in every room of the Victorian home and shows how they were unmasked. What new innovation killed thousands of babies? And what turned the domestic haven into a ticking time bomb?’
It is my first authored programme and obviously took me far from my usual sixteenth-century territory, but I tried to compensate with copious amounts of research, into a period that has always intrigued me. I hope the nineteenth-century historians will forgive me!
My excellent contributors were: Dr Kate Williams, Judith Flanders, Dr Suzy Lishman, Prof. Andrew Meharg, Colin King, Matt Furber, Sarah Nicol, Dr Matthew Avison, Nathan Goss and Max Wagner.
The programme was made by Modern TV. It was produced and directed by Suzanne Phillips. The Executive Producers were Griff Rhys Jones, Liz Hartford and Sarah Broughton. The rest of the team were: Camera – Tudor Evans; Researcher – Celyn Williams; Sound – Brian Murrell; Production Assistant – Alyn Farrow; Junior Production Manager – Katy Daykin; and Photography – James Jones.
Thank you to everyone for all their work on it. Particular thanks are due to Griff Rhys Jones who first thought of the idea of me making a documentary with his production company.
I’ve written the cover article for this month’s BBC History Magazine. In it, I try to answer a perennial question of English history: why did Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, have to be executed on 19 May 1536? Historians debate the evidence and have come up with four possible theories, which I’ve outlined, so you can make up your own mind about which is the most convincing.
The magazine also features articles by Ian Mortimer on Tudor breakfasts and Robert Hutchinson on the Spanish Armada, so is well worth a read!
I recorded a podcast on the AB question with Charlotte Hodgman, at the Tower of London, which you can listen to here.
Bloody Tales series 2 goes out today at 8pm on National Geographic Channel, and we’ve attracted our fair share of coverage. We’re, amazingly, pick of the day in the Radio Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, Total TV Guide and Sky Online.
Tonight’s episode, ‘Executions’, features stories about the deaths of Nazi commander, Amon Goeth – played by Ralph Fiennes in the film Schindler’s List – Scottish hero William Wallace and Viking warrior Ragnar Lodbrok. It really makes for some bloody – and hopefully, fascinating – viewing.
The Daily Mail have also covered our groundbreaking discoveries about Goeth’s death online.
I was recently delighted to be invited to give a TEDx talk at St Paul’s School.
The question I posed, in the words of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between was: ‘Is the Past a Foreign Country?’
Well, hasn’t this all been fun? Medieval history hitting the news! Stop press for the 15th century!
There’s much to say about the discovery of Richard III’s bones, but as many people are saying it, for now, here’s my tuppence worth:
On BBC 2′s Newsnight with director Sir Richard Eyre and Kirsty Wark:
And in the London Evening Standard:
Earlier this year, I debated with Dan Jones in the Tower of London whether the Tudors or the Plantagenets were most important (we didn’t quite come to blows).
It was a BBC History Magazine event and they have now issued it as two podcasts (1 and 8 November 2012), to which you can listen here: http://www.historyextra.com/podcasts
On Tuesday 6 November, a listener to the BBC Radio 4 series Making History asked about the role of the fool in history, and specifically about why two such figures appear in the arches of this Royal Collection painting of The Family of Henry VIII (1545).
Making History’s presenter Dr Helen Castor, and her producer, Nick Patrick, went to speak to Simon Callow about fools in Shakespeare, and then came to me (from the sublime to the ridiculous) to discuss the historic fool – especially those at the court of Henry VIII. I told them all about the research I’d done as part of All The King’s Fools, the distinction between artificial fools and natural fools, and my belief – from the historical evidence – that natural fools had learning disabilities. You can hear the interviews on the programme here (starting at 9.16 minutes in - though the rest of the programme is well worth a listen too!)