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Category Archives: Blog
Steven Russell interviewed me for today’s East Anglian Daily Times about why history is the new rock ‘n’ roll:
I wish Henham Park were my second home!
It was a real treat to spend a morning filming at Blenheim Palace, the setting of films like Young Victoria, for The Book Show Royal Special. The film aired just before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, on 31 May 3012 (and is still, at the time of writing, available on Sky On Demand).
I was giving my take on representations of the royalty on screen and page. How have films and novels shaped our ideas of the royalty? If, as I suspect, quite a lot, do they have a responsibility to be accurate? Does it matter if they’re not?
An illustrious panel, made up of historians Andrew Roberts, Kate Williams and Andrew Marr, along with The Book Show host Mariella Frostrup, went on to discuss these issues in greater depth.
It was particularly nice to discover that the Handel’s grand Zadok the Priest was my musical accompaniment.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend Sunday 3 June 2012 commentating on the Thames Jubilee River Pageant.
I spent the morning on BBC Radio 5 Live as a presenter’s friend to Jane Garvey and Sam Walker on Double Take. We were on location in Battersea Park, close to where the flotilla was gathering, to discuss what it means to be British, and how it has changed over the last 60 years of the Queen’s reign.
Then in the afternoon, I joined James Whale on LBC 97.3FM for four hours at Westminster Tower, from where we had a bird’s eye view on the unfolding river pageant.
From our perspective, the continual wall of boats, against the backdrop of the Palace of Westminster, looked like a modern-day Canaletto.
This impressive pageant seemed a fitting tribute with which to celebrate the long, glorious and historic reign of Her Majesty the Queen.
In the last month, I’ve had tremendous fun being part of two Time Team digs in Suffolk and Hertfordshire. We’ve been searching for lost Tudor manor houses, one belonging to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and one to Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk.
I’m looking forward to joining the Team again later in the year!
My interview with Eastern Daily Press was published on Monday 28 May. I’m pictured at Blickling Hall in Norfolk at the Blickling Boleyn Festival. Includes my top ten Tudor sites in East Anglia!
To my absolute delight, All the King’s Fools – our innovative project at Hampton Court Palace with actors with learning disabilities playing the parts of natural fools at Henry VIII’s court – has won a Museums + Heritage Award for Excellence! Imagine a BAFTA for the heritage industry and you’ve got some sense of how amazing this is.
The project (which I’ve featured many times on this blog) was a wonderful collaboration between The Misfits Theatre Company, Historic Royal Palaces, Foolscap Productions, academics from the University of East Anglia and Oxford Brookes University and historical interpreters Past Pleasures. It was developed with help from the Arts Council England, and supported by a Wellcome Trust People’s Award.
If you missed it and would like to know more, there’s a brilliant dedicated website with film footage of the events. Well worth a watch.
The Daily Mail has reviewed tonight’s Bloody Tales (Nat Geo, 8pm), with a great run-through of its gory tales. Mark Wareham figures out the derivation of ‘ketchup’ and spots my apparently ‘trendily studded nose’ in ‘dusty’, historical manuscripts, as per usual.
I was surprised and chuffed to discover that BBC History Magazine featured an academic article of mine (‘Crossing Boundaries: Women’s Gossip, Insults and Violence in 16th-Century France’, from French History, Vol 25, No. 4) in their April edition.
It contains some wonderfully scandalous stories from the archives of southern France, which are also likely to be the subject of my next book.
Both Radio Times and TV Times have chosen tonight’s episode of Bloody Tales of the Tower as one of their Picks of the Day.
The Radio Times calls me and Joe Crowley ‘a comely duo’ (!) and describes the show’s ‘often grisly expose of torture and execution at the Tower of London’. It also has a feature on one of our stories – Josef Jakobs, the last man to be executed at the Tower of London.
The TV Times says that if you’re planning to visit the Tower of London, ’this series reveals its bloody history’ and gives the show 4 out of 5 stars.
Finally, Joe Clay at The Sunday Times (15/4/12) has chosen Bloody Tales as one of their digital choice picks.
Very pleased that three papers have chosen it as a highlight!
National Geographic have produced a rather swish trailer for our new series – Bloody Tales of the Tower – with me and Joe Crowley, which starts this Monday, 16th April, at 8pm!
If you have access to NatGeoTV, I hope you’ll be watching!
Dan Jones reviewed A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England in The Spectator a week or so ago. He starts…
‘History publishers like a gimmick, so I assumed Suzannah Lipscomb’s A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England (Ebury, £12.99) must be a cheeky rip-off of Ian Mortimer’s Time Traveller’s Guide series.’
Thankfully, he continues…
‘Not so. In fact this is a rich, meticulously plotted field guide to the surviving architectural treasures of Tudor England: the houses, fortresses, palaces and battlefields that were trodden by our most famous royal dynasty, from Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle to Kett’s Oak and Burghley House (pictured).But it is more than just historical I-Spy. Lipscomb is an eloquent tour-guide, and each of her 50 destinations allows her deftly to unfold a different chapter of Tudor history.’
Read the rest of it here.
It was delightful to go into Sky News yesterday morning to review the papers with Eamonn Holmes, Charlotte Hawkins and Sam Delaney – even if it meant an eye-watering 4.30am start! This must explain why, as you’ll notice, I was still remembering how to speak in the first few minutes.
We talked about the proposed new A levels, the viewing habits of teenage murderer, Daniel Bartlam; Argentina’s president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s shoddy use of history and whether the Queen is a vampire.
My agent has kindly put a clip on YouTube (forgive the short shrift given to others…):
A few days ago, I posted a guest post at Natalie Grueninger’s On the Tudor Trail website to explain why I wrote A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England and why I think people should visit historic places.
‘I am frequently asked two questions: why am I a Tudor historian? And why do I think people remain fascinated by this period? The answer is the same: the Tudor era has all the best stories.
Consider: the remarkable sixteenth century contains our tabloid king – the much married Henry VIII – and our virgin queen – the unmarried Elizabeth I – and huge religious change – the overthrow, restoration and eventual displacing of the Roman Catholic church in England; centuries-old monasteries dissolved; heretics burnt and priests tortured. It is an age of threats against England – the attempted French invasion and the Spanish Armada – and of the discovery and colonisation of new worlds, the beginnings of empire and the founding of the navy. It is the age of Holbein and Shakespeare, of glorious architecture and palaces, and of some of the most extraordinary characters in British history…’
Some images from the launch party for A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England, held at The Philip Mould Gallery in London on 14 March 2012.
Photos by John Cairns
‘All the King’s Fools’, the groundbreaking performances by actors with learning difficulties at Hampton Court Palace in 2011, to recreate the natural fools of Henry VIII’s court, has been shortlisted as an educational initiative by the Museums Association’s Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence 2012:
The other exciting news is that films of the performances are now available to watch on the project website, www.allthekingsfools.co.uk. Do have a look!
This morning, A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England received its first review, by Mathew Lyons on the London Historians blog:
“It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached Suzannah Lipscomb’s latest book. Was it really necessary? Did the world need another guide book to the historic buildings of England? Would she not be forced into tiresome iterations of ‘We can imagine…’ or ‘If one closes one’s eyes one can almost hear…’ and so on.
Well, so much for my judgement: I stand corrected. A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England is not only a first-class and fascinating guide to the most important of what survives of Tudor England, it also doubles as a deceptively thorough history of the period – and indeed a fine introduction to the complexities of life in sixteenth-century England…”
Read on here.
Today, my review of Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England was published in History Today:
“Ian Mortimer has taken L.P. Hartley to heart. If ‘the past is a foreign country’, where ‘they do things differently’, Mortimer’s Time Traveller books are our historicalLonely Planets. Using the innovative approach first seen in his wildly successful The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, Mortimer has turned his attention to the first Elizabethan age (1558-1603). By using telling details to evoke the world of the past, he writes history as people want to read it.
Mortimer’s basic conceit – time travel – is a very powerful one, allowing him to do a number of things that are rare in history books. He writes in the second person and the present tense – giving the text an immediacy – and yet encompasses the whole of Elizabeth I’s reign as if we are waiting by our DeLoreans ready to enter a date…”
Read on here.
In this week’s podcast from BBC History Magazine, Dave Musgrove, the magazine’s editor and I, took a stroll through The Vyne in Hampshire to talk about its first owner, William, Lord Sandys, and Tudor court life.
You can hear it all, and see a splendid collection of photographs from The Vyne – a real gem of a house – on the BBC History Magazine website:
or go straight to the podcast here:
The podcast accompanies an article that I wrote in this month’s BBC History Magazine called ‘Tudor courtiers: Where History Happened’.
I’m delighted to report that Dr Hannah Dawson will be joining us in the history faculty at New College of the Humanities. Hannah currently holds a senior lectureship at the University of Edinburgh and works on the history of ideas. She has a double first class degree in History, a MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History, and a PhD for her study of John Locke, all from the University of Cambridge.
I’m tremendously excited that Hannah is joining the team. She is a brilliant intellectual historian with a stellar pedigree, and she’s full of dynamism and verve. I know the students will love her, and we are very lucky to have her.
This morning, through the magic of the BBC, I put on my headphones and talked into a rather large mic at Television Centre in London to presenters up and down the country. In three hours, I chatted to warm, friendly people in Shropshire, Leeds, Hereford & Worcester, the Solent, Derby, Devon, Cambridge, Northampton, Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Kent, York… (almost there, deep breath) and Leicester, all about my new book, A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England. And what intelligent, interesting questions they asked! It was genuinely great fun.
For the next seven days, you can catch some of them on iPlayer e.g.
BBC Northampton, chatting with Bernie Keith here: bbc.in/xCD0li – starting at 2.38.50
BBC Leicester, chatting with Jonathan Lampon here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002kycm – starting 49.56
(although I do appear to say ‘lucid’, as opposed to ‘lurid’ details!)
For the Telegraph’s new history page, I was invited to consider who would be my six dream dinner party guests from history.
I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this! I tried to choose people from different historical periods, who’d have fascinating stories to tell from the past, but who’d also make good dinner companions. I wonder what you think of my final choices!
Incidentally, I love the fact that the feature is called ‘Table Talk’, after the famous collection of Luther’s candid conversations over his dinner table. And I should add: I was told that I couldn’t make the obvious choices – Jesus, Shakespeare, Nelson, Churchill, etc. My guests had to be a bit more obscure (which was actually a wonderful challenge), but as this isn’t mentioned in an introduction, my choices probably look peculiarly arcane…