I spent 7th August recording a BBC History Magazine podcast interview about the wars of the roses, the fifteenth century, and the art and science of writing history, interrogating Dan Jones. The podcast is live on the BBC History Mag website. We also deviated into the writing of popular history, whether Richard III was a tyrant and other assorted matters
Dan is to present the book in a new series soon, which you must watch on Channel 5.
On 30 July, at 9pm, for those in the UK, I’m was one of ten presenters counting down the World’s Worst Natural Disasters on More 4. Mine was historic and devastated the globe in the 14th century, and it got No. 1 billing…
First day today filming the new episode of Hidden Killers, this time of the Tudor home. With Dr Steven Gunn, soundman Hywel Jones, executive producer Jobim Sampson, and the perfectly named cameraman, Tudor Evans.
For all you lovely people who might want to watch it, it will air as part of the BBC Wolf Hall season, probably in early 2015.
On 29th April, 2014 I went on the set of a new TV mini-series about The Great Fire of London which series began airing on 16th October. The cast is incredible: Jack Huston, Rose Leslie and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones – Ygritte and Tywin Lannister), Daniel Mays (whom I last saw in Mojo), Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Andrew Buchan and Perdita Weeks, whose sister I used to audition with as a child. And it’s written by: Tom Bradby, the ITV News Political Editor.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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:
Just as we start to film the second series, I was delighted to discover, quite by chance, that Bloody Tales of the Tower has been made into a DVD, which goes on sale in mid-October 2012.
I think the best comment came from a friend on Twitter who admired the ‘corpse hunter CSI Tower Hill’ look of the cover.
Over this summer, I’ve been the contributing historian on four Time Team programmes, which I’ve told you about before (see more photos and videos here), but I haven’t before commented much on the process.
Three of the sites I worked on were Tudor – houses owned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey near Watford and Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk at Henham Park, and the third, a copper mine in the Lake District that was started under Elizabeth I – and one was Norman – an Anglo-Norman castle in Pembrokeshire.
The experience has been exceptionally enjoyable.
The Time Team crowd is a good one, full of experienced and professional people with deep and thorough expertise – be it in archaeology, ceramics, metalwork, production or presenting. I have learnt much from their example, and benefited from their generous friendship.
There is also a very high level of research behind each shoot: what you see on screen is the tip of the iceberg.
To give you an example: on the last shoot – the Elizabethan copper mines at Coniston – I prepared myself by reading around the subject and was sent, before filming, a pack of extra articles and documents to bring myself up to speed on the niceties of early modern mining.
But, on top of this, on location, researcher Celyn Williams and I worked through photographs of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscripts of (among others):
This was genuine historical research, and the fruits of it – and not all the hard graft behind the scenes – is what appears on screen: historical research complementing the archaeological discovery unfolding over the three days. The two together brought results that were surprising and salutary, and it was very rewarding to have been a part of uncovering this history. Hopefully you too will find it all as enjoyable to watch.
The new series will air in early 2013.
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.
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!
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.
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!