The Last Days of Anne Boleyn
On BBC Breakfast, I introduce the new programme, which airs on 23 May at 9pm on BBC 2.
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 features seven historians and historical novelists: Dr David Starkey, Hilary Mantel, Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Prof. George Bernard, Prof. Greg Walker and me. It makes for history at its most contentious and exciting.
For anyone interested in Tudor history and in the extraordinary character of Anne Boleyn, this is unmissable.
It airs on 23 May 2013 at 9pm on BBC 2.
Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home
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?
Written and presented by me, produced and directed by Suzanne Philips and made by Modern TV.
This aired on BBC 4 on Wednesday 3 April at 9pm.
With 772k viewers, it was the most watched programme on BBC 4 that week!
New series of Bloody Tales for NatGeo
Since September, when I’ve not been teaching my lovely students at New College of the Humanities, I’ve been filming a new six-part series of Bloody Tales for National Geographic Channel with Joe Crowley (made by production company, True North) which airs in March-May 2013.
Despite the gory subject matter, this horrible histories for adults has been enormous fun. It’s taken me all over Europe: Krakow in Poland, Slovakia, Nantes and Paris in France, northern Germany, Rome, Romania, Spain! I have also been privileged to meet a range of scholars from across Europe who work on the material we’re covering -- everything from the death of Nero’s step-brother, Britannicus, to SS officer Amon Goeth in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Of course, I’ve got most excited by those stories that fall broadly in my area of expertise -- 15th to 18th century Europe -- whether the original French BlueBeard, ’Vampire Lady’ Elizabeth Bathory, 17th century Polish gravediggers horribly executed for spreading the plague or even the body in the car park -- the much maligned, Richard III.
There’s some great stories. If you enjoyed Bloody Tales of the Tower, you’re going to love this new series.
I’ve had a little reel put together showing clips from my latest projects -- it touches on everything from corsets to disembowelling!
Richard III caused a bit of a stir in early 2013, and I went on Newsnight to have my say:
Front Row and Making History
I popped on Front Row on 18 October 2012 to review the ‘The Lost Prince: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart’, a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition looks at the life of and court surrounding the young Prince Henry, son of James VI and I, who died at the age of eighteen, leaving his brother, Charles as heir.
A couple of days before, I had recorded an interview with Helen Castor for her series with Tom Holland, Making History, about the history of the court fool, following my work on All The King’s Fools, which aired on 6 November 2012. You can listen to it here (starting at 9.16 minutes in).
The Book Show Royal Special
I wrote and presented a little film for a special Royal edition of The Book Show, which aired on 31 May 2012, just before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
I was giving my take on representations of the royalty on screen and page, and 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 the course of the show.
The grand settings of Blenheim Palace were matched only by the accompanying music: Handel’s magnificent Zadok the Priest.
This year, I have the pleasure to be filming with Time Team for several episodes of Series 20, which will air in 2013. (Here we are, shouting ‘Wassail!’ at an end of day drink on Programme 5; I’m in the front row, wearing a green top between series producer, Tim Taylor, and presenter, Tony Robinson.)
Here, in a couple of little films for the Time Team blog, I talk about Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, whose Tudor manor house we were digging in Programme 5, and ask for help to date a photograph:
Bloody Tales of the Tower
My series, Bloody Tales of the Tower, with three 60-minute episodes on the gory true histories of the Tower of London, premiered on National Geographic in April 2012. My co-presenter was Joe Crowley, and the production company was True North. Here’s a trailer:
The series was chosen as a pick of the day by The Daily Mail, Radio Times, TV Times and The Sunday Times. Nat Geo TV also chose ‘Bloody Tales of the Tower’ as one of their viewing highlights for April 2012.
The series got incredible ratings: it was the UK’s highest rated commission and the 7th most viewed programme on National Geographic from 2006 to 2012. A second series has been commissioned, to be filmed in late 2012.
For more information on the series -- which I really enjoyed making -- do see my blog post all about it.
Sky News Sunrise Paper Review
I regularly review the papers on Sky News Sunrise.
In early April, I reviewed them with Eamonn Holmes, Charlotte Hawkins and Sam Delaney. 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 kindly put a clip on YouTube (forgive the short shrift given to others…):
I’ve had a lot of fun as a co-presenter on five episodes of Secret Lives with Canadian production company Proper TV. My episodes have featured the Secret Lives of Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette and Lucrezia Borgia. The director is Michelle Metivier, with whom I’m pictured top right.
Recently filmed episodes focused on Elizabeth I and her extraordinary makeup (see my blog on this), on the political significance of Marie-Antoinette’s even more astonishing 3-foot hair and on the scandalous antics of the Borgia family.
The 14-part series will air in September 2012 on the History Channel in Canada.
The Great British Weather Show
Chris Hollins and I got together on the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde in London in June 2011 to talk about how the weather scuppered the Spanish Armada’s plans to invade England. It aired on 3 August 2011. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that my left arm is in plaster: I’d just broken my hand (all mended now!)
Lost Routes of Britain
I spent a very enjoyable morning in July chatting with Griff Rhys Jones about Elizabeth I’s progress of 1574 in the back of a Rolls Royce Phantom 5. I later acted as historical consultant for this programme.
The Royal Wedding
On 29 April 2011, I commentated on The Royal Wedding from a historical perspective for CTV. It was a seven-hour live broadcast, and I was on a panel with anchor Lisa LaFlamme, comedian Tracey Ullmann and royal biographer, Christopher Warwick. It was enormous fun. You can see it all online at:
I also did some interviews in the run-up to the big day, which you can also see online…
Interview with ‘On the Tudor Trail’
Museum Secrets, Episode 6: Inside The Met
The Met in New York owns the ‘Wilton Armour’, a suit of armour made for the fat, old Henry VIII. Museum Secrets, produced by Kensington TV in Canada, came to talk to me at the Tower of London about why Henry VIII got so obese. It’s airing as Episode 6, Inside the Met, of their first series on History Channel in January 2011.
Secret Life of Henry VIII
In the cold of November 2010, I filmed for a Canadian show about Henry VIII. It involved learning to joust on a wooden horse and assessing the costume of this young Henry VIII!
Early one morning in June 2010, I went to talk to Emma Crosby and John Stapleton about how history is taught in schools, and how it focuses too much on Hitler and even (sadly) Henry VIII.
The very suave Silio Boccanera came to interview me for a major Brazilian news show in the Great Hall at Hampton Court. I was very impressed that the people of Brazil were interested enough in Henry VIII for a half an hour interview, broadcast in full!
Henry VIII’s Lost Palaces: A Time Team Special, Channel 4
It was a real pleasure to film with the Time Team crew, especially director Brendan Hughes at the gorgeous Loseley Park.
The One Show, BBC One
I met the excellent Dan Snow for an interview at the Tower of London and a live broadcast from Hampton Court Palace, all about Henry VIII and 1536, and about our new visitor experience at Hampton Court.
Henry VIII films for Historic Royal Palaces
When I was at Hampton Court, I commissioned these short films about Henry VIII and life during his reign. I’m interviewed in the short films on Henry VIII and medicine, Henry VIII on film and Henry VIII’s psychology.
The Henry VIII talks at Hampton Court Palace
I organized a series of talks about Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace in association with History Today in 2009, and participated in the first one, ‘Who was Henry VIII?’ along with leading historians and historical novelists John Guy, Eric Ives, Philippa Gregory, Derek Wilson, and Margaret George. It was chaired by Paul Lay, the Editor of History Today.
You can listen to a podcast of the whole debate here.