Louis XIV

Engraving of John Law in 1720, at the height of his power: adviser to the king of France and controller-general of finance

John Law: the Scottish gambler who rescued France from bankruptcy

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The gambler who created the first stock market crash and became the richest citizen in Europe was no one’s hero, says Jesse Norman – until now

The Austrian empress Elizabeth, known as Sisi, was stabbed with a needle file by an Italian anarchist as she prepared to board a boat on Lake Geneva in 1898. After the attack, she picked herself up and proceeded on her journey, with very little loss of blood, but died soon afterwards —technically, from shock. Her story is related by Arnold van de Laar

From Louis XIV to the Shah of Iran: celebrities under the surgeon’s knife

3 March 2018 9:00 am

Powerful memoirs by such eloquent doctors as Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, Henry Marsh, Gabriel Weston and Paul Kalanithi have whipped…

Frank Buckland at home with his caged monkeys

Anyone for pickled horse tongue, boiled elephant’s trunk or rhinoceros pie?

10 December 2016 9:00 am

Forgotten? Though I can rarely attend their dinners (in Birmingham), I am a proud member of the Buckland Club (motto:…

Nietzsche, Lembit Opik, the NHS and taxes: Edinburgh Festival Fringe roundup

20 August 2016 9:00 am

Dominic Frisby is an actor best known for voicing the booking.com adverts (‘Booking dot com, booking dot yeah’). Voiceover specialists…

BBC1’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems deliberately designed to flush out purists

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Spoiler alerts aren’t normally required for reviews of Shakespeare — but perhaps I’d better issue one before saying that in…

Out of time and harsh: the historical treatment of the female composer

7 May 2016 9:00 am

Just a few weeks ago, Germany’s VAN magazine published an interview with the composer Olga Neuwirth. In it she describes…

Ford Madox Brown celebrates 17th-century advances in science in his painting ‘William Crabtree watches the Transit of Venus in 1639’

A.C. Grayling reduces history to a game of quidditch

12 March 2016 9:00 am

The 17th century scores highly  — especially England’s part in it — in A.C. Grayling’s ‘points system’ of history. If only the study of the past were that simple, says Ruth Scurr

‘La Mort de Louis XIII’, 1731, by Jean-François de Troy

The strange death of Louis XIV

21 November 2015 9:00 am

At the beginning of the summer of 1715 Louis XIV complained of a pain in the leg. In mid-August gangrene…

The Sun King deserves better than this silly cabaret from Birmingham Royal Ballet

4 July 2015 9:00 am

It’s a comfort that the creation of a new ballet inspired by French court entertainment can still happen in the…

‘The Duel after the Masquerade’ by Jean-Léon Gerome was exhibited to great acclaim in Paris in 1857, and a year later in London. The art historian Francis Haskell has suggested that the mysterious duelling figures from the commmedia dell’arte are characters in a story by Jules Champfleury

Crossed swords and pistols at dawn: the duel in literature

20 June 2015 9:00 am

Earlier this century I was a guest at a fine dinner, held in a citadel of aristocratic Catholicism, for youngish…

Gardeners’ world: Alan Rickman (Louis XIV) and Kate Winslet (Sabine De Barra) at Versailles

A Little Chaos review: Kate Winslet emotes her little socks off

18 April 2015 9:00 am

A Little Chaos is a period drama directed by Alan Rickman and starring Kate Winslet as a woman charged to…