Top picks of the week: The Plantagenets and the “chicken from hell”

The new BBC series examining the history of England’s longest ruling dynasty began this week

Programme Name: Plantagenets - TX: n/a - Episode: The Devil’s Brood (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Professor Robert Bartlett - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jamie Simpson

Episode one of The Plantagenets – presented by Professor Robert Bartlett – introduces the “fascinating but ferocious” royal family who would rule for 331 years.


With a dynasty over twice as long – and just as dysfunctional – as the Tudors, it seems strange that more people aren’t more interested in the Plantagenets. Especially seeing as their crest is the instantly recognisable Three Lions that emblazon the England football team’s shirt. Bartlett hopes to put that right – the next episode is on BBC Two at 9pm on Monday.

In the news

A “chicken from hell” was the description by the scientists when they announced a new species of dinosaur this week.

The feathered bird-like creature Anzu wyliei was three metres tall, had a tall crest, a huge, sharp beak and razor-sharp claws. Found in the US states North and South Dakota, the killer poultry is 66 million years old.

Madonna della Vittoria, 1496, by Andrea Mantegna appears to be a typical Renaissance painting. But look closer and perched at the top is a cockatoo.

This is a startling discovery as the bird is found in New Guinea and Australia, not Venice. Why did Mantegna include it and how would he have known about it? The cockatoo’s path to Venice may force historians to re-evaluate trading networks in 15th-century Europe.

Coming this week

On 27 March, the new book by Helen Rappaport Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses (Pan Macmillan) is released.

The four young daughters of the Russian Tsar – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia –were photographed and admired throughout the early years of the 20th century.

But their lives were cut short on 17 July 1918, when they were taken into the cellar of a house in Ekaterinburg and murdered during the Russian Revolution. Drawing on their letters and diaries, Rappaport aims to depict the girls as living, breathing people – who had romantic crushes and concerns over looking after their sickly brother – rather than just victims of a brutal act.


Four Sisters is available now.