History Festival

History Festival

Mon 19 -Thurs 22 August Two Sisters’ Theatre

All Ticket Prices Below

We are hugely privileged to be working with the second-to-none curatorial team at Hever Castle; Alison Palmer and Kate McCaffrey, alongside the eminent social and cultural historian, author, broadcaster and former Hever Castle Historian Dr Owen Emmerson. It has been our wish to programme a History Festival for some time, after all this is the perfect place for one especially when it focuses on the Tudors. This festival is unique and is going to be truly glorious.

The passion of the history team and their colleagues and friends (everyone seems to be very friendly in the history world) is infectious. This is why we are offering you discounts on attending more than one talk, and discounted joint entry to Hever Castle Gardens on the day of your visit. You can even show your true passion and buy a reduced rate ticket for all the events across the four days! This is a deep dive into Tudor History like no other, we can’t wait to share it with you.

Mon 19 Aug 2pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Dr Elizabeth Norton: Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love

The first ever biography of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, who died in childbirth giving the king what he craved most – a son and heir. Jane Seymour is often portrayed as meek and mild and as the most successful, but one of the least significant, of Henry VIII’s wives. The real Jane was a very different character, demure and submissive yet with a ruthless streak – as Anne Boleyn was being tried for treason, Jane was choosing her wedding dress. From the lowliest origins of any of Henry’s wives her rise shows an ambition every bit as great as Anne’s. Elizabeth Norton tells the thrilling life of a country girl from rural Wiltshire who rose to the throne of England and became the ideal Tudor woman.

Dr Elizabeth Norton is a London-based historian specialising in the queens of England and the Tudor period. She has a double first class degree from the University of Cambridge, a masters degree from the University of Oxford and a PhD from King’s College London. She has taught History at King’s College London and RADA. Her academic research has been published in several peer reviewed journals.

Elizabeth’s most recent books are the critically acclaimed ‘The Lives of Tudor Women’ and ‘The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor’. She is also the author of a biography of Margaret Beaufort and four of Henry VIII’s wives, amongst other titles. She regularly writes for magazines, including BBC History magazine, All About History, History Revealed and Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

Elizabeth frequently appears on television, including Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family (BBC1), Digging Up Britain’s Past (Channel 5), Secrets of Great British Castles (Channel 5), An American Aristocrat’s Guide to Great Estates (Smithsonian), Flog-It (BBC2), Bloody Tales of the Tower (National Geographic) and Queen Victoria In Her Own Words (Channel 5). She also appears as an expert on BBC London News and on international television, radio and podcasts. She has live commentated events for television, including royal weddings and the Trooping of the Colour. In addition to these television appearances, Elizabeth has worked as a historical consultant on a number of non-fiction and fiction historical films and television.

Mon 19 Aug 8pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Dr Tracy Borman: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter who Changed History

In this illustrated talk, based on her new book, Tracy Borman will tell the fascinating and poignant story of Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth I. Piecing together evidence from original documents and artefacts, she will throw dramatic new light on two of the most famous and controversial women in history, and will trace the legacy of their relationship all the way up to the modern day monarchy.

Dr Tracy Borman is a best selling author, historian and broadcaster, specialising in the Tudor period. Her books include Elizabeth’s Women, Thomas Cromwell, The Private Lives of the Tudors and Crown & Sceptre: A New History of the British Monarchy from William the Conqueror to Charles III. She has also written a fiction trilogy, The King’s Witch, based in the court of James I. Her latest non fiction book is Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Changed History (Hodder & Stoughton, 19 May 2023)

Tracy is also joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust and Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University in her native Lincoln. She has presented a number of history programmes for Channel 5 and the Smithsonian Channel, including The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Inside the Tower of London and Henry VIII and the King’s Men. She is a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine and gives talks on her books across the country and abroad.

Tues 20 Aug 2pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Gareth Russell: The Palace: From The Tudors to the Windsors: 500 years of Royal History at Hampton Court

For centuries, Hampton Court has been a place of power, scandal and intrigue: a stage for events that shaped the nation. The Palace raises the curtain on 500 years of British history with royals, politicians, criminals, and geniuses all playing their parts. Hampton Court has been an arc of monarchy, revolution, religious fundamentalism, sexual scandals, and military coups. In this rich and vivid history, Gareth Russell moves through the rooms and the decades, each time focusing on a different person who called Hampton Court their home.

Beginning with the Tudors, Russell takes the reader from the kitchens of Henry VII and the dreams of Anne Boleyn to Elizabeth I’s brush with death and the staging of Shakespeare’s plays. To the commissioning of the King James Bible, the republican victories of Oliver Cromwell, the many mistresses of Charles II and their laxative-laced attempts to embarrass one another. The gossip and feuds of Georgian aristocrats lead into the era of the Windsors when Hampton Court becomes the place to host Elizabeth II’s coronation ball and hide the last Tsar’s sister.

Fascinating and engaging, The Palace is as atmospheric as it is gossipy and through the many sovereigns and servants that lived and worked in its halls reveals the personal tragedy and political importance of this extraordinary place.

Gareth Russell is a historian and broadcaster. He studied at Oxford and Queen’s University, Belfast, where he specialised in the medieval and Tudor royal households. He is the author of several books, including the Catherine Howard biography, Young and Damned and Fair, and the bestselling Do Let’s Have Another Drink, about the late Queen Mother. His latest book is The Palace: From the Tudors to the Windsors, 500 Years of History at Hampton Court.

Tues 20 Aug 8pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Dr Nicola Tallis: Young Elizabeth: Princess, Prisoner, Queen

Elizabeth I is one of England’s most famous monarchs, whose story as the ‘Virgin Queen’ is well known. But queenship was by no means a certain path for Henry VIII’s younger daughter, who spent the majority of her early years as a girl with an uncertain future.Before she was three years old Elizabeth had been both a princess and then a bastard following the brutal execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. After losing several stepmothers and then her father, the teenage Elizabeth was confronted with the predatory attentions of Sir Thomas Seymour. The result was devastating, causing a heartbreaking rift with her beloved stepmother Katherine Parr.

Elizabeth was placed in further jeopardy when she was implicated in the Wyatt Rebellion of 1554 – a plot to topple her half-sister, Mary, from her throne. Imprisoned in the Tower of London where her mother had lost her life, under intense pressure and interrogation Elizabeth adamantly protested her innocence. Though she was eventually liberated, she spent the remainder of Mary’s reign under a dark cloud. On 17 November 1558, however, the uncertainty of Elizabeth’s future came to an end when she succeeded to the throne at the age of twenty-five.

When Elizabeth became queen, she had already endured more tumult than many monarchs experienced in a lifetime. This colourful and immensely detailed talk charts Elizabeth’s turbulent and unstable upbringing, exploring the dangers and tragedies that plagued her early life. Nicola Tallis draws on primary sources written by Elizabeth herself and her contemporaries, providing an extensive and thorough study of an exceptionally resilient youngster whose early life would shape the queen she later became. The heart racing story of Elizabeth’s youth as she steered her way through perilous waters towards England’s throne is one of the most sensational of its time.

Dr Nicola Tallis is an independent author and historian, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has worked as a curator, researcher, and lecturer, and specialises in the use of jewels in late medieval and Tudor England. Nicola has spoken at many prestigious events and venues including the Emirates Festival of Literature, the Tower of London, Hampton Court, and the National Archives. She has made numerous television and radio appearances, including on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, Channel 5’s The Vikings and The Gunpowder Plot, and Channel 4’s Frankie Boyle’s Farewell to the Monarchy. Nicola is the author of five books.

Wed 21 Aug 2pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Dr Joanne Paul: House of Dudley: Just the Women

Each Tudor monarch made their name with a Dudley by their side—or by crushing one beneath their feet. Over three generations the Dudleys rose to the heights of power and found themselves on the executioner’s block.
But this isn’t the story of the Dudleys we might know – Edmund, John, Robert. This is the secret story of the women of the Dudley family, who for over a century continually picked up the pieces each time the family fell apart. It was their cunning, conniving and courtly brilliance that preserved the House of Dudley over generations, and their story has never been told.

Dr Joanne Paul is an award-winning historian, broadcaster and writer with a passion for sharing her research on Renaissance and Tudor history. She is Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Sussex and a 2017 AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. She has published in the Cambridge University Press ‘Ideas in Context’ series and has been widely praised for her work on Thomas More, William Shakespeare, Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes. The House of Dudley is her acclaimed history of the Dudley family. Picked as a Times Book of the Week and Book of 2022, The House of Dudley also garnered stellar reviews in The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Literary Review, Spectator, Wall Street Journal and was featured in History Today and BBC History Magazine.

Wed 21 Aug 8pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Kate McCaffrey and Dr Owen Emmerson: Holbein’s Hidden Gem: Rediscovering Thomas Cromwell’s Book of Hours

In a discovery branded by Dr Tracy Borman as the most exciting Thomas Cromwell finding ‘in a generation’, historians Kate McCaffrey and Dr Owen Emmerson chart their discovery of a Book of Hours that once belonged to Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister. Hidden in plain sight, the book is one of the only extant objects captured in a Tudor portrait, for it features in Hans Holbein the Younger’s celebrated painting of Cromwell. Discover how the book was identified, which celebrated goldsmith completed the exquisite extant binding, and how the book travelled from Cromwell’s possession to the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Kate McCaffrey is the Castle Historian and Assistant Curator at Hever Castle in Kent. Her MA thesis in 2020 with the University of Kent uncovered ground-breaking new evidence about Anne Boleyn’s printed Book of Hours, gaining national and international press attention. She has co-curated two exhibitions at Hever Castle, written three books (including most recently ‘Holbein’s Hidden Gem: Rediscovering Thomas Cromwell’s Lost Book of Hours’ with Dr Owen Emmerson), and is currently heading a re-interpretation project of Hever Castle which will see its most significant change in a generation. She has written for the TLS and BBC History, appeared on several documentaries, television shows and podcasts and is pursuing her exciting and fruitful research into early sixteenth-century Books of Hours.

Dr Owen Emmerson is a social and cultural historian, broadcaster, and author of four books. His most recent book, entitled ‘Holbein’s Hidden Gem: Rediscovering Thomas Cromwell’s Lost Book’ was published in 2023. It tells the story of the ground-breaking discovery made by Kate McCaffrey and Emmerson of the Book of Hours depicted in Hans Holbein’s painting of Thomas Cromwell. Dr Tracy Borman dubbed their efforts as ‘the most exciting Thomas Cromwell discovery in a generation – if not more’. He has appeared in seventeen documentaries about the Tudor era including ‘The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family’ (BBC, 2021) and ‘Blood, Sex and Royalty: Anne Boleyn’ (Netflix, 2022). He is currently writing a full history of Hever Castle, amongst other projects, and lives with his three cats in Sussex.

Thurs 22 Aug 2pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Sarah Gristwood: The Tudors in Love

In her talk, ‘The Tudors in Love,’ she’ll be offering a fresh take on the big questions. Why did Henry VIII marry six times? Why did Anne Boleyn have to die? Why did Elizabeth I’s courtiers hail her as a goddess come to earth? The dramas of courtly love – the legends of King Arthur and chivalric fantasy — have captivated centuries of readers. Too often they’re dismissed as something existing only in books and song . But in fact they both made and marred England’s most romantic royal dynasty.
Sarah Gristwood is the author of five books on the Tudor age – Game of Queens, Blood Sisters, Arbella, Elizabeth and Leicester and, most recently, The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty. Contributing regularly to Sky News, the BBC, and many documentary series on royal and historical affairs, she is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society who has also published on twentieth-century figures from Beatrix Potter to Elizabeth II, and just edited Secret Voices, an anthology of women’s diaries.

Thurs 22 Aug 8pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Dr Alison Weir: Henry VIII: The Heart and the Crown

In grand royal palaces, Prince Harry grows up dreaming of knights and chivalry – and the golden age of kings that awaits his older brother. But Arthur’s untimely death sees Harry crowned King Henry of England. As his power and influence extends, so commences a lifelong battle between head and heart, love and duty. Henry rules by divine right, yet his prayers for a son go unanswered. The future of his great dynasty depends on an heir. And the crown weighs heavy on a king with all but his one true desire.
Alison Weir talks about the history behind her novel.

Dr Alison Weir is the United Kingdom’s most popular and best-selling female historian, and has sold over 3 million books worldwide. Rich in detailed research, Alison’s engaging prose has captured the interest and imagination of countless people, instilling a love of history that has influenced the career paths of historians, historical novelists and teachers, while also greatly increasing knowledge of medieval and Tudor English history among people throughout the world. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces and an honorary Doctor of Bishop Grosseteste University.

Pearl in the Egg will be performing before this talk and while Dr Weir is signing books.

Pearl in the Egg are a celebrated ensemble of Historical Musicians that bring history to life through their captivating performances. Specialising in Mediaeval, Tudor and Elizabethan music they offer a striking homage to the past with their wide repertoire, authentic costumes and meticulously crafted copies of original instruments. Pearl in the Egg will be adding Hever Castle to their list of prestigious performances, alongside Hampton Court Palace, The Tower of London, The Latitude Festival, and on BBC Radio.

Allocated Standard Seating (One Talk) £21.70
Allocated Covered Seating (Two Talks on the Same Day)£35.90
Allocated Covered Seating (All Talks)£101.70
Festival Friends & Hever Castle, Hever Golf and Wellbeing Club Members
Allocated Covered Seating (One Talk)
Festival Friends & Hever Castle, Hever Golf and Wellbeing Club Members 
Allocated Covered Seating (Two Talks on the Same Day)
*Groups, over 20 tickets 
Allocated Covered Seating (One Talk)
*Groups, over 20 tickets 
Allocated Covered Seating (Two Talks on the Same Day)
Joint Theatre and Castle Garden entry adult
Allocated Covered Seating (One Talk)
Joint Theatre and Castle Garden entry adult
Allocated Covered Seating (Two Talks on the Same Day)
Joint Theatre and Castle Garden entry child
Allocated Covered Seating (one Talk)
Joint Theatre and Castle Garden entry child
Allocated Covered Seating (Two Talks on the Same Day)

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Our main theatre, located on the glorious Two Sisters’ Lawn has allocated, covered seating. Lawn areas where you can bring your own seats, beanbags, rugs etc. are available for selected performances only.

Please check our access page for further information.

The Theatre Bar will be open on the theatre lawn before the show and during the interval for hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, ice cream and snacks. NEW for 2024 we are also offering HOT sausage rolls, Traditional Cornish Pasties and vegetarian cheese and onion pasties.

NB: Crepes are NOT available this year.  

Pre-Theatre suppers in the Guthrie Pavilion are available before this performance. 
Here is the menu.
Please book your theatre tickets first, then follow this link to reserve your table.

Bookings start from 6pm, we recommend arriving at least an hour before the performance starts so you don’t have to rush your meal.

PLEASE NOTE: You have made a table reservation only, you may be asked to pre-order by the catering team in advance of the date and all meals and drinks are to be paid for on the night.