Friends’ Events in 2022

New articles and podcasts are available in the Members’ area and we have more talks planned with a mini series of themed talks around climate change and weather related records in the archives, the Cold War, Spies in the Archives and research methods and evidence gathering.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 22 February 2022 – Tracy Borman

Crown & Sceptre: a new history of the British monarchy, William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II

In February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 70th year on the British throne—her Platinum Jubilee—by far the longest reign of any British monarch. Inspired by this momentous event, Tracy Borman’s latest book, Crown & Sceptre, explores the tumultuous history of the British monarchy. With 1,000 years of royal history from 1066 to the present day, Domesday Book to Magna Carta, the Field of Cloth of Gold to Prince Harry’s wedding, the book tells the real story of this iconic institution.  In this illustrated talk, Tracy will introduce some of her favourite monarchs and share a few of the secrets behind the crown’s remarkable survival.

Tracy Borman is a best-selling author, historian and broadcaster, specialising in the Tudor period.  Her books include Elizabeth’s Women, which was Book of the Week on Radio 4 and Thomas Cromwell: the untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant. Her highly acclaimed debut fiction trilogy, inspired by the events surrounding the Gunpowder Plot, comprises The King’s Witch, The Devil’s Slave and The Fallen Angel.  Tracy’s latest book is Crown & Sceptre: A New History of the British Monarchy, William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II.

Tracy has presented a number of history programmes for Channel 5, including The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Inside the Tower of London.  She is a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine and gives talks on her books across the country and abroad.  Tracy is also joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.

The event is free to members but guests are welcome to attend for £5 (+ booking fee) per head. The £5 ticket price will be refundable against the cost of membership.

Please use this link to book tickets:

Please note that you do not have to sign in to Eventbrite or create an account. The event details are in a link on the top right of the screen. Clicking that link will take you through to book.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 23 March 2022 – Ralph Thompson

The Jacobites and International Intrigue 1708-1759

Drawing on National Archives sources this talk will focus on the support for the Jacobite cause outside the British Isles, achieved by means of intelligence gathering and the interaction between the Jacobite diaspora and the major continental powers. It will outline the many real and ‘imagined’ invasion plans that were hatched against Hanoverian Britain in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Ralph Thompson is a Records Adviser and volunteer supervisor and has worked at the National Archives since 1999.   As a member of the Early Modern Team, Ralph has studied at Kingston University and completed an MA dissertation at Birkbeck, University of London, which focussed on English foreign policy in the Baltic during the 1650s. His research specialisms include the Civil War and Interregnum, the Jacobites, and North American colonial history.

The event is free to members but guests are welcome to attend for £5 (+ booking fee) per head. The £5 ticket price will be refundable against the cost of membership.

Please use this link to book tickets:

Please note that you do not have to sign in to Eventbrite or create an account. The event details are in a link on the top right of the screen. Clicking that link will take you through to book.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 27 April 2022 – Bob Gentry

The History of the Farnborough Wind Tunnels

The Farnborough airfield is famous the world over for its air show and as the birthplace of British aviation, having been at the heart of its research and development. It saw the founding of the Army Balloon School and the first powered flight in Britain in 1908 by Samuel Cody, the creation of the Royal Aircraft Factory and subsequent Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), and the move onto supersonic flight culminating initially in the development of Concorde.

After privatisation in the mid 1990s, the airfield moved into the commercial world under private ownership. The greater part of the former RAE site became a business park and housing complex, but the three wind tunnel buildings remain. They are among the few that still exist from the time when Britain played a leading role in the field of aerospace. The buildings stand today as a lasting memorial to the hundreds of people who worked quietly under a veil of secrecy at Farnborough through most of the 20th century.

Bob Gentry will talk about the history of the wind tunnels and describe the work undertaken in them. He will cover the part they played in WWII, the jet age, and the development of Concorde, and include other generally little-known aspects of aerodynamic research.

Bob has been a member of the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Association and regular volunteer since early 2016 where he is primarily responsible for looking after private guided tours of the historic wind tunnels located on the Farnborough Business Park, formerly part of Royal Aircraft Establishment site. Bob is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and enjoyed a career spanning over 45 years in Broadcast and Media Technology. He has held Senior Management roles at GSTQ Consulting LTD, BBC World News, NBC Universal, CNBC Europe, ITV Digital, Ascent Media and Middle East Broadcasting; he has also worked with many Global Management Consulting Practices, Venture Capital Groups and Telecommunications Companies.

Further information and booking details will follow.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 18 May 2022 – Professor Louise Wilkinson

The Treasures of the Medieval Duchy of Lancaster

Today, the duchy of Lancaster is a private estate owned by Her Majesty the Queen, who is the present duke of Lancaster. In the Middle Ages, the duchy of Lancaster was a major assemblage of lands, ranging across more than 20 English counties, and centred on the earldoms of Lancaster and Lincoln. The duchy itself originated from a grant made by King Henry III in 1265 to his younger son, Edmund, of the lands of the dead rebel, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester; it was Edmund who also later became earl of Lancaster. In 1399, Henry of Bolingbroke (King Henry IV), duke of Lancaster, seized the English throne from Richard II and just a few years later he commissioned a deluxe, illuminated register of his duchy’s title deeds, now known as the Great Cowcher Books (TNA, DL 41/1-2). In this talk, Louise Wilkinson introduces the Great Cowcher Books, which are second only to Domesday Book in their importance, and the fascinating insights their contents are yielding into the medieval lords and ladies of the duchy of Lancaster, thanks to a new project funded by the Friends of The National Archives.
Louise Wilkinson is Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Lincoln, where she leads the Medieval Studies Research Group. Her research focuses on thirteenth-century English history and the lives of royal and aristocratic women. Her most recent book is The Household Roll of Eleanor de Montfort, Countess of Leicester and Pembroke, 1265, The Pipe Roll Society (Woodbridge, 2020). She is chairwoman and joint general editor of the Pipe Roll Society, and was formerly a co-investigator of the AHRC-funded Henry III Fine Rolls and Magna Carta Projects. She is currently working with researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Lancaster, The National Archives, Heritage Lincolnshire, and Lincolnshire County Council on devising a major new collaborative research project on the making of the duchy of Lancaster.

Further information and booking details will follow.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 14 June 2022 – Lord Lexden

Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill: War-time Partners 1939-40

Chamberlain and Churchill were, as is well known, poles apart in the period that led up to the Second World War. As soon as war was declared, they became colleagues, and remained the two leading figures in the war cabinet until imminent death from cancer forced Chamberlain to resign at the beginning of October 1940, Churchill having replaced him as prime minister in May. How closely and successfully did the two former opponents work together in the national interest as Britain fought for its very survival in the summer of 1940? When Chamberlain died in early November 1940, Churchill paid eloquent tribute to him: but some said that the great war leader’s moving words were not sincere, and in his subsequent, hugely influential war memoirs Churchill repeated the attacks he had made on his dead colleague in the late 1930s. In his address, Alistair Lexden will discuss the reality of the relationship between the two men during Britain’s darkest hour, drawing on documents of the period.

Alistair Lexden is a Conservative peer and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, who writes and lectures about modern British political history. He was in academic life at the start of his career at the Queen’s University, Belfast. Subsequently, he held senior positions in the Conservative Research Department, founded by Neville Chamberlain, before spending some years running the Independent Schools Council. He is the official historian of the Conservative Party, and of the Carlton Club. Full details of his work, parliamentary and historical, including his publications, can be found on his website,

Further information and booking details will follow.


Recordings of past talks and suggested further reading lists may be available. Please see the ‘Archive of Past Talks’ page in the Members area under ‘The Talks Programme’ tab.