Monarchy, with David Starkey, Series 1: From Alfred the Great to Henry VI (2004)

Channel 4

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Documentary Description

Monarchy, with David Starkey

A history of the English Crown from AD 400 to today

Monarchy is a Channel 4 British TV series, 2004-2006, by British academic David Starkey, charting the political and ideological history of the English monarchy (later British), from the Saxon period to modern times. The show also aired on PBS stations throughout the United States, courtesy of the television station WNET.

Series 1

The first series of Dr David Starkey's history of the British monarchy takes us from Alfred the Great, who helped drag a barely formed England out of the Dark Ages, to Shakespeare's powerful and illustrious hero kings.

1. A Nation State:  Dr David Starkey begins his history of the British monarchy in the violence and chaos of the Dark Ages, telling the dramatic story of the creation of England and the triumph of an English hero, Alfred the Great.

2. Ængla Land: The rise of the Anglo-saxons, the wars against the Vikings and the victory over King Harold by the Norman Duke William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

3. Conquest: Following the Battle of Hastings and subsequent Norman Conquest. This covers a tumultuous time in English history, which saw murders and eventually, civil war. As the direction of English kingship takes a radical new turn with the invasion and imposition of Norman history, Dr Starkey follows the fortunes of both the invaders and the invaded.

4. Dynasty: The time of Henry II of England, and his conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.Profiling the mediaeval superstar, King Henry II of England, whose dominion stretched from the moors of Scotland to the foothills of the Pyrenees.

5. A United Kingdom
: The reigns of three Edwards: Edward I, and his attempt at a United Kingdom, how his son Edward II almost lost it all, but restored by Edward III, grandson of Edward I. Dr Starkey looks at a century that saw the reigns of three Edwards: father, son and grandson. Edward I took the image and might of the English monarchy to new heights.

6. Death of a Dynasty: Follows the reigns made famous by Shakespeare; Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. A time of civil unrest and doubt in monarchy itself.

Series 2

1. The Crown Imperial: 1450s and The Wars of the Roses, the birth of the Tudors.

2. King and Emperor: The reign of Henry VIII, his divorces and resulting dissociation with Rome, which led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

3. The Shadow of the King
: Following the death of Henry VIII and the Act of Succession of 1543, which allowed all three of his children to rule. Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

4. The Stuart Succession
: With the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the English royalty was at its zenith. Scotland and England became united under the Stuart King James I (VI of Scotland), but his son Charles I within a generation would throw the country into civil war.

5. Cromwell The King Killer
: 1644, the English Civil War was at its height and monarchy - undisputable before the war - was under threat.

Series 3

1. The Return of the King
(13 November 2006): Starting in 1660 with the return from exile of King Charles II. By aligning his throne with Catholic France and Protestant Parliament, Charles's reign restored the authority of the English crown and laid the foundation of the world's first modern state.

2. The Glorious Revolution (20 November 2006): Looking at the "Bloodless Revolution" of 1688, the Parliament-devised plot to overthrow England's last Roman Catholic King, James II, and replace him with his Dutch Protestant son-in-law William of Orange.

3. Rule Britannia (27 November 2006): In just 25 years after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, England was transformed from an insignificant minor state to the greatest power in Europe. Along the way she became known under a new name to match her swelling status: Great Britain.

4. Empire (4 December 2006): In 1714, an obscure German Prince was crowned King George I of Great Britain, signalling the beginning of a new political era that saw the rise of the new role of Prime Minister, and established the pattern of political modernity we are familiar with today.

5. Survival (11 December 2006): When, in 1789, the Bastille prison in Paris was stormed and the French Revolution began, few in Britain - least of all King George III, who was recovering from one of his bouts of madness - thought that it would lead to a cataclysmic war with France.

Series 4

1. The Windsors (26 December 2007): Death of Queen Victoria, to present day. Speculation on the path of King Charles III or King George VII. This single extended episode completes the series.

Editorial Review, from
Monarchy with David Starkey attempts to present "the power and passion behind 1,000 years of the English crown," as proclaimed on the DVD case. Hosted by Dr. David Starkey, a veteran presenter of several documentaries on English royal history (including The Six Wives of Henry VIII from 2001), this documentary is a six-episode overview of the history of the English monarchy, the oldest-functioning political institution in Europe. Volume 1 covers the early kings from the dissolution of Roman power in Britain, through the middle ages and up to the establishment of the House of Tudor, ending with the ascension to the throne of Henry VIII. Volume 2 focuses on Henry’s legacy, the question of succession that lead to Elizabeth I becoming queen, and carries us up through Cromwell and the Civil War to the Restoration with the return to the throne of Charles II. Starkey is filmed on location throughout England, Scotland, and France describing the events at the spots where they actually happened, but not every location is given its full due (in some cases, Starkey is seen standing at what is obviously an important memorial, but then fails to describe exactly where that is or what exactly transpired there) and several segments leave important details out, probably in the interest of saving time; a thousand years is a lot of ground to cover in only 332 minutes. As a result, Monarchy is a fast-moving overview of a fascinating segment of history, and not a close-up look that would require more time than six episodes could cover. But it does do an excellent job of elucidating the stories and presenting what is a unique theme throughout British royal history: the need of every monarch to balance protection of their authority by force while securing the consent of their subjects to rule. Students and those looking for an easily-digestible version of English history will really enjoy it. Committed Anglophiles and those interested in a more detailed look at the people and places involved might want to use this as a starting point and move on to more detailed accounts from there. --Daniel Vancini

Product Description
Eminent scholar and energetic storyteller Dr. David Starkey (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) serves as your guide through nearly 10 centuries of royal rule in England. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Restoration, Starkey vividly describes the human drama behind the throne, with all its intrigue, lust, treachery, and thirst for power. You visit the very stages upon which history played out—Westminster Abbey, Bosworth Field, the dreaded Tower of London, and more—and explore the true character of the men and women who wore the crown.

In this rich tapestry, Starkey identifies a unifying thread. On one hand, England required authoritarian might to stand strong against external threats. On the other, it cherished its longstanding tradition of rule by consent of the governed. The dynamic tension between these two impulses enabled the monarchy to survive as the oldest-functioning political institution in Europe.

David Starkey

David Robert Starkey, CBE, FSA (born 3 January 1945) is an openly gay English historian, a television and radio presenter, and a specialist in the Tudor period.

Early years

Starkey was born the only child of poor Quaker parents in Kendal, Westmorland (now Cumbria), England. He now resides in Barham, Kent. His mother, Elsie Lyon, a strong personality, had a powerful influence on Starkey's formative years; he portrays his father, Robert Starkey, as a somewhat ineffectual man.[1]

Despite suffering from physical disabilities, Starkey did well at school and won a scholarship to be at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, of which he is an Honorary Fellow. As a student at Cambridge, he fell under the influence of Professor G.R. Elton. According to Starkey, Elton provided the stern father figure he had never had, against whom to rebel.

Academic and media career

From 1972 to 1998 Starkey taught history at the London School of Economics. During this period, he embarked on a career as a broadcaster, and soon acquired a reputation for abrasiveness, particularly on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, a debating programme, on which he was a ruthless interrogator of "witnesses" examining contemporary moral questions. In the 1990s he presented a current affairs phone-in show on Talk Radio UK (since relaunched as talkSPORT) where his manner with callers served to bolster his rebarbative reputation. However, the programme, which he described as "three hours of brainy blarney" was extremely popular. His rudeness has been singled out by his detractors. In the televised Trial of Richard III, he appeared as a witness for the prosecution, and accused the defence counsel, Sir Brian Dillon, of having a "small lawyer's mind". More recently, he received considerable attention when he compared Elizabeth II unfavourably with her predecessors, calling her an uneducated housewife, and comparing her cultural attitude to Josef Goebbels, by suggesting that she gave him the impression that every time she heard the word culture she wanted to reach for a gun (in fact the line is most commonly attributed to Hermann Göring, but was really written by the lesser known Nazi playwright Hanns Johst).[2][3]

Starkey elicited further controversy in March 2009 by arguing that female historians had "feminised" history by writing social history or focusing on female subjects. He claimed that undue attention had been given to Henry VIII's wives, even though he had presented his own television series on the subject. He stated: "But it's what you expect from feminised history, the fact that so many of the writers who write about this are women and so much of their audience is a female audience. Unhappy marriages are big box office." He also argued that, although several monarchs were female, including Queen Mary, Elizabeth I, and Queen Victoria, women should not be considered "power players" in pre-20th century Europe.[4] He was accused of misogyny by historian Lucy Worsley.[5]

His television series on Henry VIII of England, Elizabeth I of England, the six Wives of Henry VIII (The Six Wives of Henry VIII) and on lesser-known Tudor monarchs have made him a familiar face. In 2004 he began a Channel 4 multi-year series Monarchy, which chronicled the history of English kings and queens from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms onward. His greatest contribution to Tudor research has been in explaining the complicated social etiquette of Henry's household, exploring the complicated nature of Catherine Howard's fall in 1541–1542, and rescuing Anne Boleyn from the historical doldrums by persuasively proving that she was a committed religious reformer, keen politician and sparkling intellectual. Starkey has also rejected the historical community's tendency to portray Catherine of Aragon as a "plaster-of-Paris saint".

In October 2006 he started hosting the second series of The Last Word now known as Starkey's Last Word. He also makes regular radio broadcasts and contributes to many magazines and newspapers.

Starkey was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1994.[6] He was appointed CBE in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list.[7]

Starkey is openly gay. His partner is James Brown, a publisher and book designer,[8] and he has often discussed his sexuality in the Moral Maze and other discussion shows.[9][10]

Formerly a leftist, Starkey is now known for his right-wing views. For example, he says of multiculturalism: "What's striking about our problem ethnic communities is that they are the ones with the least commitment to self-betterment."[11]

Starkey also offended some viewers of BBC One's Question Time in April 2009 when he criticised Scottish, Irish and Welsh nationalism and described these nations as "feeble".[12] However, others, including some of the studio audience, supported his attacks on politicians.[13]

This same month (April, 2009) Starkey acted as Guest Curator for Henry VIII: Man & Monarch, an exhibition of documents (and some portraits) at the British Library.[1]


* This Land of England (1985) (with David Souden)
* The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics (1986)
* Revolution Reassessed: Revisions in the History of Tudor Government and Administration (1986) (Editor with Christopher Coleman)
* The English Court from the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War (1987)
* Rivals in Power: the Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties (1990)
* Henry VIII: A European Court in England (1991)
* The Inventory of Henry VIII: Volume 1 (1998) (with Philip Ward and Alistair Hawkyard)
* Elizabeth: Apprenticeship (2000) (published in North America as Elizabeth: The struggle for the throne)
* The Stuart Courts - Foreword (2000) (Edited by Eveline Cruickshanks)
* The Inventory of Henry VIII: Essays and Illustrations Volume 2 (2002) (with Philip Ward and Alistair Hawkyard)
* The Inventory of Henry VIII: Essays and Illustrations Volume 3 (2002) (with Philip Ward and Alistair Hawkyard)
* The Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003)
* Elizabeth I: The Exhibition Catalogue (2003)
* The Books of King Henry VIII and His Wives - Introduction and Preface (2004) (James P. Carley)
* The Monarchy of England: The Beginnings (2004)
* Monarchy: From the Middle Ages to Modernity (2006)
* Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, 1707-2007 - Introduction (2007) (Edited by Sarah McCarthy, Bernard Nurse, and David Gaimster)
* Henry: Virtuous Prince (2008)
* Introduction to Henry VIII; Man & Monarch (Susan Doran, ed. published by the British Library, 2009)


1. Family detective - Telegraph
2. The Telegraph; see also The Guardian
3. New York Review of Books, Reaching for the Gun, by Susan Sontag
4. History has been 'feminised' says David Starkey as he launches Henry VIII series, Telegraph]
5. Vanessa Allen, Women turn history into a bizarre soap opera, says Starkey, MailOnline (31 March 2009).
7. Rushdie and Eavis lead honours, BBC News, 15 June, 2007
8. David Starkey: A man with a past - Telegraph
9. The Sunday Herald, March 23, 2003
10. Channel4 interview
11. 'England has a terrible crisis of identity', The Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2005
12. 'Feeble nation' jibe sparks row, BBC News, 24 April, 2009
13. Question Time: Your Say, BBC News, 24 April, 2009



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