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Monarchy With David Starkey

4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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(Sep 26, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

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.

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

Special Features

  • Six episodes on two discs

Product Details

  • Actors: David Starkey, Tony Cottrell, Gerard Hayling
  • Directors: David Hutt, Mary Cranitch
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: September 26, 2006
  • Run Time: 317 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000GYI3C2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,501 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Monarchy With David Starkey" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
This is an abridgement of Monarchy Series One and Monarchy Series Two, released in the UK. These were originally 11 episodes, but have been condensed into 6 episodes for the US release. Do yourself a favor and purchase the UK release of Series One and Two and see the story as it was meant to be told. You may need to buy an all-region DVD player to view DVDs from the UK, but given that US releases are often bastardized, this is not a bad investment.

Don't be fooled by the release of 'Set 2' in the US. That starts with Charles II and is equivalent to 'Series Three' of the UK release.
4 Comments 90 of 92 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I agree with other reviewers that David Starkey's "Monarchy" provides a wonderful overview of the British monarchy from William the Conqueror to Charles II. Given the constraints of fitting so much history into just six hours, much background information is lost.

For those wanting more comprehensive information, an excellent resource is a 48-lecture college course "History of England From the Tudors to the Stuarts," taught by Dr. Robert Bucholz, Loyola University of Chicago. The course is available on DVD from The Teaching Company.
1 Comment 39 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Dr. Starkey takes us on an epic adventure of intrigue, murder, revenge, and triumph. He makes the story of Britain's monarchy come alive through his energetic delivery, use of fine costumes and actors playing the historical characters, and the use of actual historical artifacts and historic settings. Not only is the series dramatic, but it's also highly informative, exploring in depth the development of Britain's monarchy as a political institution.

When Dr. Starkey describes with such great intensity things like the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, in the actual room where the execution took place 450 years ago, it's hard not to get caught up in the great intrigue and drama of Britain's monarchy.
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Think of a full-color CliffsNotes combined with one of those Monty Python spoofs of a BBC interviewer and you have a slightly unfair idea of Monarchy. In six episodes of less than an hour each Dr. David Starkey whips us along in a survey of England's...well, Britain', make that the United Kingdom's...queens and kings. Sir David, as he is known in punctilious society, has given us an elegantly written and presented quick tour, sumptuously mounted. There are beautiful location shots of castles and palaces along with actors richly dressed to the purpose looking at us while Starkey tells us what they were plotting. The one great value of the series, to my mind, is the theme he gives his survey, and that is the continuing struggle between the sovereigns, on the one hand, to be supreme, and the barons, followed by the merchant class, on the other, to maintain a tight hold on the power of the purse. That struggle in one form or another gave us the Magna Carta, the grudging acceptance of shared rule along with kingly restraint, the concept of the rule of law, and the rise of the common man, even if, as in the House of Commons, the common man and woman wasn't represented all that well by the landed and mercantile classes who filled the Commons' seats. No matter how you look at it, England is a remarkable story for which the civilized world, which often includes the United States, should be grateful.

But don't expect more from Monarchy than a barely scratched surface. In my view, Starkey did a reasonably fine though fast job of the tumultuous period leading up to Edward the Confessor and the Norman Conquest, the characters and issues of two of the Tudors, Henry VII and Henry VIII, and the issues that led to Cromwell. Everything else for me was a blur.
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1 Comment 10 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I watched this entire series on PBS, and it has to be one of the best historical series I have ever seen. Starkey is great. He covers the material very well and does a great job bringing out the importance of the events and ideas of the English monarchy throughout its 1,000 year history. The series ends with the Restoration of the Stuarts to the throne of England and Scotland, a convient place to end an episode, certainly, but it left me wanting more. The monarchy of Charles II is still a far cry from the British Monarchy of today or the American presidency (Starkey makes it clear that monarchies can have elected heads with titles other than king or queen).

Where is the coverage of the crises surrounding James II, The Glorious Revolution, or the ways in which the monarchy changed in the 18th and 19th century under the Hanovers? The Abdication of Edward VII and the divorce of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer? What might the reign of Charles III or William V be like? I hope Starkey makes a second series of Monarchy, it is needed.
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In this pageant, the history of the British monarchy is traced from the fall of the Roman Empire to the present day House of Windsor. That covers a lot of ground and, even in a multi part documentary, would be hard to do with justice. This program succeeds by not focusing upon the individuals but upon the issues that shaped the monarchy. This usually devolves to whether or not the king has the upper hand in dealing with the crisis du jour.

This does not mean that the fascinating personalities that have comprised the monarchy are skimped over. Indeed, it is largely those personalities (and pecadillos) that shaped the crises and the responses to them. What emerges is a grand tapestry. I would highly recommend it. I could easily wish that more time would be spent on times and person who interest me more but to do so would detract from the grand sweep of things.
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