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 outWestminster Abbey, Bosworth Field, the dreaded Tower of London, and moreand 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 Henrys 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