Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Monarchy by David Starkey

Monarchy: from the Middle Ages to Modernity by David Starkey
Published by HarperCollins in 2006.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing.com

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Check for Monarchy in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

David Starkey’s magisterial new book Monarchy charts the rise of the British crown from the insurgency of the War of the Roses, through the glory and dangers of the Tudors, to the insolvency of the Stuarts and chaos of the English Civil War, the execution of Charles I, the rule of a commoner who was ‘king in all but name’, the importing of a German dynasty, and the coming-to-terms with modernity under the wise guidance of another German, Victoria’s Prince Consort Albert. An epilogue brings to story up to the present and asks questions about the future.

The crown of England is the oldest surviving political institution in Europe. And yet, throughout this book Starkey emphasises the Crown’s endless capacity to reinvent itself to circumstances and reshape national polity whilst he unmasks the personalities and achievements, the defeats and victories, which lie behind the kings and queens of British history.

Each of these monarchs has contributed, in their own way, to the religion, geography, laws, language and government that we currently live with today. In this book,Starkey demonstrates exactly how these states were arrived at, how these monarchs subtly influenced each other, which battles were won and why, whose whim or failure caused religious tradition to wither or flourish, and which monarchs, through their acumen and strength or single minded determination came to enforce the laws of England.

With his customary authority and verve, David Starkey reignites these personalities to produce an entertaining and masterful account of these figures whose many victories and failures are the building blocks upon which Britain today is built. Far more than a biography of kings and queens, ‘Monarchy’ is a radical reappraisal of British nationhood, culture and politics, shown through the most central institution in British life.

I remember reading Monarchy when it first was published and it is cram packed with information. However, there is so much to learn and (not!) remember that a second reading seven years later felt encountering like a new book.

I like David Starkey's writing style which is often drily humorous. Having also read his book solely about Elizabeth I shortly before Monarchy, much of the early section was familiar. However, he gives plenty of space to the shorter reigned monarchs and I was very interested in how much of the 'divine' hereditary succession was actually the result of political wrangling behind the scenes. The seemingly incessant violent disputes between the opposing Christian factions of Catholics and Protestants was in some respects hard to fathom - they're all supposed to be the same overall faith aren't they?!

As non-fiction books of this topic go, Monarchy is far more accessible than many and, as an overview or to inspire more in depth study, I'd recommend the read.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by David Starkey / History books / Books from England


  1. I like watching David Starkey's TV docs and I enjoyed the book he wrote on Henry VIII and his wives.

    1. I've not read the Henry VIII one yet. His three volume history of Britain is excellent and I need to read it again soon.

  2. So mant religions which are basically the same have found reason to hate each other. Strange.

    1. So true, and most of them seem to preach peace while actually practicing the opposite!

  3. I do think that this sounds interesting. I do need to try to work a bit of non-fiction into my reading schedule.

    1. David Starkey is a good author for me because I find his books nicely accessible. Lots of information, but not too dry!