Dr David Starkey - The Monarchy

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor King's Lynn Arts Centre


> King's Lynn Arts Centre

George Orwell once observed in one of his essays: “I am not commenting, merely pointing to a fact.” The brilliant and engaging Dr Starkey was at pains to make similar observations throughout his sparkling Lynn Festival

lecture. But, like Orwell, his choice of facts was all-so-carefully apposite.

The writer and Channel 4 broadcaster drew on material he has been using for three television series on the history of the monarchy (one has already been broadcast) and took us from the origins of England - “the world's first nation state” - from its Anglo-Saxon origins to the upheavals of the 17th century and beyond.

Dr Starkey's point, time and again, was that it is folly for people (and more particularly, politicians) to ignore the lessons of our history. The religious upheaval of the Civil War - when people killed and were killed for religion - has “direct and precise relevance to the present. It is disgraceful that our leaders do not understand that - particularly at this time of national crisis,” he concluded.

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Dr Starkey is best when he produces startling insights, and there were plenty of those during his lecture. Such as his contention that we now have two monarchs: the Queen - and Tony Blair, “an elective king who exercises absolute power between elections”.

The modern topic-based teaching of history, with its eschewing of any sort of narrative story of the nation, came in for plenty of flak too. Which is not to say Dr Starkey is a hidebound traditionalist - “the Norman Conquest is an absurd place to start English history ... a slightly more violent A Year in Provence”, “we take the Romans far too seriously - just because of good roads, sewerage, and hot and cold water.”

It is such refreshing directness, allied with his delightfully waspish delivery, which makes Dr Starkey such a charismatic and stimulating speaker.

Dr Starkey made such a hit with his last festival appearance that he was invited to become a vice-president and will now give a lecture every two years.

Roll on 2007.

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