The recent discovery of King Richard III’s skeletal remains in a carpark in Leicester, England, has left many students and layman alike with a renewed interest in English history, particularly the engrossing, character-driven stories born from the late-medieval civil war between the House of Tudor and the House of York known as the War of the Roses. Stories like the Princes in the Tower and the veracity of Richard’s portrayal as a villain in Shakespeare’s eponymous play have begun to re-enter the public’s imagination in a huge way, as shown by the sudden jump in Google searches regarding this iconic and explosive period of British history.
If you’re one of the many people who are finding themselves with a renewed interest in Richard III, the War of the Roses and the larger story that is the history of the English Crown, one of the best ways to learn about the rise of England as a global power is through the BBC documentary series Monarchy, presented by the preeminent scholar of British national and royal history David Starkey. The series is masterful in its presentation of both how England arose from a nation-state to a globe-spanning empire, and through its primary focuse on the story of the English Monarchy itself and the often larger-than-life figures who wore the crown as told in meticulous detail by Starkey.
Due to the unique nature of its subject matter, the stories of the kings and queens told throughout Monarchy are imbued with highly personal and revealing details about their private lives, and how the character of these men and women helped shape the office that they inhabit and changed the world around them as a result. While it’s hard for some to get excited about a series of history lessons, Monarchy manages to fascinate and expertly draws the layman viewer into its story by being highly informative yet accessible by only including the most relevant and important information in order to avoid the type of pedantry that often drives most viewers away.
Figures like Alfred the Great, William the Coqueror, Henry II, Richard III, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell and more seem to jump from the pages of history and seem as life-like and human as any modern figure we are familiar with today through Starkey’s deft narration, as he delves expertly into the details that helped make or ruin their individual reigns. Their personal flaws and political triumphs are presented accurately and in as unbiased terms as possible, while the pace and drama of these stories are compelling enough to rival any fiction that they inspired.
So if you’re a curious mind looking for an expert account of the history of England and the men and women who lead it, you will few resources more informative and entertaining than Monarchy.
Monarchy is available for streaming on Netflix.
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