David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy

Published on 19th July 2017 by

Music and Monarch is a four episode 2013 BBC series written and presented by British historian Dr. David Starkey in which he explores the role that the British monarchy have historically had in shaping music in the nation, due primarily to the reliance that musicians once had on royal houses had patronage and financing of major projects.

Episode 1: Crown and Choir

Starkey begins in the first episode by exploring two kings who were also themselves composers, Henry V and Henry VIII, and the golden age of English music that they presided over. English music was during this period the envy of the rest of Europe.

Episode 2: Revolutions

In the second episode Starkey covers the 17th century when religious conflict threatened the lives of not only the head of state but also musicians, as well as the future of the monarchy and British music itself. Despite this upheaval the Royal Family presided over a series of musical breakthroughs including the first chamber concerts and the debut of the baroque orchestra. Starkey also visits the Whitehall Banqueting House which was once home of an extravagant musical form which was an early forerunner of opera.

Episode 3: Great British Music

Episode three covers the 18th century, a period in which Great Britain became the worlds most powerful military and economic power and brought many classic patriotic songs like God Save the King which was later adopted as the national anthem and Rule Britannia. It also explores the new German influence on British music, with German composers providing the new distinctive royal musical voice.

Episode 4: Reinventions

The final episode covers the 19th and 20th century when royalty rediscovered the power of pageantry and ceremony and native British music experienced a renaissance period and how the coronations of the 20th century cemented the repertory of royal classics in the hearts of the British people. There is also footage of specially recorded performances from St Paul’s Cathedral Choir and Westminster Abbey.


Starkey also published a 384 page companion book on the subject, also titled David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy, it is available in paperback, hardcover, kindle and audio book formats.

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