David Starkey born 3 January 1945
David Robert Starkey CBE is an English historian, a television and radio presenter, and a specialist in the Tudor period.
Starkey was born the only child of poor Quaker parents in Kendal, Westmorland (now Cumbria), England. His mother, Elsie Lyon, a strong personality, had a powerful influence on Starkey's formative years; he has portrayed his father, Robert Starkey, as a gentle, somewhat ineffectual man.
Despite suffering from painful physical disabilities, Starkey did well at grammar school and won a scholarship to read history at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, of which he is a Fellow. Here he came under the influence of G R Elton. Their relationship was stormy. According to Starkey, Elton provided the stern father figure he had never had, against whom to rebel. Later in the 1980s, Starkey made a point of disputing Elton's view of the importance of Thomas Cromwell, arguing in the 1986 book Revolution Reassessed (which Starkey co-edited) that Elton's thesis about Cromwell being the author of modern government was wrong.
From 1972 to 1998 Starkey taught history at the London School of Economics. During this period, he embarked on his career as a broadcaster, and soon won a reputation for abrasiveness, particularly on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, a debating programme, on which he was a ruthless interrogator of 'witnesses' examining contemporary moral questions. In the 1990s he presented a popular current affairs phone-in show on Talk Radio UK. His rudeness has been singled out by his detractors. In the televised Trial of Richard III, he appeared as a witness for the prosecution; even the Richard III Society, in its magazine The Ricardian, admitted that Starkey's rudeness under cross-examination was the main reason why Richard III was acquitted. More recently, he received considerable attention when he compared Elizabeth II unfavourably with her predecessors, calling her an uneducated housewife, and comparing her cultural attitude to Josef Goebbels (by incorrectly quoting a line usually attributed to Hermann Goering).
His television series on Henry VIII of England, Elizabeth I of England, the six Wives of Henry VIII and on the lesser-known Tudor monarchs have made him a familiar face. In 2004 he began a new Channel 4 multi-year series Monarchy, which chronicled the history of English kings and queens from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms onward. His greatest contribution to Tudor research has been in explaining the complicated social etiquette of Henry's household, exploring the complicated nature of Catherine Howard's fall in 1541/1542, and rescuing Anne Boleyn from the historical doldrums by persuasively proving that she was a committed religious reformer, keen politician and sparkling intellectual. Starkey has also rejected the historical community's tendency to portray Catherine of Aragon as a 'plaster-of-Paris saint'.
He also makes regular radio broadcasts and contributes to many magazines and newspapers.
Starkey was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1994. He was awarded a CBE in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list.
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