Lynn Barber

‘I have uncancelled myself’: David Starkey interviewed

Lynn Barber talks to the celebrated historian about his misgivings about King Charles, same-sex marriage and his defenestration

The rational monarchist: David Starkey. Credit: Geraint Lewis/eyevine

David Starkey’s commentary on the Queen’s funeral on GB News was generally agreed to be the best of all the TV coverage, and now he is covering the coronation, and has made a three-part documentary about it for GB News called The Crown. Of course he knows the history, going back to King Edgar’s coronation in 973, but will he also be expected to recognise the guests? Will he have to say: ‘Oh look, there’s Elton John?’ No, he laughs, he leaves all that to his co-presenters. His job will be to explain what the coronation is about, and indeed that is what he proceeds to do when I arrive at his house in Highbury. He talks so seamlessly there seems very little chance of my ever asking any questions.

‘What I tried to do with the Queen’s funeral, and also the King’s accession, was to talk about it as a historian who is also interested in the present. Because I think the failure of the TV coverage was that there wasn’t another serious historian commenting at all. Where was [Simon] Schama? I didn’t even see Andrew Roberts. I think it’s a sign that the producers were not taking it seriously. Monarchy is nowadays regarded as simply a branch of show biz.’

‘The service seems to be the liturgical equivalent of Poundbury’

He fears that the forthcoming coronation will be blighted by Charles’s enthusiasm for ‘what he calls modernisation’. ‘It is the most extraordinary pot-pourri – the service seems to be a pastiche of the Book of Common Prayer and the liturgical equivalent of Poundbury.’ He also thinks it’s a mistake not to have the peers in their robes because there used to be a wonderful climactic moment when they all put their coronets on. ‘It was a magnificent piece of theatre. And that’s gone.

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