David Starkey's Music & Monarchy


Series 1 - Episode 2 Revolutions



In all the times I’ve heard Lillibulero, the orchestral ditty that used to introduce the news on the World Service, I never knew it was an anti-Catholic song of the 1680s that “sang King James II out of three kingdoms” during the Glorious Revolution. This is the kind of tangential titbit David Starkey gives us in the course of another rousing look at kings and their composers.

We’ve reached the 17th century with its violent fault lines of religion and taste. Music was propaganda: it helped associate kingship with the divine. So the popular court masques were all about how monarchy brought harmony. One Charles I enjoyed in 1634 cost £21,000 – tens of millions today. Fat lot of good it did him.


The historian examines the 17th century, when religious conflict threatened both the future of the monarchy and the tradition of British music itself. He reveals that royalty presided over a series of musical breakthroughs in the midst of this upheaval - including the first chamber concerts and proto-operas, as well as the creation of the baroque orchestra. The programme features performances by Westminster Abbey choir, the Band of the Life Guards and the Academy of Ancient Music.

Cast & Crew

Presenter David Starkey
Executive Producer Nicolas Kent
Series Director Peter Sweasey
Series Producer Peter Sweasey